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Emiliano Zapata had very much greater influence on the Mexican history than any other great revolutionaries in the 1910s. He aggressively expressed his role as an agrarian reformist and coined the phrase tierra y Libetad which meant land and freedom. Unlike many of other Mexican revolutionists, he fought not for personal but ideal gain. This paper will discuss and determine why Emiliano Zapata was an important person to be remembered hundred years later.
Emiliano Zapata was born in august 1879 in Morelos, Mexico. He was the son of a small peasant farmer. After the death of his father when he was 18, he had to take care of his mother and three sisters through their little land. In 1909 he was elected the president of the village’s defense committee which was charged with defending the interests of the community against the dictator president of Mexico Porfirio Diaz. In his own village of Anenecuilco, he became involved in the struggles for the rights of campesinos and was able to oversee the redistribution of the land from the haciendas peacefully. He was in the frontline to observe many conflicts between villagers and hacendados (landowners) over theft of the village land and in some instances, he saw the hacendandos torch a whole village.
He was fiercely involved in the campaign for the rights of the villagers. He first established ancient title deeds claim to disputed land and pressed the governor of Morieles into action but when he found that the government was too slow to react and that was biased towards the wealthy plantation farmers, Zapata used armed forced to take over the disputed land. He was to become a leading figure in the Mexican revolution which broke out in 1910 and was in many ways directed to the then president Diaz. During the Mexican revolution, Zapata formed and commanded a very important and revolutionary force called the Liberation Army of the South that challenged the president (Emiliano Zapata).
Zapata was also known for his brainy quotes some of which are still famous in Mexico, “It is better to die on your feet than to live a lifetime on your knees,” "I would rather die on my feet then live on my knees" and when he threatened the president by telling him, “you can begin counting days, because in a month I will be in Mexico city with twenty thousand men and I will have the pleasure of…hanging you from the tallest tree in the forest.”
The 1910 revolution
As President Diaz’s tenure was threatened by the candidacy of Francisco I Madero, Zapata took the opportunity to make quiet alliances as he perceived him as a genuine change the country needed. In 1910 he became the general of Ejército Libertador del Sur, the liberation army in Morels. Madero had lost the 1910 elections to Dictator Diaz and fled to the US but later re-entered Mexico and Zapata and his peasant friends decided to support Madero. Madero’s revolutionary plan included returning of seized land to peasant farmers and thus he became a darling to most peasants. This plan became a rallying cry for peasantry and Zapata organized revolutionary bands that rode from village to village and tore down hacienda fences and opposed fiercely the land elite’s encroachment into their villages (Ink and Internet -- Emiliano Zapata).
In 1911, a bloody phase of the Mexican revolution took place at the Villa de Ayala. Most villagers who were sympathetic to the revolution and did not offer any resistance as most of them were hacienda workers. The revolution took a more bloody twist when fighting started in the north by the legendary Pancho Villa. By May after heavy fighting, the Zapata followers otherwise known as Zapatistas had taken the town of Cuautla. Two days later Madero signed a treaty with the Mexican government known as the Treaty of Ciudad Juarez that ended the presidency of Porfirio Diaz and the former ambassador to US, León de la Barra, was named the interim president (Ink and Internet -- Emiliano Zapata.)
But the new president was not a darling of Zapata because he could not assuage the peasants. This was because Barra’s allegiance was seen to be with the rich planters who were now aiming to regain the control of Mexico. Although he had ceased his hostilities briefly, Zapata with his 5,000 strong men captured Cuernavaca the capital of Morelos state. Barra was overthrown and Madero was elected president.
When Zapata and Madero met to discuss peasantry demands, the meeting proved fruitless and the two parted in anger. In the “Plan of Ayala”, Zapata declared Madero unfit to fulfill his goals. He issued a statement to Madero, “you can begin counting days, because in a month I will be in Mexico City with twenty thousand men and I will have the pleasure of…hanging you from the tallest tree in the forest.” Zapata went into the forest and issued his plan of the Ayala (Emiliano Zapata of Mexico). The plan was to award the peasants a third of all land occupied by the haciendas by forcefully taking the land and compensating those who were willing to cede their plantations. The revolutionary was later into full swing and for the first time that Zapata used his famous slogan of Tierra y Libertad which meant Land and Liberty (Ink and Internet -- Emiliano Zapata). In the course of these revolutions, Zapata forcefully took land from the haciendas and redistributed them to peasants. Zapata had thousands of men whom he paid by taxes imposed on provincial cities and extortions from the rich (Emiliano Zapata).
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In 1917, Carranza was elected president and he set up Zapata to be ambushed. An emissary of Carranza, Colonel Jesus Guajardo, invited Zapata to a meeting pretending to join his cause and when he arrived at the meeting, he was ambushed, shot and assassinated (Emiliano Zapata of Mexico).
Zapata’s ideology was that of an agrarian one. He wanted the re-establishment of ejidas which is communally owned land with shared use of rights which was seen as a communist idea but the fact was Zapata was fighting for restoration of titles. His main goal was political and economic emancipation of Mexico’s peasants. He argued against the feudal system that kept sharecroppers and small farmers in perpetual poverty.