Emiliano Zapata

Of rural mestizo origin, he was a revolutionary leader dedicated to defending the people’s rights, “the land belongs to its workers”. In 1910, he joined the Revolution sparked by Francisco I. Madero, with the goal of overthrowing the regime of Porfirio Diaz, with his own army of peasants he recruited to the call of “Land and Freedom”.

He was born in Anenecuilco, Morelos in 1879 and after participating in an association that exposed the need to defend peasants from the voraciousness of landowners in 1906, he was punished with a year of military service.

In 1909 he was elected president of the Committee for the Defense of Land in Anenecuilco, inciting people to work the land peacefully, but arming them with guns so they could defend themselves from anyone who attempted to steal that right.

In 1910 he was attracted by the agricultural demands stated on the San Luis Plan, joining Madero’s cause, who became President in 1911, but soon after this triumph, landowners didn’t allow a just distribution of land. When faced with this treason, Zapata formulated his own agrarian reform, known as the Ayala Plan; his improvised army took Yautepec, Cuautla and Cuernavaca, refusing to put their weapons down before achieving the peasant’s rights to own land.

Upon the proclamation of the Ayala Plan, Zapata continued defending his cause against the governments of Madero, Victoriano Huerta and Venustiano Carranza, achieving land distribution, confiscation of sugar refineries, opening agricultural banks, establishing elementary schools, promoting traditional forms of organization and the elimination of large private estates.

Emiliano Zapata always kept away from political demagogy, he was only interested in fighting alongside peasants for an honorable way of life. In a letter he wrote to Pancho Villa, Zapata clearly stated his philosophy: “…ignorance and obscurantism has never produced anything other than herds of slaves for tyranny”.

During the governments of Dictator Victoriano Huerta (1913.1914) and President Venustiano Carranza (1914-1920), Zapata continued fighting throughout the south, triumphantly marching into Mexico City, alongside Pancho Villa, in 1914.

Emiliano Zapata was murdered in 1919 in an ambushed set by Venustiano Carranza, at Chinameca Estate. This defeated the Zapatista movement militarily, but his ideals were kept alive.

Article Produced by the Editorial Team of Explorando México.
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Photo: La Torre de Babel