Zapata: Cradle to Grave

Yesterday turned into something of a magical mystery revolutionary tour. We set off, a little late, for some pyramids. But after lunch, changed the itinerary and chased after the historical bits and pieces of General Emiliano Zapata that lie in the countryside and towns surrounding Cuernavaca. First stop, the remnants of the house he was born in, with it’s ‘closed for refurbishment museum’ and a rather grand mural along one lengthy wall.

Next stop, the hacienda he went to in order to meet with a defector to his side (a defector that never was) which is now also a museum, albeit a ramshackle affair that is quickly falling to pieces. The photographs, newspapers and pictures make it worth the stop though. But beware, if you should ever visit – the place has no lighting. It’s no good arriving after dark. We arrived at dusk, just early enough to see some detail, too late to read any fine print.

Final stop, just around the corner from the hacienda – the monument and plaza marking the spot where,  in 1919, enemy forces ambushed and gunned down Zapata. There are a few faded pieces on the wall that must have once been a grand mural, and a statue of Zapata upon his mighty steed as it rears up, above the exact spot of his killing.

We recieved a sort of guided tour by an old chap, very much dressed up for the part, with his Zapata style sombrero, who regaled us with tales of his father and uncle who apparently participated in the war. He told a good story, although simple maths suggest that, whilst possible, his family account in a war that finished more than 90 years ago was perhaps a little embellished. The alcohol induced slur added to my suspicions. But still, he told a good story. And sold Paola a pirate copy of Viva Zapata starring Marlon Brando and Anthony Quinn for a frankly outrageous 50 pesos.

The Mexican Revolution ran from 1910 to 1920. A little longer if you include sporadic outbreaks of violence after that. Hundreds of thousands died. Perhaps a million. Perhaps two million. It’s hard to say, and there is no firm agreement. The bad guys were the ones with guns. No matter which side they were technically on. Revolutionary or governmental, forces would rape and plunder as they travelled. The lasting effects were profound though. The death penalty was abolished. And a new political party, the PRI was born. They would rule until 2000. I have something in mind to write about them soon. Until then, click here for some Zapatista photos I took.


2 thoughts on “Zapata: Cradle to Grave

  1. Whenever chaos becomes the norm, people seek sanctuary in any form of order. Considering the various forms of totalitarianism and authoritarianism floating around the world in the 1920s, Mexico probably got off easy with a recycled form of authoritarian rule tarted up in a Frida wig to pass for Leninism-lite. Mexico got what it needed at the time: stability. And Mexicans went on living their lives doing their best to ignore the antics of the PRI. Until they had had enough of them, as well — for awhile.

    And perhaps two million eople died for all that. At times I wonder if Mexico’s world would have been that much different if Porfiro Diaz and his cronies had simply stayed on for another century.


    • Perhaps they did get what they needed at the time. I’m not sure it can be said that the PRI went when the population had had enough of them. I’m sure that happened prior to 2000….

      But would life have been different. Well, yes, I guess that’s inevitable. Different enough to be worth arguing about? Probably not.


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