Baylor College Medical School
30. Biography Emiliano Zapata (1879-1919)
30. Emiliano Zapata was born in the central Mexican state of Morelos. He was a mestizo, or someone of European and Native American descent. As a young man, he labored as a tenant farmer.
At the age of 18, zapata took part in a protest against a landowner who had taken his and other peasants' lands without payment. Zapata was arrested, but later pardoned. However, he continued to protest against the seizure of land by wealthy landowners.
In 1909, Zapata's neighbors elected him to lead their village's board of defense. In this position, the 30-year-old was responsible for voicing the people's concerns. Zapata tried to negotiate with landowners for land reform, but he was not successful. Finally, Zapata and his followers formed an army. They took properties from wealthy landowners and distributed them among the workers and peasants.
When liberal reformer Francisco Madero called for free elections in Mexico, dictator Porfirio Diaz resigned. Zapata formed an alliance with Mader, thinking Madero would support land reform. Madero was elected president in 1911, but little changed. Zapata withdrew his support of Madero and resumed his armed struggle for fair distribution of land.
Zapata helped draw up the Plan of Ayala, which reaffirmed the ideas of the Mexican Revolution. He became a master of guerrilla tactics, avoiding direct and dangerous confrontations with the government's more powerful army.
As the revolution continued, Zapata and fellow guerrilla leader Pancho Villa hoped for an alliance with moderate politician Venustiano Carranza. However, Carranza, who was later elected president, failed to support the land reform policies presented by the two revolutionaries.
Zapata and Villa agreed to fight on for land, reform together. Meanwhile, Carranza sent an army to eliminate Villa. Once Villa was defeated, government forces turned to Zapata. The Mexican government set up a meeting with him. When Zapata arrived, he was ambushed and shot to death. Today, Emiliano Zapatais remembered as one of Mexico's great heroes and a champion of Mexico's poor.
1. What was the Plan of Ayala?