How Pancho Villa interacted with the illegalization of cannabis in the US.
Racism had much to do with the process of illegalization in the US. After the Pancho Villa revolution, many citizens from Mexico had to move to the north and reach the US in order to survive and/or to get a better life. It is very odd to see how much the use of the term “marijuana” influenced the public opinion. For US citizens, the plant was known as hemp, weed, pot and so on. But, for whatever reason, the word marijuana sounded horrible for the Americans. And, believe or not, the cockroaches had an important role in this madness.
The US’s position on revolutionaries was complicated; they themselves overthrew a colonial European power and helped other countries to do the same. They helped Cuba to get rid of Spain. But when Fidel Castro got rid of Batista, Americans got mad. Why? Batista was pro USA. Castro wasn’t.
In Mexico happened the same. They appreciated Mexico gaining independence from Spain, but didn’t so much like Zapata and Villa for over-throwing Diaz first, or his successor’s appointee Caranza next.
Between 1912 and 1916 Hollywood made a few films starring Pancho Villa. The Hollywood connection goes further, with no less than thirty six films about Pancho Villa over the last hundred years, starring such actors as Yul Brynner, Telly Savalas, and Antonio Banderas. Villa always seemed to be a hero who fought for freedom. Who doesn’t remember Yul Brynner and Robert Mitchum movie about the adventures of Pancho Villa? It was a great film that contributed to the popularity of this military.
Unfortunately for Villa, he became for famous for his role in the history of cannabis prohibition. Pancho Villa was a political revolutionary and a visionary. He knew from the the very beginning that Hollywood was going to support him with all kind of ítems: Money, weapons and so on. He saw and acted globally in a way that had never really been done before. He was a man who, among many other things, delayed an attack on Juarez city just to avoid a conflict in the news cycle with the World Series thirty years before television. He knew the influence of the media on the conflict. With the Hollywood movies is was gaining weapons, booths, cloths, money and, more important, sympathies towards his cause from all over the world. A very important Hollywood studio gave him twenty five thousand dollars US, and fifty percent of the profits. Hollywood simply loved him!
But a change in US government led to a change in this policy and began to attack Villa and his followers. In a very short period of time the US Gov began to send troops to Mexico.
But what has this change in the US policy with cannabis? Villa was admired in films, but in songs too. And the most famous was known as “The cucaracha (the cockroach)”.
The most known song said the words:
“the cockroach, the cockroach,
can’t walk anymore,
because it doesn’t have,
because it’s lacking,
marijuana to smoke.”
When the US Gov began to fight against Villa, he didn’t know how badly these words were to influence against his popularity.
It all came together: Thousands of Mexicans coming to the USA. It became a big migration problem. This fact plus the change in the US policy towards Mexico and the beginning of cannabis illegalization, ended with the reputation of Villa, his Hollywood support and the demonization of cannabis.