Frontier Texas! will celebrate Texas Independence Day with music, reenactments and the premier of a photography exhibit of Pancho Villa provided by Francisco Villa, senior political science major from Mexico City at 10 a.m. March 2.
Villa, the great-grandson of Pancho Villa, said the 44 photos, owned by his family, include portraits of Pancho Villa and his life during the war. The year 2010 marks the 100th anniversary of the Mexican Revolution and 200 years since the beginning of the Mexican War of Independence. Villa said this is the reason he decided to contact Frontier Texas! about displaying the photos.
“I decided I had to do something no matter what,” Villa said. “I was really looking for a place to show this stuff.”
Villa’s family held the photos in Mexico City until they decided to let him bring them to the U.S. When he came to ACU, Villa and his father packed them in the back of his father’s truck and braved customs and border control.
“It’s so difficult to get through because they think you want to sell the pictures,” Villa said. “Talking to immigration, customs and the U.S. government is hard – they are really picky about this stuff.”
Villa and his father made it through thanks to efforts made by ACU, he said.
“I have to thank ACU because it was the Office of Multicultural Enrichment that gave me the letters I needed to get them through the border,” he said. “That’s a big deal.”
Once safely in the states, Villa started looking for venues to display the photos and ended up at Frontier Texas! Villa said he contacted Jeff Salmon, executive director of Frontier Texas!, about a month ago and has been working closely with him to make the exhibit a reality ever since.
“It’s amazing how much support he’s doing for the exhibit,” Villa said. “He’s been helping a lot, and he’s a huge part of this project.”
Salmon said Frontier Texas! saw the photos as an opportunity not only to share history but also to reach out to a particular demographic.
“It’s a good opportunity for us to have something for the Hispanic community here in Abilene because the revolution is closely tied to a lot of families here in different ways,” he said. “It was great to work with Francisco’s family on this.”
Salmon said Villa came to him on fairly short notice, but the exhibit, titled Riding With Pancho Villa, is coming together in time for its March 2 premier. The exhibit will feature 34 of the 44 photos in the museum’s Frontier Gallery with footnotes in English and Spanish – a feature Villa said is unique to this exhibit.
“The footnotes are going to have two parts; one of them will be a description of the picture with the year and information, and the second part is going to be a quote from a biography,” Villa said. “So, it’s kind of like he’s talking through the picture.”
Salmon said about 10,000 visitors will learn about the Mexican Revolution through the photos. Visitors include Abilenians, students on school tours whose classes are studying the Mexican Revolution and possibly Norm Archibald, mayor of Abilene.
“It’s more than just photos because each has a story that goes with it,” Salmon said. “It’s the story of the revolution through Pancho Villa’s perspective and just like anything we do with history, it’s about having a better understanding of our past.”
Villa said he wants to continue displaying the photos throughout the country after this event.
“Pancho Villa is a character that can be taken from so many perspectives at museums, Hispanic centers, cultural centers and schools – they can go all over the country,” he said. “We have cultural problems between the two countries but this is a message of support to the Hispanic communities from U.S. citizens.”
The event will also feature flag raising; historical reenactments; George Pendergrass, director of the Office for Multicultural Enrichment, singing Texas, Our Texas; and will conclude with Salmon introducing the exhibit. Tickets to the Texas Independence Day celebration cost $8 for adults and $6 for military and students. For more information or to purchase tickets, call 437-2800 or go to www.frontiertexas.com.
Villa said he encourages ACU students to attend the exhibit.
“I think as college students we’re supposed to know a little bit of everything in a general way,” he said. “This will be a great opportunity to learn a little more about U.S. history, Mexican history and for those who are Texans, a lot of Texas history.”