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  • Mexican revolutionary Emiliano Zapata

    Mexican revolutionary Emiliano Zapata | Photo: EFE

Published 10 April 2015

The rural leader still remains alive in the memory of Mexicans. 

The leader of the farmers' uprising that became the famous Mexican Revolution (1911-1919) was assassinated 96 years ago, April 10, 1919.

Zapata led the struggle of the poor farmers deprived of land, in the traditional communities of farmers, against the power of the major haciendas-owners and against the dictatorship of Porfirio Diaz.

Less knowingly, Zapata also led the rebellion of the rural workers' class that competed with the rebellion of the rural and urban bourgeoisie. His fighters included many rural workers, but also the “peones” or “hands” of the farm, domestics, and even miners, to a point that the bourgeoisie then considered replacing this labor force with foreign workers.

Despite his prominent role in the guerrilla movement, Zapata was not a mere military leader: he never wished his army to rule the country, and steadily fought for political democracy. He was always cautious in maintaining military subordination to civil rule, the reason why he refused to take power in the state of Morelos (where he was born) at some point of the revolution, and the reason why he left the the state of Mexico although he had won the battle.

Zapata defended social democracy and social justice, with Lenin's model of revolution in mind — the Russian Revolution was then contemporary to the Mexican one. For instance, he imposed a fair distribution of wealth and power in the state of Morelos.

Federal forces ambushed and shot Zapata twice, point blank range, in their assassination. His body was then exposed in the town of Cuatla.

Almost one century later, in the lineage of the rural leader, the “Zapatista movement” of mostly rural indigenous farmers in the southern state of Chiapas was born. The movement, which switched from military offensives to a battle of communication in order to win international and domestic opinion, has achieved certain successes like the implementation of gender equality or an equal access to public health.

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