Ninety-four years ago today…

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Emiliano Zapata, “the caudillo of the South”, was murdered on April 10, 1919 in an ambush orchestrated by Jesús Guajardo, at the behest of Pablo González, who was working for Venustiano Carranza; Colonel Guajardo was promoted to General and awarded 50,000 pesos, which he was able to enjoy for about a year before being shot to death (but not before switching sides and fighting against Carranza with Álvaro Obregón). Reading about the Mexican Revolution is about as confusing as trying to keep track of all the characters in a War and Peace-meets-Game of Thrones novel. But Zapata’s rallying cry of “land and liberty” still echoes today and his noble legend lives on in Mexican culture. His image as an icon of “the people” is only matched by Che Guevara – you can buy Zapata t-shirts, piñatas, hats, dolls, even soap that “makes you smell like a revolutionary.” I bet that’s hard to wash off.

After Zapata’s death, land reform in the south came to a halt as warring factions ran roughshod over the country. Landless peasants in his home state of Morelos, who didn’t want to believe their hero was dead, said they saw him riding his horse through the mountains on moonlit nights. And then there are those who believe he embodied the spirit of Votan, the “heart of the indigenous peoples.” (If you’re having a slow day and are up for some pre-Hispanic mythological riddles – with some Mormonism and Atlantis speculation thrown in – check out the Wikipedia entry on Votan.)

Believe it or not, there is video footage of Zapata’s funeral in April 1919 (see below). It’s a fascinating glimpse of the times of the man who famously stated: “It’s better to die on one’s feet than live on one’s knees.”

Sources:

Animal Político, El asesino Guajardo, por traición, mató a Zapata (Apr 10)