EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – More than a century after the fact, Pancho Villa’s incursion into Columbus, New Mexico, has become a symbol of unity for people on both sides of the border.

The March 9, 1916, Battle of Columbus claimed the lives of at least 18 Americans and more than 100 invaders. Historians to this date debate what led the rogue Mexican revolutionary general to send hundreds of troops across the border – only to be driven back by U.S. Army machine gun fire. The U.S. government responded to the raid by sending a punitive expedition into Mexico to capture Villa, who evaded his pursuers.

But that was the past. Today, the Village of Columbus and the people of Chihuahua, Mexico, are planning to meet in harmony during a Festival of Friendship from March 9-11.

A mounted contingent left the town of Bachiniva, Chihuahua last Thursday to be in Palomas, across the border from Columbus, in time for the festival. The mayors of seven towns in Western Chihuahua accompanied the riders for a few miles coming out of San Jeronimo ranch in Bachiniva at the start of the Cabalgata Binacional, or Binational Cavalry Trail Remembrance Ride.

The Mexican riders expect to arrive in Palomas, across the border from Columbus, in time for the March 11 parade covering the 3 miles from the port of entry to the heart of the village, according to Chihuahua state authorities.

The festival includes folklorico dancers, mariachis, food sales and a documentary about the raid at the Historical Society Museum in Columbus.

For more information, visit the New Mexico True website.