Born in August 1879, Emiliano Zapata Salazar became a mediero (sharecropper) and horse trainer in his home village of Anenecuilco in the small central Mexican state of Morelos. He campaigned for the rights of his fellow villagers, whose land was subject to often violent seizure from the holders of large estates in the area, known as hacendados. In response to the Porfirio Díaz dictatorship favouring the wealthy hacendados, Zapata – by then an elected spokesman for the village – started to employ armed force to reclaim the disputed lands.

When the revolution against Díaz ignited in 1910, Zapata was allied with the opposition headed by Francisco I. Madero. Zapata took command of the insurrectionist force that formed in Morelos, called the Ejército Libertador del Sur (Liberation Army of the South). Madero overthrew Díaz, but the new President’s lack of interest in the peasants’ cause resulted in Zapata reforming his army, which prevailed against Madero’s forces. In 1913, the counter-revolutionary General Victoriano Huerta removed President Madero from office and installed a military dictatorship that violently suppressed the indigenous population and peasantry, who responded by swelling the ranks of Zapata’s army.

Undefeated in battle, his enemies hatched a plan to ambush Zapata and his forces. One of Huerta’s Generals, Pablo González, pretended to want to switch sides and support the revolution. He contacted Zapata to arrange a meeting at the Hacienda de San Juan; however, the meeting was a trap. On the 10th April 1919, at the Hacienda de San Juan, near the city Ayala, Morelos, González soldiers opened fire killing Zapata.

The lasting image of Zapata is that of a romantic revolutionary hero, like Che Guevara. You can read more about him at the site.

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