Born Doroteo Arango on June 5, 1878, in Río Grande, Mexico. Villa helped out on his parents’ farm. After his father’s death, he became head of the household and shot a man who was harassing one of his sisters. He fled, but was caught and imprisoned. Villa escaped again and later became a bandit.
While living as a fugitive, Villa joined Francisco Madero’s successful uprising against the Mexican dictator, Porfirio Díaz. Because of his skills as a fighter and a leader he was made a colonel. Another rebellion removed Madero from power in 1912 and Villa was almost executed for his efforts to defend the former government. He fled to the United States for a time, but he later returned to Mexico and formed his own military force known as Division del Norte (Division of the North). He joined forces with other revolutionaries Venustiano Carranza and Emiliano Zapata to overthrow Victoriano Huerta. The different forces were not wholly successful at working together, and Villa and Carranza became rivals. For a number of years, he was involved in a series of clashes with other Mexican military groups and even fought with U.S. troops from 1916 to 1917. In 1920, Villa reached an agreement with Adolfo de la Huerta, the Mexican leader, which pardoned him for his actions in return for Villa putting an end to his independent military activities. Three years later, he was assassinated on June 20, 1923.
Biography courtesy of BIO.com