The town of Creel was established by Enrique Creel. History views him as both monster and paragon, as always, the truth lies somewhere in between, but that is for a further dissertation.
Enrique Creel founded the town in 1906 while he was Governor of the State of Chihuahua. He had planned it as a shared town between Mexican and Tarahumara, but the Tarahumara had no interest and while the concept failed, the town eventually grew to its present population of around 5000.
Enrique Creel was born into wealth on August 30, 1854. He was the son of Abraham Lincoln’s US Consul. After a very privileged childhood he married Angela Terrazas daughter of one of the wealthiest landowners in Northern Mexico, and his first cousin.
In 1876 President of Mexico Porfirio Diaz forced his way into the Presidency of Mexico and the elite landowners of Mexico were given even more land to work as they chose. At this time Creel was appointed Director of the National Company of Dynamite and Explosives In typical robber baron style he had Mexico impose an 80% tax on all imported dynamite giving he and the members of the “Association” a complete monopoly.
Creel became governor of Chihuahua in 1904 selling underutilized lands to outsiders forcing many of the landless natives into unemployment. This resulted in the economic depression of 1907-1908 and gave Chihuahua the distinction of being the center of the Mexican Revolution.
The revolution began in 1910 and this is the where Pancho Villa came into the world’s conscience. He expropriated most of Creel’s wealth and Enrique Creel moved to the United States.
Eventually Creel was able to return to Mexico and served as an advisor to the then President Obregón. Creel died on August 18, 1931.
Today the town of Creel is undergoing a major change. According to National Geographic “The region’s first commercial airport is scheduled to be built in Creel (under construction as I write this post), whose present-day economy depends on the scenic railway line that runs through town. Government planners envision a subsequent hotel boom to accommodate eventual jetloads of new tourists. Officials in Chihuahua, the Mexican state encompassing most of the Tarahumara territory, are courting private investors for a proposed canyon-rim complex—bungee jumps, a chasm-spanning gondola, more hotels, and an “Indian village” for the permanent display of “rituals, ceremonies, and clothes”—to be built farther west on the railway route, along what’s now a tourist overlook crowded with Tarahumara vendors.” While it is always an easy ploy to count on tourism to boost the economy, the ecology of this area is already on the brink of disaster, and the native Tarahumara Indians on the edge of losing their culture, let us hope they do it right.
It is said, Pancho Villa was “hated by thousands and loved by millions”.
The man’s actual name was Doroteo Arango and he was born in the state of Durango in 1878. He was the son of a peasant sharecropper.
The legend says that he returned home one day, at the age of sixteen, to find his sister having been raped by the owner of the hacienda, he took his revolver shot the man and headed to the mountains on his horse.
He became a cattle rustler in a band led by Francisco “Pancho” Villa. The leader was eventually killed by the police in one of their raids and Doroteo took over the lead of the gang and the name.
Apparently, Pancho Villa was a born leader and a very successful bandit well known for his killing and looting. He also was known to do legitimate work, including work on the Copper Canyon Railroad.
When the Mexican Revolution broke out in 1910 Pancho Villa was recruited by its leader Abraham Gonzalez to put together an army in the northern part of Mexico. He became the idol of the masses due to his many victories and incredible charm.
Villa even made a foray into the United States. He crossed the border and raided the town of Columbus, New Mexico. He was unsuccessfully pursued by General “Black Jack” Pershing who telegraphed back to Washington, upon his failure, that “Villa is everywhere, but Villa is nowhere”.
The Mexican Revolution ended in 1920 and Villa went into hiding fearing for his life, concerned about the relatives of the many he had killed. He was eventually shot in 1923 while driving his car through Parral Durango by assailants who have never been identified.
The best hotel in Creel at this point is the Lodge at Creel, it is a best western and has all the feel of a Montana or Colorado ski lodge. The entire place is made up of log cabins that are huge. The restaurant is first-rate with a perfect breakfast buffet and both typical Mexican, as well as, American fare.
There are a few restaurants in town, all rather empty at this time of year, I am sure they are looking forward to any increased traffic the airport might bring.