Emiliano Zapata

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Emiliano Zapata Salazar
BirthplaceAnenecuilco, Morelos, Mexico

Zapata, Emiliano

(āmēlyä`nō säpä`tä), c.1879–1919, Mexican revolutionary, b. Morelos. Zapata was of almost pure native descent. A tenant farmer, he occupied a social position between the peon and the ranchero, but he was a born leader who felt keenly the injustices suffered by his people. About 1908, because of his attempt to recover village lands taken over by a rancher, he was impressed into a brief service in the army. Late in 1910, as MaderoMadero, Francisco Indalecio
, 1873–1913, Mexican statesman and president (1911–13). A champion of democracy and social reform, he established various humanitarian institutions for the peons on his family's vast estates in Coahuila.
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 rose against Porfirio Díaz, Zapata took up arms with the cry of "land and liberty." With an army of native people recruited from plantations and villages, he began to seize the land by force. Zapata supported Madero until he thought that land reform had been abandoned, then he turned and formulated his own agrarian program. This program, outlined in the Plan of Ayala (Nov., 1911), called for the return of the land to the indigenous people. In defense of his plan, Zapata held the field against successive federal governments under Madero, Victoriano HuertaHuerta, Victoriano
, 1854–1916, Mexican general and president (1913–14). He served under Porfirio Díaz. After the revolution of Francisco I. Madero (1911) he aided the new president, who, reluctantly, made him (1912) commander of the federal forces.
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, and Venustiano CarranzaCarranza, Venustiano
, 1859–1920, Mexican political leader. While senator from Coahuila, he joined (1910) Francisco I. Madero in the revolution against Porfirio Díaz.
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. The peasants rallied to Zapata's support, and by the end of 1911 he controlled most of Morelos; later he enlarged his power to cover Guerrero, Oaxaca, Puebla, and at times even the Federal District. After the overthrow of Madero, Zapata in the south and Carranza, ObregónObregón, Álvaro
, 1880–1928, Mexican general and president (1920–24). A planter in Sonora, he supported Francisco I. Madero in the revolution against Porfirio Díaz.
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, and VillaVilla, Francisco
, c.1877–1923, Mexican revolutionary, nicknamed Pancho Villa.
His real name was Doroteo Arango.

When Villa came of age, he declared his freedom from the peonage of his parents and became notorious as a bandit in Chihuahua and Durango.
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 in the north were the chief leaders against Huerta. When Carranza seized the executive power, Zapata and Villa warred against him. Zapata's forces occupied Mexico City three times in 1914–15 (once with the followers of Villa), but finally retired to Morelos, where Zapata resisted until he was treacherously killed by an emissary of Carranza. To his enemies, Zapata was the apotheosis of nihilism, and his movement was only large-scale brigandage. To the indigenous peoples, he was a savior and the hero of the revolution. Although his attacks at times seemed to be mere banditry, his objective was not loot; he was single in purpose. His movement, zapatismo, was the Mexican agrarian movement in its purest and simplest form, and the agrarian movement was one of the chief aims and chief results of the revolution. As zapatismo became synonymous with agrarismo, so it did with indianismo, the native cultural movement which is the basis of nationalism in Mexico. Although illiterate and in command of illiterate men, Zapata was one of the most significant figures in Mexico during the period 1910 to 1919. Even while he lived he became legendary, celebrated in innumerable tales and ballads.


See biographies by R. P. Millon (1969), J. Womack, Jr. (1968), and R. Parkinson (1980); F. Tannenbaum, The Mexican Agrarian Revolution (1929); H. H. Dunn, The Crimson Jester (1934, repr. 1976); E. N. Simpson, The Ejido (1937); F. McLynn, Villa and Zapata (2000).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Zapata, Emiliano


Born Aug. 8, 1879, in San Miguel Ane-necuilco, in the state of Morelos; died Apr. 10, 1919, near Cuer-navaca. A leading figure in the Mexican Revolution of 1910–17.

Zapata was the son of a poor peasant. During the revolution of 1910–17 he led a peasant movement in central and southern Mexico. The group of revolutionaries he headed drafted a program of struggle—the Plan of Ayala—to resolve the agrarian problem. The plan provided for the elimination of large land-holdings with compensation and the distribution of land to the peasantry. Throughout the revolution, Zapata fought for the implementation of this plan. Gifted with exceptional military abilities, he played a major part in the overthrow of the counterrevolutionary government of Victoriano Huerta. From December 1914 to July 1915, with some interruptions, Zapata’s troops, together with those of Francisco (Pancho) Villa, occupied the capital, Mexico City. Pressure from the widespread peasant movement led to the inclusion of a number of articles in the 1917 constitution reflecting the interests of the peasantry.

Sympathetic to the revolutionary movement in Russia, Zapata welcomed the Great October Socialist Revolution. His assassination was instigated by the authorities.


Al’perovich, M. S., and B. T. Rudenko. Meksikanskaia revoliutsiia 1910–1917 ipolitika SShA. Moscow, 1958.
Lavrov, N. M. Meksikanskaia revoliutsiia 1910–1917 gg. Moscow, 1972.
Womack, J. Zapata y la revolución mexicana. Havana, 1971.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.