The General and The Jaguar
by: Eileen Welsome
Published by: Little, Brown
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Reviewed by Jeff Foster
In these days of American soldiers fighting in foreign lands, the story of how the United States of America became embroiled in the Mexican Revolution almost one hundred years ago is timely.
Fresh from victory in the Spanish American War, full of pride and new quasi-colonial possessions, America was now enjoying one of our isolationist periods when we would prefer to sit back and let the world solve its own problems.
The world was gearing up for war in the first decade of the 1900s. The British had finally concluded their operations in South Africa; the Japanese had handed the Russians the most decisive naval defeat since Trafalgar; and our neighbor to the south was in open revolt against its latest cobbled-together government.
With foreign companies and foreign entrepreneurs owning more of Mexico than the Mexicans, the stage was set for one of those personalities of the people to take advantage of the situation and use it to his benefit. Enter Francisco "Pancho" Villa.
Villa could be described as the Osama Bin Laden of his day. He raided, murdered and brutalized northern Mexico, and on a fateful day in March of 1916, crossed the border and attacked Columbus, New Mexico. His raid murdered innocent men and women and sent the borders states into panic.
President Woodrow Wilson sent General John J. Pershing on a punitive expedition that quickly became so hamstrung with rules of engagement that it resembled our expedition fifty years later in Southeast Asia.
The General & The Jaguar is an extensively researched and well-developed biography of not only Pershing and Villa but the supporting cast of characters on both sides that played at a game of chess in the Mexican state of Chihuahua for ten months.
Eileen Welsome has taken great unbiased pains to portray each characters, both known and unknown, in a light that will let the reader arrive at their own verdict as to how the incidents of 1916-7 should be remembered.
Armchair Interviews says: This is a work that should be required reading in every high school American history class.
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