Zapata, the indigenous guerrilla warrior

By Pável Uliánov Guzmán

“Here we do not bury you, here we sow you my General”

Emiliano Zapata Salazar (8 / Aug / 1879-10 / Apr / 1919), Nahuatl indigenous, maximum leader of the Liberation Army of the South, the ninth of ten children, orphan during his teenage years, peasant and muleteer, horseman tamer, head of the landless , an honest man called by his enemies “Atila of Morelos”, “the orangutan”, “the one who eats raw meat and gnaws bones” “the caudillo of the south”. The peasants expressed their agrarian claim through Zapata’s political project, questioning the hacienda system, once the pride of Porfirian Mexico.

The Zapatistas built in the state of Morelos, a communal organization with deep popular roots, independent of the State and antagonistic to it, they based their decisions around assemblies. Through their organization, they liquidated large estates, nationalized sugar mills, returned the lands stolen with impunity for centuries to the communities, restored the use of water for farming, changed local authorities, imposed forced loans on merchants and landowners, and took production of the large estates in their hands.

The Ayala Plan, apparently simple, in its nodal points maintains a deeply revolutionary character, since on the one hand it “nationalizes all the assets of the enemies of the revolution”, that is, of the capitalist landowners, and on the other, it resolves that the peasant peoples will immediately come into possession of their land and they will “keep it with their weapons in hand.”

In this logic, those who could eventually go to court “at the end of the revolution” were the landowners, meanwhile the peasants maintained ownership of the land. The current legality is reversed, it is the same communities that decide the land issue, weapons in hand, through their own organs and their own methods, without waiting for future laws, or delegating their decision-making power to others. Contrary to all bourgeois agrarian laws, including the later Carranza laws, which oblige peasants to go to court to assert their rights to the land and wait years for a court ruling.

The Zapatistas’ way of fighting was guerrilla warfare. They did not maintain the occupation of the cities, they constantly harassed the enemy through raids and ambushes, they attacked trains and supply lines, “they were everywhere, but the Federal Soldiers couldn’t find them anywhere”. The peasant soldiers gathered for actions and then dissolved among the population of which they were part, a population that protected them, hiding the rifle and taking up the plow. Their successes essentially lay in their powerful base of support, since in their area of influence, the vast majority of the peasants were Zapatistas and carried out a specific task: soldiers, informants, messengers or suppliers.
In contrast, the federal government responded with mass executions, burning of towns, robberies, torture, forced recruitment and deportation of entire populations, this through the bloodthirsty General Juvencio Robles.

Zapata tenaciously resisted all the military attacks for 10 years, he fought Díaz, León de la Barra, Madero, Huerta and Carranza, they could only defeat him through treason. When the Flores Magón, Zapata and Villa brothers died, the social revolution was stagnant, the Sonora Group embedded itself in power and channeled social energy towards its political objectives, this group limited itself to carry out some light social reforms.

Zapata, an emblematic figure in the history of Mexico, stands as an empirical reference for the role that the individual plays in history. He died for defending his political principles and, later, he became a symbol and example of the combat and resistance of the peasants, the indigenous and the poor.

Zapata should not be adjective as a “caudillo” of a group or area, the term reflects a historical discourse of the Porfirian elite, used since the first decade of the last century and that continues to be used to this day, Zapata is not a caudillo , is a universal symbol of the struggle for land, it represents the historical struggle of hundreds of peoples and communities for land, water and forests, hence the profound validity of their thoughts and actions.

Zapata is not a small boss, he is a General, as he himself signed his letters and documents: General Emiliano Zapata. Historically, it is more than a caudillo, it is the abolition of large estates, the armed defense of the territory, an icon of resistance of native peoples, coherence between words and actions.

“I belong, sir, to a traditional race that has never degenerated or been able to betray the convictions of a community, and those of its own conscience” (Emiliano Zapata / Letter to Pascual Orozco).

Finally, it is necessary to specify that one of the great lessons of the Mexican Revolution lies in understanding that the protagonist of history is the organized people, learn from the ability of the people to organize themselves from below and change their circumstances, as was done during the Commune of Morelos.

Pável Ulíánov Guzmán
Twitter: @PavelUlianov


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