Emiliano Zapata Salazar (August 8, 1879 – April 10, 1919)
A century after the heroism and exploits of Emiliano Zapata there are still Zapatistas that will fight for "true freedom" in Mexico. Viva Zapata is still a rallying cry for justice. The very name of Zapata evokes bravery and a spirit of uniting for a just cause. throughout America in Mexican restaurants and local stores his picture is displayed and often along with his famous quote: "It is better to die on your feet than to live on your knees."
Often as I venture onto Facebook "Viva Zapata" will be echoed around historical, but present day events. I have heard or seen this rally more from non-Mexicans than Mexicans. Emiliano Zapata is world renowned.
Emiliano Zapata was one of the most important heroes of Mexico between 1910 to 1919. Even while he lived he was legendary. Many tales were told and many ballads were written. His grave is revered by the natives of South Mexico.
"It is better to die on your feet than to live on your knees."
Emiliano Zapata’s parents were Gabriel Zapata and Cleofas Salazar. Gabriel Zapata trained and sold horses in the small central state of Morelos, in the village of Anenecuilco. Today the village is known as Ayala. Emiliano's family were Mestizos which were of mixed Nahua and Spanish ancestry. Emiliano was the ninth of ten children and a peasant from childhood. He had insight of the very difficult hardships of the area. Emiliano attained a limited education from his teacher, Emilio Vara. He had to care for his family because Emiliano’s father died when Zapata was 17.
Mexico was ruled by Porfirio Díaz. He had risen to power in 1876. The social system was a prototypical-capitalist feudal system. There were large haciendas controlling most of the land. They made it hard for the independent communities of the indigenous who were usually forced into debt slavery on the haciendas. Porfirio Díaz ran local elections to favor the hacienda owners. Close confidants and associates of Porfirio Diaz were given offices in districts throughout Mexico. The “officials” were the enforcers of "land reforms" that pushed the haciendas out of the hands of the indigenous and into the hands of the fewer and wealthier landowners.
Zapata’s were considered middle class and were able to avoid peonage and to maintain their own land. Zapata had the reputation of a dandy. He appeared at bullfights and rodeos in an elaborate cowboy outfit. He attended a meeting in Cuautla in 1906 to discuss a way to defend the land of the people. He had worked such land as a farmhand. In 1908, he was drafted into the Ninth Regiment and sent to Cuernavaca.
His foppish attire suggested an affiliation with the rich hacendados but he retained the admiration of the indigenous people of Anenecuilco.
In 1909 a meeting was called by the elders of Anenecuilco. José Merino was the chief elder of the village and well respected. Merino was resigning from his position due to old age and limited abilities. Zapata became the new council president without contest.
Zapata had turned 30 only a month before. Though young, the village had complete confidence in Emiliano.
Zapata was the leading figure in Anenecuilco. His family had lived there for generations. He was involved in struggles for the rights of the campesinos of Morelos. He was able to oversee the redistribution of the land from some haciendas peacefully. He had problems with others. He observed numerous conflicts between villagers and hacendados. He was familiar with the constant theft of village land. In one instance, saw the hacienda owners torching of an entire village.
He campaigned for many years for the rights of the villagers. He established their claims to disputed land through ancient title deeds. He pressed the governor of Morelos into action. He eventually became disgusted with the slow response from the government and the bias towards the wealthy plantation owners. Zapata began using armed force to take over the land in dispute.
The 1910 Revolution
Zapata perceived Francisco I.Madero to be the best chance for change in the country
In 1910, Zapata became the general of an army that was formed in Morelos – the Liberation Army of the South.
With the support of Pancho Villa, Pascual Orozco, Emiliano Zapata, and rebellious peasants, Zapata joined Madero’s campaign against President Diaz. Madero overthrew Díaz in May 1911 in the battle at Ciudad Juárez.
Francisco León de la Barra formed a provisional government and some new land reforms were carried out. Elections were to be ensured. However, Zapata became dissatisfied with Madero's position on land reform and was unable to make him understand the importance of the issue or get him to act on it.
Madero was not ready to make the needed, radical change. Some called "anarcho-syndicalist agitators" were intent to take things back to the way that they had been previously. Zapata was unsure of the sincerity of Madero's actions and was undecided if he should support him completely.
The relations between Madero and Zapata worsened during the summer of 1911. Madero was appointed a governor. Modero supported plantation owners and refused to meet Zapata’s agrarian goals. Their negotiations failed in November 1911 just days after Madero appointed himself President. Zapata and Montaño fled to the mountains of southwest Puebla. It was there that they formed the most radical reform plan in Mexico; the Plan de Ayala.
