Sunday, January 10, 2010

Facial Hair of the Weekend

Emiliano Zapata (1879-1919). Although Zapata was from a moderately well-off family (in comparison to the peasantry) in the state of Morelos, he was still outraged by the gross inequalities between the landholding class and the landless peasantry, which constituted an overwhelming majority of the population in southern Mexico. Even before the Mexican Revolution, Zapata had begun fighting for greater rights and access to land for the peasantry. When the Revolution broke out in 1910, Zapata quickly became the leader of the Liberation Army of the South. When it became clear that Francisco Madero would not (or could not) effect the kinds of changes Zapata sought, Zapata soured on his leadership. Still, by 1914, Zapata was allied with Venustiano Carranza's Constitutional forces (including Pancho Villa), which were trying to overthrow Victoriano Huerta. By the end of 1914, Zapata's skills as a general were respected, but he was continuously dissatisfied with the slow level of reforms, and continued to take over cities and villages in the South, in an effort to strip elites of some of their power. When Carranza's government told Zapata to stand down, his response was effectively that if armed struggle wasn't going to bring reform, then certainly pacified, unarmed struggle would achieve nothing. Zapata's forces continued to cause trouble for Carranza in southern Mexico, but as Zapata was concerned with land reform in the south, his movement didn't ever really become a national one. In 1919, Zapata was ambushed and assassinated, dying a hero to many in the South, and although his message hasn't always persisted, his image as a hero of the people has continued to the present day in Mexico and beyond, most notably in the Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional (EZLN) in Chiapas and surrounding areas.