Welcome to the Dashboard, !

Close dashboard icon
LibreOrganize 0.6.0 - Documentation

Zapata: Struggle, Legend, and Memory

Zapata: Struggle, Legend, and Memory

When, in 1911, Emiliano Zapata joined Francisco Madero's fight against the dictator Porfirio Díaz (1876-1911), he did so because in his Plan of San Luis, Madero had promised the redistribution of land. At Zapata's insistence that Madero restore the lands taken from the rural villages, he was instead offered a ranch where he could retire quietly. Zapata, indignant, replied that he had not joined the Revolution to become a big landowner. Zapata would continue fighting, now against Madero, then against Victoriano Huerta and finally against Venustiano Carranza and Álvaro Obregón.


After military victories in 1915, in control of the territory of Morelos, the Zapatistas implemented the Plan de Ayala, transforming a state that the Porfirista policies had turned into a giant sugar plantation into a territory where the people now owned and controlled the land, deciding what to cultivate according to their needs and customs.


The Plan de Ayala was followed by several Zapata decrees that established a credit bank for small producers, a ministry of agriculture with seeds support, and initiatives so that not only the villages, but also the poorest peasants received land.


A project of such dimensions had never been implemented in the country before, and Carranza and Obregón took note and took action. Defeating the Zapatistas would not only require a brutal military force, but also agrarian and other social reforms that would give legitimacy to their own limited liberal project.


The Zapatista campaign did finally end in defeat, but their struggle, vision, and ideals fundamentally determined the 1917 Constitution and the post-revolutionary national project. Zapata was assassinated in 1919, and his heirs would continue their struggle not only for material demands but also to recover the memory of the Caudillo del Sur (leader of the South) and insist on his principles of justice.


In the following decades, with Zapata’s continuing high stature in the eyes of the people, the Revolution that had become the government spread an image of Zapata stripped of all his radicalism and converted him into another 1910 revolutionary hero simply bent on overthrowing Díaz. The figure of Emiliano Zapata has been appropriated to an extreme that insults his historical memory. For example, in 1992 President Carlos Salinas announced his reform of Article 27 in front of a large image of Zapata, cynically asserting that El Caudillo del Sur would support the changes that privatized the (communal) ejido system and declared all pending land requests null and void.


But the people have long memories and long for justice. They have vindicated Zapata's legacy. From the struggle of Rubén Jaramillo who undertook the agrarian struggle, to the Zapatista veterans of the Revolution who day and night guarded the grave of General Zapata so that the government would not take his remains to Mexico City, to the EZLN that in 1994 launched its ¡Ya Basta! Campaign (Enough!) to the neoliberal reforms, to the people of eastern Morelos who today oppose the construction of a thermoelectric plant that would devastate their lands and waters, Zapata, as example, symbol and inspiration of the struggle, is still alive.


A century after his death, his fight continues.