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Zapata and his Legacy

The Revolution’s best-known advocate in southern Mexico was Emiliano Zapata. Through his battle cry of Tierra y libertad (land and liberty) he championed land reform, the rights of indigenous peoples and campesinos or peasants.

Zapata joined the opposition to Porfirio Díaz in 1910 but soon lost faith due to the slow progress of Madero’s new government. In 1911 Zapata issued his Plan de Ayala proclaiming his political ideas and distancing himself from Madero. When Venustiano Carranza came to power in 1914, official support for agrarian reform had diminished. But Zapata continued to fight for land rights, for, as he had said to Madero: “If the people could not win their rights now, when they were armed, they would have no chance once they were unarmed and helpless.”

Zapata was ambushed and killed in 1919, but his support for indigenous rights and land reform continue to inspire later generations.

Jesús Barraza's print of a masked Zapatista woman from the EZLN entitled "Mujer Zapatista." Jesús Barraza “Mujer Zapatista” [Print, silkscreen, n.d.] Dignidad Rebelde: Art in Action.
Stanford Manuscripts Collection: MSS Prints 0350

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