Zapata was partly influenced by Ricardo Flores Magón an anarchist from Oaxaca. named. Zapata's anarchism came through a local schoolteacher, Otilio Montaño Sánchez, who exposed Zapata to the works of Peter Kropotkin and Flores Magón at the same time as Zapata was beginning to participate in the struggles of the peasants for the land. Otilio Montaño, later a general in Zapata's army, was executed on May 17, 1917.
The plan proclaimed Zapatista’s demands for “Reform, Freedom, Law and justice”. Zapata denounced Madero and declared the Maderistas as a counter-revolution. Zapata mobilized his Liberation Army. He allied with former Emiliano Vázquez Gómez and Maderistas Pascual Orozco. Orozco was from Chihuahua, near the U.S. border. He was able to aid the Zapatistas with a supply of arms.
Zapata knew the best route of attack was to center the fighting and action in Cuautla. If this political situation could be overthrown, the army could control the state. They could negotiate for Cuernavaca or attack it directly. They could maintain independent access to Mexico City and escape routes to the southern hills. In order to gain this great success, Zapata knew his men must be better armed and trained.
When Zapata and his men controlled the area behind and below a line from Jojutla to Yecapixtla, it gave the army the ability to complete raids and wait. If the opposition of the federal army and police detachments dissipated, the army would be able to gain control over key locations as in the Interoceanic Railway from Puebla City to Cuautla. If this was accomplished, it would gain access to Cuautla and the city would fall.
The plan was carried out and saw amazing success in Jojutla. But, Torres Burgos, the commander of the operation, was confounded about how the army could disobey his orders against looting and ransacking. The army took complete control of the area. Torres Burgos lost any type of control over his forces. Burgos called a meeting and resigned from his position. He left Jojutla with his two sons. A federal police patrol surprised Burgos and shot all three of the men dead. Zapata was ready to take up where Burgos had left off.
Rebels elected Zapata as "Supreme Chief of the Revolutionary Movement of the South". Zapata would have to convince his peers he was deserving.
Zapata became the leader of his "strategic zone." It gave him tremendous power and control over more rebel groups and his success greatly. A meeting with Zapata and Ambrosio Figueroa in Jolalpan determined that Zapata would have power with Figueroa with regard to operations in Morelos. This was a major turning point for authority and influence that Zapata had gained. It proved useful in the overthrow of Morelos.
Zapata used his newly-found power and overthrew city after city with growing momentum. Madero was alarmed and asked Zapata to disarm. Zapata was reported to have said that, if the people could not win their rights when they were armed, they would have no chance once they were unarmed and helpless. Several generals were sent by Madero to deal with Zapata. These efforts had little success. It appeared that Zapata would soon overthrow Morelos. Then the Treaty of Ciudad Juarez was signed. This officially ended the civil war.
This made individuals believe that the revolution was over. It was not. The fighting continued for years to come. Mexican individuals did not have rights that were fair. They didn’t have the protection needed to fight those who pushed this exploitation on them.
Government forces could never completely defeat Zapata. In 1919, he was murdered in a carefully staged ambush by Gen. Pablo González and his lieutenant, Col. Jesús Guajardo. They were supporters of the Mexican president, Venustiano Carranza. Guajardo proposed González feign defection to Zapata's forces. González agreed. To make the defection appear sincere, he arranged for Guajardo to attack a Federal column. They killed 57 soldiers. Getting word of the attack on the soldiers, Zapata agreed to a meeting to speak about Guajardo's defection.
On April 10, 1919, Guajardo invited Zapata to this meeting. He intimated that he intended to defect to the revolutionaries. When Zapata arrived at the Hacienda de San Juan, in Chinameca, Ayala municipality. Immediately, Guajardo's men riddled him with bullets. They took his body to Cuaatla to claim the bounty. It is told that they were given only half of the filthy lucre promised.
After Zapata's death, the Liberation Army of the South fell apart. Zapata's heir apparent Gildardo Magaña and many other Zapata adherents went on to political careers as representatives of Zapatista causes and positions in the Mexican army and government. Some of his former generals like Genovevo de la O allied with Obregón while others eventually disappeared when Carranza was deposed.
Years before George H.W. Bush became President of the U.S., he named his off-shore oil company "Zapata oil". This was actually a front for staging CIA attacks on Cuba. The failed Bay of Pigs invasion was called Operation ZAPATA. The name choice may have been the result of inspiration for a peasant revolt.
Zapata's influence lasts to this day. Zapata is one of the most revered national heroes of Mexico. To many Mexicans, specifically the peasant and indigenous citizens, Zapata was a practical revolutionary who sought the implementation of liberties and agrarian rights outlined in the Plan of Ayala. He had a realistic goal of achieving political and economic freedom for the peasants in southern Mexico, and leading them out of severe poverty.
Emiliano Zapata entrevistado por periodistas. 1914-1919.
Historia de Emiliano Zapata
Historia de Emiliano Zapata_2
Historia de Emiliano Zapata_3
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