Emiliano Zapata

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Emiliano Zapata Salazar (August 8, 1879 – April 10, 1919) was a leading figure in the Mexican Revolution, which broke out in 1910, and which was initially directed against the president Porfirio Díaz. He formed and commanded an important revolutionary force, the Liberation Army of the South, during the Mexican Revolution. Followers of Zapata were known as Zapatistas.



Emiliano Zapata was born to Gabriel Zapata and Cleofas Salazar of Zacatepillo. Zapata's family were Mestizos, being of mixed Nahua and Spanish ancestry;[1] Emiliano was the ninth of ten children. A peasant since childhood, he gained insight into the severe difficulties of the countryside.[2] He received a limited education from his teacher, Emilio Vara. He had to care for his family because his father died when Zapata was 17. Around the turn of the 20th century Anenecuilco was an indigenous Nahuatl speaking community; there exist eyewitness accounts stating that Emiliano Zapata spoke Nahuatl fluently.[3]

At that time, Mexico was ruled by Porfirio Díaz, who rose to power in 1876. The social system of the time was a sort of proto-capitalist[citation needed] feudal system, with large estates (haciendas) controlling more and more of the land and squeezing out the independent communities of the people who were subsequently forced into debt slavery (peonaje) on the haciendas. Díaz ran local elections to pacify the people, and a government that could be argued was self-imposed. Under Díaz, close confidants and associates were given offices in districts throughout Mexico. These officials became enforcers of "land reforms" that drove the haciendas into the hands of progressively fewer and wealthier landowners.

Zapata came from a middle class [1] family who were able to avoid peonage and to maintain their own land (rancho). In fact, the family had been porfiristas: supporters of Porfirio Díaz. Zapata had the reputation of a dandy, appearing at bullfights and rodeos in his elaborate charro (cowboy) outfit. In 1906, he attended a meeting in Cuautla to discuss a way to defend the land of the people, on which he had worked as a farmhand. In 1908, due to his first acts of rebellion, he was drafted into the Ninth Regiment and sent to Cuernavaca. However, because of his skill with horses, he remained a soldier for only six months. At the request of Ignacio de la Torre, who employed him as a groom, he left for Mexico City.[4] Though his gaudy attire might have suggested an affiliation with the rich hacendados who controlled the lands, he retained the admiration of the people of his village, Anenecuilco.

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