¡Ask a Mexican! Pancho's Purloined Pate
Dear Mexican: What do Mexicans think about President Bushs grandfather having a hand in getting the guy that robbed Pancho Villas head out of jail?
Kruising Klassily in KennebunkportDear KKK: Ah, Villas stolen skull. No macabre Mexican legend is more mired in intrigue, distortions and looniness and in a country where many believe the United States stole half of its land, thats saying something. Here are the accepted facts about Panchos purloined pate: On February 6, 1926, someone raided Villas tomb in Parral, Chihuahua, and scurried away with the famed generals three-years-dead head. Mexican authorities quickly arrested Emil Holmdahl, a gabacho mercenary who fought for various factions during the Mexican Revolution and had seen around Villas tomb. Holmdahl denied any responsibility, and the Mexican authorities released him for lack of evidence. Nevertheless, stories of Holmdahl boasting about his crime (read Haldeen Braddys The Head of Pancho Villa in the January 1960 edition of Western Folklore for more details) soon spread on both sides of la frontera.
Flash forward to the mid-1980s. In 1984, Arizona rancher Ben F. Williams declared in his memoir Let the Tail Go With the Hide that Holmdahl not only admitted to stealing Villas skull but that he received $25,000 for the deed. Williams shared this information with a friend who belonged to the Order of Skull and Bones, the Yale secret society that counts three generations of the Bush dynasty as members; the friend told Williams that Holmdahl sold them Villas skull. Two years after Williams published his book, Skull and Bones members (among them Jonathan Bush, Dubyas uncle) met with some Apaches and offered them a skull. Tribal leaders had recently discovered an official Skull and Bones log claiming that Dubyas granddaddy Prescott Bush and other Bonesmen stole the skull of Geronimo from his burial grounds in 1918.
Still with me? Gracias. Now, refry this: Around the time George Bush ran for the presidency in 1988, someone merged the details of the Villa and Geronimo grave robberies, noted the Skull and Bones connection, and concocted a fable in which Prescott Bush helps Holmdahl dodge the federales, buys Villas skull and displays it alongside Geronimos noggin at the Bonesmens headquarters. Coupled with Prescotts Nazi ties and Georges CIA past, the Bush-Villa conspiracy served as further proof to critics that the Bushes are the First Family of the New World Order (and Dubyas reign has done nothing to indicate otherwise).
Problem is, the Bush-Villa conspiracy is as flimsy as a swap-meet T-shirt. For one, Williams 1984 memoir was the first time anyone had publicly tried to connect the Skull and Bones with Villas remains, and the book never mentioned Prescott Bush. Braddys essay mentioned that Holmdahl himself reportedly told friends that scientists in Chicago paid him $5,000 for the cabeza. Not only that, but all serious scholarship on the matter is skeptical. Friedrich Katz, author of the definitive English-language Villa biography, The Life and Times of Pancho Villa, called the Skull and Bones claim the latest story to surface among dozens of similar yarns. And while Alexandra Robbins wrote in her 2002 Skull and Bones exposé, Secrets of the Tomb: The Ivy League, and the Hidden Paths of Power, that the organization possessed Villas skull, she retracted the claim in a 2004 interview with the Yale Herald.
So why does this legend persist? Simple: Its a myth where everyone wins. Mexicans get to cry about Yankees desecrating their heroes; gabachos can crow about pulling a fast one on the Mexicans; and everyone gets to fret anew about the creepy Bush family. A shared belief in the Villa-Bush conspiracy is one of the few things that unite Mexicans and gabachos and if believing in a stupid conspiracy is what it takes to get the two groups together, then count me a Bonesman.
Ive got a suggestion lets build an electric fence along the border. Any filthy Mexican trying to cross will be fried, scraped off, rolled in a tortilla (corn or flour) and sent back to be eaten in Mexico. Im a fucking white Spaniard! Just like Antonio Banderas! Dont confuse me with no filthy, stinking Mexican.Paella PowerDear Wab: So youre a filthy spic who forgot that English is a language where double negatives are a no-no got it!
Got a spicy question? Ask the Mexican at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Get the Weekly Newsletter
Our weekly feature stories, movie reviews, calendar picks and more - minus the newsprint and sent directly to your inbox.