Biographical / Historical
Victor Leaton Ochoa (1850-1945?) was born in Ojinaga, Mexico. Ochoa later moved to Presidio del Norte, Texas, (Presidio is on the Rio Grande River) and became a United States citizen in 1889. Ochoa was the son of Juan Ochoa, a customs collector in Presidio.
Victor Ochoa was a journalist/writer, founding (
El Correo del Bravo)
; a politician (running unsuccessfully in El Paso); a union leader founding (La Union Occidental
to help Mexicans in the United States preserve their language); a revolutionary (opposing the Mexican government of President Porfirio Díaz, the President of Mexico from 1876 to 1880 and from 1884 to 1911); a prisoner, corporate president of the International Airship Company and the Ochoa Tool and Machine Company; miner and inventor. Ochoa was bitterly opposed to the dictatorship of President Porfirio Díaz. He became involved in the fight by Mexican rebels in the early 1890s to overthrow Diaz. Some consider Ochoa to be the originator of the revolt, and Díaz ultimately issued a $50,000 reward for Ochoa, "dead or alive." Ochoa's participation in Mexican revolutionary activities led to his arrest in 1894 for supplying and hiring Mexican dissidents in El Paso, Texas, thus violating United States neutrality laws. As a result of his illegal actions, a federal warrant was issued for Ochoa's arrest. The Texas Rangers as well as the U.S. Marshal Service sought Ochoa. In October of 1894, Pecos County Sheriff A. J. Royal and Texas Ranger James W. Fulgham arrested Victor Ochoa while rounding up suspected horse thieves. Ochoa was put in the Pecos County Jail and promptly escaped. He was eventually found and returned to El Paso. Ochoa was ultimately sentenced to two years in federal prison at Kings County Penitentiary in Brooklyn. Ochoa was stripped of his United States citizenship, but it was ultimately restored by Theodore Roosevelt in 1906.
Ochoa was as committed to inventing as he was to his revolutionary ideals. He was known to reside in the New York City and the Patterson, New Jersey area in the late 1890s. Ochoa's issued patents list him at New York, New Jersey, and Texas addresses. He also worked with Watson E. Coleman, a solicitor of patents in Washington, D.C. Coleman helped Ochoa file for and obtain patents in other countries such as Czechoslovakia, France, Germany, Great Britain, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, Poland, and Spain. Ochoa's patents include: a magnetic brake (US Patent No. 867,147); a reversible motor (US Patent No. 718,508); a rail magnetic brake (US Patent No. 873,587); a windmill (US Patent No. 1,319,174); and a wrench (US Patent No. 1,417,196 and 1,454,333).
Ochoa had a strong interest in aviation. He created the "Ochoaplane," circa 1908-1911. He designed it with an automobile in mind, and it included collapsible wings so that it could be housed in a garage or barn. He also incorporated the International Airship Company in Patterson, New Jersey, presumably to manufacture his "airships." Ochoa was imprisoned at the United States Penitentiary in Leavenworth, Kansas on February 18, 1917 and was released on May 1, 1918 upon completion of his sentence. In a September 17, 1917, letter written from Leavenworth, Ochoa asks the Naval Consulting Board to consider the use of metal wings constructed in such a manner that they fold back and over the body of the airship. Ochoa called this his fluttering wing machine. Ochoa's letter is deliberate, and he writes, "There was no desire on my part of abandoning this and three other patents that at this time went to issue. At that time I was taken sick with consumption and my struggle for life then became my sole purpose and then there arose other circumstances, over which I had no control, to prevent my taking them out."
Ochoa married Amanda Cole, granddaughter of Thomas Cole, the American painter, whose most famous painting is
The Last of the Mohicans
. They had one son, Stephen Ochoa. Victor Ochoa returned to Sinaloa, Mexico, in 1936, and it is believed he died there in 1945.
Romo, David Dorado.
Ringside Seat to a Revolution: An Underground Cultural History of El Paso and Juarez: 1893-1923.
El Paso, Texas: Cinco Puntos Press, 2005.