Pascual Orozco served as an important military and political leader in Mexico from 1910 to 1915, ultimately becoming a leading figure of the Mexican Revolution. Born in the northern state of Chihuahua in 1882 to a politically active family, Orozco received a few years of primary education and worked in his father's store until becoming a muleteer, transporting ore from local mines.
His transportation business prospered, and by 1910 he owned his own team of mules and a retail store and was known as a successful businessman with a good reputation as an honest man.
Orozco's political consciousness awoke with his father's opposition to the regime of Porfirio Díaz. Pascual Orozco, Sr., supported the activities of the Mexican Revolutionary Party, one of the earliest groups to oppose Díaz.
In 1910 Abraham González, the revolutionary leader of Chihuahua and a supporter of Francisco Madero, picked Orozco to be the military leader of his home region of Guerrero. Orozco's reputation as an honest and efficient businessman facilitated recruitment to the revolutionary cause.
On November 10, 1910, Orozco initiated his military offensive, beginning operations the day before the official date set by Madero for the revolution to begin. On November 29 Orozco's forces took Pedernales, Chihuahua, the first significant rebel victory over the federal army.
Orozco rose in the ranks to a leadership position, commanding revolutionary activities in the state of Chihuahua, which were marked by several triumphant engagements with Díaz's forces. Francisco Madero returned to Mexico and joined Orozco in February 1911, assuming command of military operations.
After a devastating defeat at Casas Grandes, Chihuahua, undertaken without Orozco's knowledge, Madero recognized the talent of his Chihuahuan military leader and promoted Orozco to the position of colonel in the revolutionary army.
In May 1911 Orozco and Francisco "Pancho" Villa prepared to attack Ciudad Juárez, a metropolitan center located on the U.S.-Mexico border directly opposite El Paso, Texas. Madero feared the attack could spill over into El Paso, leading to U.S. intervention. He subsequently ordered Orozco and Villa to call off the attack; they ignored orders and forced the city into surrender.
Orozco captured the federal commander at Juárez, General F. Navarro, with hopes that the general would be court-martialed for executing some of Orozco's troops. Madero disagreed and aided Navarro in escaping to the United States.
The attack on Ciudad Juárez created tension between Madero and Orozco, tension that reached an apex when Madero failed to reward Orozco for his vital services to the revolutionary cause with the position of governor of Chihuahua or minister of war. Orozco was appointed to the position of commander of the rural guard of Chihuahua, a modest position, and later became the head of the garrison stationed at Juárez.
He resigned this position in February 1912 after Madero ordered him to quell the Zapatista rebellion in the south, but Madero refused his resignation. Orozco suppressed one more uprising in the north and resigned again.
Feeling that his talents and contributions to the revolution and Madero's presidency went unrecognized and with the financial backing of oppositional political factions in Chihuahua, Orozco openly denounced the Madero government.
Madero's oversight of Orozco's contributions to his rise to power now put the new president into open rebellion with his most successful rebel leader. Chihuahua raged with violent revolt, and the governor of the state fled for his life.
Madero's new government struggled to put down the rebellion and found its coffers drained and its attention taken away from reform projects by the focus on stabilizing the country, especially the north. Madero dispatched General Victoriano Huerta to put down Orozco's rebellion in April 1912. Huerta succeeded in taking back Ciudad Juárez but did not capture Orozco.
A turn of events in February 1913 left Huerta president of Mexico by way of a military coup and Madero's assassination. Huerta needed military support to overcome resistance to his seizure of power and looked toward Orozco as an important ally.
In exchange for financial demands and a program of agrarian reform, Orozco became a brigadier general in Huerta's army. In May 1913 Orozco began his northern campaign against Huerta's enemies, experiencing a series of victories, which led to his promotion to general of brigade.
He battled Pancho Villa for control of Chihuahua, but disagreements with fellow general Salvador Mercado over political and military affairs ultimately contributed to the defeat of the federal forces. Huerta dispatched Orozco again in April 1914 to Chihuahua to create a base for guerrilla operations, but Huerta's resignation and exile in July 1914 dissolved that operation.
With this change in government, Orozco did not wait for a new administration to revolt. This time, however, he lacked popular support, and within two months he no longer represented a military threat. Now in the United States, Huerta courted Orozco in his scheme to take back the Mexican presidency. Orozco agreed to meet Huerta at Newman, New Mexico, to discuss the conspiracy.
Federal agents had been monitoring Huerta, and the two men were arrested and charged with conspiracy to violate U.S. neutrality laws on January 13, 1916. Orozco escaped federal custody on July 3 but was killed on August 30 by a posse made up of U.S. federal marshals, Texas Rangers, and U.S. Army troops. Some characterized Orozco's death as an execution, finding it odd that Orozco and his four companions were all shot, while the posse suffered no losses or injuries.