Who Was Emiliano Zapata?

by Daily Barbarian, George Woodcock

Daily Barbarian >Who Was Emiliano Zapata?

Emiliano Zapata was born in 1879 in Morales, Mexico.

In 1911, when popular demands for land reform were dismissed by Mexico’s then dictator Porfioro Diaz, Zapata and the indigenous peoples of Morales began fighting a guerrilla war that lasted almost ten years. By 1914, with an army of 30,000 Zapatistas, Zapata, along with Pancho Villa’s army, occupied Mexico City

Unlike Villa, Zapata never compromised his principles or those of the Zapatistas. Because he was incorruptible, Zapata was assassinated in 1919 by Colonel Jesus Guajardo, of Venustiano Carranza’s army. Nevertheless, the revolution of the indigenous peoples of Mexico has continued as Zapatista groups, like the present day EZLN, have continued to appear across the entire country.

Below is an excerpt from George Woodcock’s book Anarchism: A History of Libertarian Ideas and Movements.

…Emiliano Zapata, whose activities in southern Mexico during the revolutionary era resemble remarkably those of Makhno in the Ukraine, for like Makhno he was a poor peasant who showed a remarkable power to inspire the oppressed farmers of southern Mexico and to lead them brilliantly in guerilla warfare. The historian Henry Branford Parkes remarked that the Zapatista army of the South was never an army in the ordinary sense, for its soldiers “spent their time plowing and reaping their newly won lands and took up arms only to repel invasion; they were an insurgent people.” The philosophy of the Zapatista movement, with its egalitarianism and its desire to re-create a natural peasant order, with its insistence that the people must take the land themselves and govern themselves in the village communities, with its distrust of politics and its contempt for personal gain, resembled very closely the rural anarchism which had arisen under similar circumstances in Andalusia. Undoubtedly some of the libertarian ideas that inspired the trade unions in the cities and turned great Mexican painters like Rivera and Dr. Atl, into temporary anarchists, found their way to Zapata in the South, but his movement seems to have gained its anarchic quality most of all from a dynamic combination of the leveling desires of the peasants and his own ruthless idealism. For Zapata was the one leader who never compromised, who never allowed himself to be corrupted by money or power, and who died as he lived, a poor and almost illiterate man fighting for justice to be done to men like himself.

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