National Geographic : 1968 Aug
of the internal social and religious structure. "Toward the end, these urbanites let their apartments fall into ruin and took refuge wherever they could-in the temples and the public colonnades-and in these places they built cooking fires and flimsy partitions. The sewers were allowed to clog up and were used by some of the people as burial places. "From there, of course, it was only a short step to disaster. About the year 1340, during either an internal riot or an attack by outside enemies, the once-powerful city was burned and abandoned. Temple ornaments were pur posely broken and scattered. Hundreds of bodies were left in the ruins." Robin Hood - or Ruthless Bandit? Some 180 miles south of Casas Grandes stands another monument to the past, this one a more recent memorial. It consists of a huge house in the city of Chihuahua, the capital and mining center of Chihuahua State, and it belongs to Sefiora Luz Corral de Villa. Controversy still clings to the name of Gen. Francisco Villa, better known both to Ameri cans and Mexicans as Pancho Villa. To many in the years preceding 1923, Villa was no more than a colorful bandit in an age when Mexico was plagued by bandits. To admirers, how ever, the great Pancho was a sort of back lands Robin Hood, a patriot bent only on ridding his beloved Mexico of tyranny and corruption. Whatever his aim, Pancho Villa's career came to a sudden close in 1923, when his automobile was ambushed by unidenti fied gunmen in Hidalgo del Parral, a mining town in northern Mexico. Today the front part of the general's former home and headquarters houses a private mu seum run by his widow, the redoubtable Se flora Villa herself (page 154). As we examined the bullet-riddled 1919 Dodge in which Villa met his death, we were suddenly engulfed by a wave of children scampering out of the muse um and out of reach of the very vocal sefiora. "They make as much noise as an atom bomb. I'd like to put them in a rocket and send them to the moon." She emphasized the trip with a swoosh of her hand, then smiled. "But it matters nothing-their grandfathers fought beside the general. They are welcome to live with their families in his house as long as they wish." Gesturing toward the battered car, Sefiora Villa remarked: "I don't know who fired the shots, but my husband was killed the same day of the week-a Friday-as Christ, Lin coln, and Kennedy, and for the same ideals." 156 Their name means "flying feet": Possessed of fantastic stamina, Tarahumara Indians compete in barefoot races that often continue for 48 hours. As they run, they kick wooden balls which are as large as oranges when the race begins but wear down to half that size. Two Tarahumaras ran in the 1928 Olympic marathon in Amsterdam but, de spite their prowess at home, lost the 261/5-mile race. It was obvious that to his widow the bandit hero is all hero. In Chihuahua we made plans to journey to Los Mochis near the Gulf of California. Even today the trip is impossible by car, for the great mountain spine known as the Sierra Madre Occidental and the Tarahumara Range, with its giant canyons (preceding pages), block access. The latter plunge deeper and four times longer than the Grand Canyon. Until 1961, the only way across was by mule. Then the Chihuahua al Pacifico rail road, pushing track 420 miles through 89 tunnels and over 31 bridges, finished its line from the city of Chihuahua to the Gulf of California. It was the first road of any kind across Mexico's rugged Sierra Madre between the United States border and Durango, 674 miles to the south (map, page 148).