Emiliano Zapata quotes

Emiliano Zapata photo
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Emiliano Zapata

Birthdate: 8. August 1879
Date of death: 10. April 1919

Emiliano Zapata Salazar was a leading figure in the Mexican Revolution, the main leader of the peasant revolution in the state of Morelos, and the inspiration of the agrarian movement called Zapatismo.

Zapata was born in the rural village of Anenecuilco in Morelos State, where peasant communities were under increasing pressure from the small landowning class who monopolized land and water resources for sugar cane production with the support of dictator Porfirio Díaz. Zapata early on participated in political movements against Diaz and the landowning hacendados, and when the Revolution broke out in 1910 he was positioned as a central leader of the peasant revolt in Morelos. Cooperating with a number of other peasant leaders he formed the Liberation Army of the South, of which he soon became the undisputed leader. Zapata's forces contributed to the fall of Díaz, defeating the Federal Army in the Battle of Cuautla, but when the revolutionary leader Francisco I. Madero became president he disavowed the role of the Zapatistas, denouncing them as simple bandits. In November 1911, Zapata promulgated the Plan de Ayala which called for substantial land reforms, redistributing lands to the peasants. Madero sent the Federal Army to root out the Zapatistas in Morelos. Madero's generals employed a scorched earth policy, burning villages and forcibly removing their inhabitants, and drafting many men into the Army or sending them to forced labor camps in southern Mexico. This strengthened Zapata's standing among the peasants, and Zapata was able to drive the forces of Madero led by Victoriano Huerta out of Morelos. In a coup against Madero in February 1913, Huerta took power in Mexico, but a coalition of Constitutionalist forces in northern Mexico led by Venustiano Carranza, Álvaro Obregón and Francisco "Pancho" Villa ousted him in July 1914 with the support of Zapata's troops. Zapata did not recognize the authority that Carranza asserted as leader of the revolutionary movement, continuing his adherence to the Plan de Ayala.

In the aftermath of the revolutionaries' victory over Huerta, they attempted to sort out power relations in the Convention of Aguascalientes. Zapata and Villa broke with Carranza, and Mexico descended into civil war among the winners. Dismayed with the alliance with Villa, Zapata focused his energies on rebuilding society in Morelos which he now controlled, instituting the land reforms of the Plan de Ayala. As Carranza consolidated his power and defeated Villa in 1915, Zapata initiated guerrilla warfare against the Carrancistas, who in turn invaded Morelos, employing once again scorched-earth tactics to oust the Zapatista rebels. Zapata once again retook Morelos in 1917 and held most of the state against Carranza's troops until he was killed in an ambush in April 1919. Article 27 of the 1917 Mexican Constitution was drafted in response to his agrarian demands.After his death, Zapatista generals aligned with Obregón against Carranza and helped drive Carranza from power. In 1920, Zapatistas managed to obtain powerful posts in the governance of Morelos after Carranza's fall. They instituted many of the land reforms envisioned by Zapata in Morelos.

Zapata remains an iconic figure in Mexico, used both as a nationalist symbol as well as a symbol of the neo-Zapatista movement.

Quotes Emiliano Zapata

„Ignorance and obscurantism have never produced anything other than flocks of slaves for tyranny.“

—  Emiliano Zapata

Remarks in regard to Pancho Villa, as quoted in The Unknown Lore of Amexem's Indigenous People : An Aboriginal Treatise (2008) by Noble Timothy Myers-El, p. 158

„Land and Liberty!“

—  Emiliano Zapata

¡Tierra y Libertad!
A slogan popularized by Zapata, quoted in Tierra y Libertad (1920) published by Imprenta Germinal; further attributed to Zapata in works in the 1930s and later, including, Without History: Subaltern Studies, the Zapatista Insurgency, and the Specter of History (2010) by José Rabasa, p. 122, where the influence of the anarchist Ricardo Flores Magón on its development is also attested.

„I want to die a slave to principles. Not to men.“

—  Emiliano Zapata

As quoted in Heroes of Mexico (1969) by Morris Rosenblum, p. 112
Variant: I want to die a slave to principles. Not to men.

„I'd rather die on my feet, than live on my knees.“

—  Emiliano Zapata

Prefiero morir de pie que vivir de rodillas.
As quoted in Liberation Theologies in North America and Europe‎ (1979) by Gerald H. Anderson and Thomas F. Stransky, p. 281; this is sometimes misattributed to the more modern revolutionary, Che Guevara, and to "La Pasionaria" Dolores Ibárruri, especially in Spain, where she popularized it in her famous speeches during the Spanish Civil War, to José Martí, and to Aeschylus who is credited with a similar declaration in Prometheus Bound: "For it would be better to die once and for all than to suffer pain for all one's life." The phrase "better that we should die on our feet rather than live on our knees" was spoken by François-Noël Gracchus Babeuf in his defence of the Conspiracy of Equals in April 1797. In French it read, 'Ne vaut-il pas mieux emporter la gloire de n'avoir pas survecu a la servitude?' but translated this bears no resemblance whatever to the quote under discussion. see: The Defense of Gracchus Babeuf Before the High Court of Vendome (1967), edited and translated by John Anthony Scott, p. 88 and p. 90, n. 12.
Spanish variants:
¡Prefiero morir de pie que vivir siempre arrodillado!
I'd prefer to die standing, than to live always on my knees.
As quoted in Operación Cobra : historia de una gesta romántica (1988) by Alvaro Pablo Ortiz and Oscar Lara, p. 29
Variant translations:
Men of the South! It is better to die on your feet than to live on your knees!
With an extension, as quoted in Timeless Mexico (1944) by Hudson Strode, p. 259
I would rather die standing than live on my knees!
It is better to die on your feet than to live on your knees!
I prefer to die standing than to live forever kneeling.
Prefer death on your feet to living on your knees.

„The land belongs to those who work it with their hands.“

—  Emiliano Zapata

La tierra es de quien la trabaja con sus manos.
Quoted as a slogan of the revolutionaries in Shirt-Sleeve Diplomat (1947) Vol. 5, p. 199, by Josephus Daniels, and specifically attributed to Zapata by Ángel Zúñiga in 1998, as quoted in Mexican Social Movements and the Transition to Democracy (2005), by John Stolle-McAllister

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