Emiliano Zapata, the mythical hero of the Mexican Revolution

Emiliano Zapata, emblem of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation, at the age of 17 had his first problem with the government, so he fled his village to take refuge with family friends. He then led the Revolution in Mexico from 1910 to 1917 with the aim of fighting for the rights of peasants.

The birthday of the hero, Emiliano Zapata, of the Mexican Revolution is August 8. Photo: UNAM Historical Archive
The birthday of the hero, Emiliano Zapata, of the Mexican Revolution is August 8. Photo: UNAM Historical Archive

Moustache, populated eyebrows, brown skin, and a charro hat are characteristics that always evoke the "Caudillo del Sur" (Southern Caudillo), Emiliano Zapata.

The birth date of the hero of the Mexican Revolution is August 8, a date that serves to commemorate the work of the leader of the Liberating Army of the South during the armed conflict.

The man, later taken up as an emblem of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation, had the main objective in mind during the revolt that took place in Mexico from 1910 to 1917: to fight for the rights of the peasants, most of whom during the porfiriato were dispossessed of their lands, forcing them to move away from agricultural production.

But that was not the beginning of his fight against the authorities or his magnetic sympathy. Zapata, brother of two women and a man, who was born in a community of barely 400 inhabitants in Anenecuilco, Morelos, has always been a political leader. At the age of 17 he had his first problem with the government, so he fled his village to take refuge with family friends.

Months later, when the situation calmed down for him, he returned to Morelos. There he continued with his great passion: horseback riding. His talent and natural leadership made the community sympathize with him. When the Anenecuilco Municipal Council changed in 1909, the inhabitants of the area elected Zapata as President.

Immediately the "Caudillo del Sur" began to enter into conversations with authorities in Mexico City to improve the working conditions of the peasants. This caught the attention of the rulers, who asked him to join the Army. And so he did, moving for a time to the capital of the country to work as a knight.

When he returned to his hometown he had his second confrontation with the authorities. The agricultural workers were unable to plant in the hacienda El Hospital because of a lawsuit brought by the owners. The response of Zapata, leader of the local council, was to seize the land through an arms uprising. And he did it.

His victory was heard in neighboring communities living in similar situations, so they elected him as head of the Junta de Villa de Ayala, a larger demarcation than Anenecuilco in which several municipalities of Morelos were included.

In 1910 he was called by Francisco I. Madero to join the ranks of the Revolution. Zapata, who always mistrusted politicians, hesitated a little. But when Pablo Torres Burgos, a friend, and companion of ideals, was named commander in the movement, the warrior of the South also associated.

A year later, seduced by Madero's Plan de San Luis, which spoke of restitution of land to peasants, Emiliano Zapata took over the leadership of the Libertador del Sur Army. At his side was always Eufemio Zapata, his brother, who also played a leading role in the battle.

For the government, he became a rebel classified as a violent person. His achievements on the battlefield made the authorities uncomfortable and deprived them of power. Meanwhile, in northern Mexico, Francisco Villa also fought in the revolution by commanding the Northern Division.

In 1911 Porfirio Diaz left power and fled. The mandate was then taken by Francisco León de la Barra, which I. Madero considered a victory, so he asked the Army to lay down its arms, but Zapata did not agree. He said he would not abandon the fire unless the restitution of the land was complied with.

The "Caudillo del Sur" decided to elaborate the historic Ayala Plan, in which the government of Francisco I. Madero, who was about to become President, was unknown. The armed conflicts returned and Francisco I. Madero was assassinated for treason by Victoriano Huerta. Later he took power from the Government and aggravated the attacks against the revolutionaries.

Pancho Villa and Venustiano Carranza, lawyer and politician, joined forces and in 1914 overthrew Huerta. Then the "Caudillo del Sur" and the "Centauro del Norte" united for the first time in Mexico City and agreed to fight Carranza.

Sometime later the two also had differences, so they separated. Villa confronted the Carrancistas, while Zapata returned to Morelos and worked on the reconstruction of his state. In 1915 the former leader of the Northern Division was defeated, and now the attacks were concentrated on the Zapatistas.

After agreements and conflicts between the government and the peasants, in 1919 Emiliano Zapata was assassinated in Chinameca, Morelos. His followers continued to honor and respect him for the actions he did for the benefit of the peasant communities.

Source: Infobae

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President Andrés Manuel López Obrador presented this Wednesday, to commemorate the centenary of the death of Emiliano Zapata, special editions of a stamp, Metro ticket and a little slip of the National Lottery.

