Theodoros Kiriacopulos: the unsung Hero of the Mexican Revolution
by Rik Villarial and Elias Neofytides
Mercenary, weapons dealer, smuggler, and real estate tycoon are descriptions used, throughout a dozen history books, when obscurely referring to Theodoros Kiriacopulos.
Mystery and intrigue surrounds the life of Theodoros Kiriacopulos who was born on October 18th, 1874 in Kalamata Greece. It is rumored that Theodore may have sought adventure and fortune when venturing to South Africa prior to his emigration to Mexico where he would invest in manufacturing before moving to the United States.
On June 12th, 1908 Theodor immigrated to EL Paso Texas. He married Antonina Triolo who was an American citizen of Sicilian decent, and a resident of EL Paso Texas. His father in-law, Chaz Triolo owned many business properties in and around El Paso Texas. As a wedding present he gave his daughter and Theodor the Emporium Bar, which was connected to the Roma Hotel, another of Triolo’s properties. On the American side of the border, Theodor Kiriacopulos quickly became connected with the Constitutionalist Movement that was sweeping Mexico, and soon revolution would erupt.
Kiriakopulos proceeded in building a small empire and powerful network going into a variety of businesses that would span distances from California to Louisiana. He was a very close friend of Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa and became a major benefactor to the success of the rebellion during the Mexican Revolution. In overthrowing the oligarchy of Mexico he supplied weapons, tactical intelligence, and manpower in clandestine operations. It is noted, while being spied upon by U. S. federal agents, Theodor’s house was one of the very few, in the upscale El Paso neighborhood where he lived, that had an automobile. What’s more, it was a Packard limousine!
He was a very close friend of Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa and became a major benefactor to the success of the Mexican Revolution. In overthrowing the oligarchy of Mexico he supplied weapons, tactical intelligence, and manpower in clandestine operations.
Kiriacopulos operated in El Paso with impunity as it was commonly known that he was a businessman and leader of the rebel Junta in El Paso, who overtly operated under the shadow of U. S. Neutrality Law. During the days that Pancho Villa and his wife, Luz Corral, lived in Theodor’ house, on 510 Prospect Street in El Paso, Texas U. S. agents and Texas Rangers would observe that Hipolito, Pancho’s brother, would often be in the presence of the Kiriacopulos family.
Publications written over the last 100 years, in English and Spanish, allude to a gravely different outcome had Kiriacopulos’ role during the Mexican Revolution gone uncalled upon. One could declare with confidence that Theodor Kiriakopulos is the forgotten hero of the Mexican Revolution.
Theodor held administrative positions within El Paso’s Hellenic society and the Greek Orthodox Church and would often sponsor community events during the days after the revolution. American journalists sought Theodor’s comments and perspective following the assassination of Pancho Villa. Antonina mentions how deeply sadden her husband had become upon hearing the news.
Mystery and speculation continued to follow Theodor Kiriacopulos, even during his final years. December 31, 1954 Theodor was struck by a hit-and-run automobile while crossing the street in front of Sacred Heart Church in El Paso, Texas. He and his wife are buried at Saint Francis Cemetery in Maricopa County, Phoenix, Arizona. Theodor and Antonina had two children, Rebecca and John.
Today, living descendants of Kiriakopulos’ business partners, his nieces, and remaining members of the Triolo family share outrageously curious stories of Theodor during the days when his fortune was made and the adventures (and new fortunes) that followed him after the Mexican revolution.
The home that he built still stands at 510 Prospect Street in El Paso’s famed historic neighborhood, Sunset Heights. The house is currently owned by Rik and Donna Villareal who have done extensive research to honor the history of Theodoros and Antonina Kiriacopulos.