It’s hard to separate the legend from the man who was Emiliano Zapata, leader of the Mexican Revolution and known as “the caudillo of the South”, for from his birth to his death myths, stories and inventions have been woven that blur the line between the real and the imaginary, especially because of the way of life he led.
Emiliano Zapata Salazar, was born on August 8, 1879 in the town of Anenecuilco, Morelos; He was born into a family dedicated to the field; son of Cleofas Salazar and Gabriel Zapata.
In his house nestled in the countryside, Emiliano grew up with his nine siblings, three boys: Eufemio, who managed to become General of the Revolution, Pedro and Loreto, and six females: María de Jesús, Ramona, Celsa, María de la Luz , Matile and Jovita.
At that time Porfirio Diaz He was the strong man of Mexican politics, so Emiliano Zapata lived his childhood in a context where latifundismo was the form of land tenure, and was witness to multiple dispossession of peasants perpetrated by landowners.
That way of life and social injustice that he witnessed since his childhood marked the life of Emiliano Zapata, who was orphaned as a teenager, so he could only finish the sixth grade of primary education and then dedicate himself to being a farm laborer and Horse trainer.
Politics as a way of life of Emiliano Zapata
From a very young age he ventured into politics, and at only 23 years old he was already the leader of the Cuautla peasant council where he fought head-on for the rights of the peasants and declared war on the landowners; in 1909 he was appointed head of the defense board of Anenecuilco.
Zapata’s name was among the members of the club Melchor Ocampo, which supported the candidacy of the opposition Patricio Leyva, chief of Morelos, which constitutes his first foray into the world of politics but which continued to link him to the fight against latidfundismo and the defense of the peasants.
When he was elected head of the Board of Defense of the lands of Anenecuilco-Villa de Ayala-Moyotepec, he began to analyze the documents that since the time of the Mexican viceroyalty granted the property rights of the lands to their peoples, but that with the so-called Reform Laws, especially the Lerdo Law, civil settlements were forced to leave their properties, while others were expropriated.
These expropriations helped several people increase their wealth and their lands outside the law, reasons that joined the cause of Emiliano to become the peasant leader of Morelos.
Agrarian reform as a cause of the Revolution
The clumsy and unfortunate agrarian policy of the Porfirio Díaz regime was one of the causes of the Mexican RevolutionBecause the laws of the Porfiriato, as the period of Mexican history between 1876 and 1911 became known, favored landowners and companies took over both communal lands and small properties, displacing poor peasants towards other infertile areas. .
Already in 1910, when the Revolution broke out, more than 90% of the peasants were without land, and the large landowners who had taken advantage of the agrarian policy employed more than three million day laborers.
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This bad policy confined the peasants to living in misery, and, despite the fact that the scheme was repeated in the rest of the country, the situation became more serious in areas of the state of Morelos, where landowners expanded their sugarcane plantations. of sugar through the exploitation of poor peasants and indigenous people.
It was in 1909 with the new real estate law that some four hundred peasants from the village of Zapata, Anenecuilco, participated in a clandestine meeting to deal with the problem, then the municipal council was renewed, leaving Zapata as president of the new council.
By then he was 30 years old, and began to communicate with people in the capital, especially law and law students, with the idea of ”asserting the property rights of his countrymen.”
Zapata allied with another giant of the Revolution: Pancho Villa, achieving a united and victorious army in Mexico City in 1914.
Of loves and other pleasures
Being a military and peasant leader, an essential piece of the Mexican Revolution and a symbol of peasant resistance in Mexico, he was in command of the Liberation Army of the South.
His entire life was dedicated to defending the rights of peasants and fighting against the exploitation and expropriation of land, which aroused the admiration of men and women.
Even though in the hundreds of paintings and portraits published by Emiliano Zapata his expression is serious and unfriendly, it is said that the one known as the “Caudillo del Sur” was a friendly man, who liked dancing and parties, especially the bullfighting festivals.
Many stories have been spun from his love life and he gave a lot to talk about, since he had around nine wives, the first being Inés Alfaro Aguilar, with whom he had Guadalupe, Nicolás, Juan, Ponciano and María Elena.
The second woman and official wife was Josefa Espejo Sánchez, known as La Generala, with whom she had two children, Felipe, who died at the age of three from a snake bite, and Josefa, who also died from a scorpion bite.
Emiliano Zapata died on April 10, 1919, assassinated by the men of Colonel Jesús Guajardo.
After Zapata’s death, the enemies thought that a peasant revolt would break out, but what happened was that a myth of the southern caudillo was made, who was much more powerful.
Emiliano Zapata became a legend and continues to be one of the most powerful and representative symbols of the Mexican Revolution.