Emiliano Zapata

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Emiliano Zapata, born on August 8, 1879, in the village of Anenecuilco, Morelos (Mexico), Emiliano Zapata was of mestizo heritage and the son of a peasant medier, (a sharecropper or owner of a small plot of land). From the age of eighteen, after the death of his father, he had to support his mother and three sisters and managed to do so very successfully. The little farm prospered enough to allow Zapata to augment the already respectable status he had in his native village. In September of 1909, the residents of Anenecuilco elected Emiliano Zapata president of the village's "defense committee," an age-old group charged with defending the community's interests. In this position, it was Zapata's duty to represent his village's rights before the president-dictator of Mexico, Porfirio Díaz, and the governor of Morelos, Pablo Escandón. During the 1880s, Mexico had experienced a boom in sugar cane production, a development that led to the acquisition of more and more land by the hacienderos or plantation owners. Their plantations grew while whole villages disappeared and more and more medieros and other peasants lost their livelihoods or were forced to work on the haciendas. It was under these conditions that a plantation called El Hospital neighboring Zapata's village began encroaching more and more upon the small farmers' lands. This was the first conflict in which Emiliano Zapata established his reputation as a fighter and leader. He led various peaceful occupations and re-divisions of land, increasing his status and his fame to give him regional recognition. In 1910, Francisco Madero, a son of wealthy plantation owners, instigated a revolution against the government of president Díaz. Even though most of his motives were political (institute effective suffrage and disallow reelections of presidents), Madero's revolutionary plan included provisions for returning seized lands to peasant farmers. The latter became a rallying cry for the peasantry and Zapata began...
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