The federal government declared 2019 as the year of General Emiliano Zapata, so his image would appear on the official stationery. General Zapata was assassinated in Chinameca, Morelos, on April 10, 1919. Image: screenshot from twitter
The federal government declared 2019 as the year of General Emiliano Zapata, so his image would appear on the official stationery. General Zapata was assassinated in Chinameca, Morelos, on April 10, 1919. Image: screenshot from twitter

In the case of the stamp, it will cost 7.50 pesos and 100 thousand units were issued. The stamp of 40 by 48 millimeters can be purchased at the facilities of Correos de México or in its online store.

Claudia Sheinbaum, head of the Government of Mexico City, presented the special Metro ticket commemorating the death of Zapata, which has been sold since April 6. Metro printed 10 million tickets and arranged two special exhibitions about the general at the Pino Suárez and Zapata stations.

Ernesto Prieto, director of the National Lottery, announced that this Wednesday will be a special draw in commemoration of Zapata. The main prize of this event will be 25 million pesos, divided into two series, and will take place at 8:00 p.m. 2 million 400 thousand pieces were printed for the draw and the cost of each one is 50 pesos.

Who was general Zapata and why is he an important figure

This 10th of April marks the centennial of the death of Emiliano Zapata, peasant and revolutionary leader who was in charge of the Liberation Army of the South, in the area of ​​Morelos. Zapata promulgated the Plan de Ayala in 1911 where problems of the peasantry and the large estates that were not contemplated in the Maderista program were addressed. The political character (anti-reelection) was joined by the conviction of a social transformation based on the agrarian distribution in a predominantly rural Mexico.

It is well known that the Mexican Revolution was not a monolithic event. The triumph of the revolution was of the Sonoran military (Obregón, Calles) while the most social and popular part represented by Zapatismo and Villismo was defeated. Even so, there was space to consecrate in the Mexican Constitution certain social rights that made it the first in the world to do so, although it was always a dead letter in reality.

It is Lázaro Cárdenas (1934-1940) who makes an important agrarian distribution and visualizes the ejido as a form of economic production aimed at bringing social justice. This distribution was made in a first instance in the areas of Zapatista influence with the awareness that there were outstanding debts with the agrarian movement and that it was time to start paying them off. 

However, the election of Ávila Camacho (1940-1946) at the beginning of the Second World War brought the first setbacks for the peasantry as it abruptly reduced the agrarian distribution to only a quarter of what was delivered during the Cardenista administration, which it allowed to strengthen the private property of the land at the same time that it helped to neutralize the collective ejido as a form of political organization.

The end of the world conflict coincided with the election of Miguel Alemán (1946-1952) and the inauguration of the postrevolutionary period. Not only was the time of the revolutionary generals left behind, and a civilian was taking power, but a different economic project was given way. On the same day he protested as president, Alemán introduced an agrarian counter-reform, stopping the collectivization of the land and promoting the latifundismo. Subsistence products were abandoned and production began for the market, including the United States.

Mexico stopped being rural and became urban, making it clear that the economic project envisioned was the development of capitalism (of friends) via industrialization. The countryside and the peasants were relegated and forgotten in the national project and in many cases there began to be violent repression of the agrarianism that represented a project of a country different from the Mexico of the economic and political elites. 

This change of cycle culminated in the 1962 assassination of Rubén Jaramillo, a peasant and revolutionary from Morelos who had fought alongside Zapata and inherited the lead in the southern part of the country. The agrarian movement was seen as an enemy to be exterminated in the construction of modern Mexico and the countryside as a simple means of supply for the industrialization and urbanization of the country.

But nothing is killed by decree and there was always peasant resistance organization. Many of these groups nurtured the guerrilla groups that emerged in the southeast of the country (Guerrero, Oaxaca, Chiapas) during the 1970s. The figure of Zapata was so alive that he was present in a contradictory way in different sectors of contemporary Mexico. 

He was the national hero of Carlos Salinas de Gortari (1988-1994), the father of Mexican neoliberalism to such an extent that one of his sons bears the name of the leader of the south, while at every important announcement he came out with his portrait as a background. In the antipodes, the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) emerged, which came to light in a symbolic manner on the same day that the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) came into force at the beginning of 1994. Zapata continued to be a more powerful figure in the Mexican social imaginary that served as legitimization both to Tyrians and Trojans.

Due to its mournful centenary, the López Obrador government declared that 2019 would be the 'Year of Zapata'. The official stationery is adorned with the effigy of the revolutionary and multiple tributes will be made.

By Agencies