During the violent upheaval of the Revolution in Mexico from 1910 to 1920 two of the Mexican states, Chihuahua and Morelos, were chronic centers of resistance. Uprisings took place in those states against the governments of Porfirio Díaz, Francisco I. Madero, Victoriano Huerta, and Venustiano Carranza. Indeed, Chihuahua and Morelos can be considered the cradles and proving grounds of the Mexican Revolution. Special conditions of acute unrest existed in both states before the Revolution broke out in 1910. They continued as focal points of opposition, because the national leadership from Díaz through Carranza was constantly thwarting popular aspirations.

Francisco Villa in Chihuahua and Emiliano Zapata in Morelos were familiar with and part of the prerevolutionary dissatisfaction in their states. As the Revolution progressed, Villa and Zapata came to incarnate the hopes of the masses. It is fairly well known that under the dictatorship of President Díaz, there was prolonged exploitation in Chihuahua by the political machine of the great landowner General Luis Terrazas. The Terrazas-Creel clan also was responsible for the serious scandal of the Banco Minero robbery in 1908, which kept Chihuahua in an uproar until the outbreak of hostilities against Díaz.1 A much more obscure part of the revolutionary background concerns the development of a similar tense situation in the small state of Morelos to the south of Mexico City.

Since its creation in 1869 the Mexican state of Morelos, with Cuernavaca as the capital, has been one of the smallest and most densely inhabited in the republic. The aboriginal tongue, especially north of Cuernavaca, has always been Náhuatl; yet those in the state speaking the Aztec idiom have long been declining as the ethnological stock has shifted to the mestizo. Morelos is a mountainous region, with agricultural and social life concentrated in the Plain of Amilpas and the valley of Cuernavaca where the fields of sugar cane are found.

By a royal cédula of June 6, 1529, Emperor Charles V granted Hernán Cortés an immense territory called the Marquisate of the Valley of Oaxaca, which included present Morelos. Under the Spanish Crown, municipalities were also created, and Indian villages received grants of communal lands. The holdings of the Marquisate belonging to Cortés and his descendants were gradually subdivided into latifundios and disposed of by sale or emphyteutic grant.2

Near the end of Díaz’ supremacy in 1908-1909, the seventeen principal hacendados of Morelos were producing annually on their properties 52,000,000 kilograms of sugar. In seeking expansion for such a money crop they had virtually engulfed the old native villages and their occupants. The town of Cuautla, for example, was so imprisoned by adjacent large holdings that the houses on one of its suburban streets belonged to an hacienda. The heirs of Cortés still retained possession of the Hacienda of Atlacomulco, although it was under lease to the estate of Delfín Sánchez. While sugar technology improved steadily during the Porfiriate, the situation was not favorable to the lower classes.3

The experience of the village of Tepalcingo in the District of Jonacatepec illustrates conditions that aroused bitterness against the hacendados. When the citizens were despoiled of property by the Hacienda of Santa Clara, one of the respected elders of Tepalcingo, Antonio Francisco, tried to press litigation. He was murdered for his efforts in 1886, the crime being attributed to Manuel Alarcón, chief of rurales in Morelos and later governor of the state. Other villages also had been completely absorbed into haciendas and had disappeared: Acatlipa, Cuachichinola, Sayula, and San Pedro. The owner of the Hacienda of San José Vista Hermosa, drove out the last inhabitants of Tequesquitengo by flooding the settlement with a lake.4

Typical of the abuses were those of the Hacienda of Atlihuayán, inherited by the sons of Antonio Escandón. Although the owners originally held legitimate title to only two caballerías of land, its domain had been forcibly extended by 1902 to include an area which from time immemorial had belonged to the town of Yautepec. Not content with invading the municipal holdings, the hacendado also fenced in a watering place which the vecinos of Yautepec had always used freely. Faced with the loss of seven caballerías of their communal property as well as ancient watering rights, the people of Yautepec determined to send a committee to Mexico City with irrefutable documentary proof of their ownership.

No less than sixty citizens, headed by Jovito Serrano and including Emiliano Zapata, went to the capital and secured the services of a noted attorney, Licenciado Francisco A. Serralde, who carried the case before the Supreme Court. Serralde arranged through Félix Romero, one of the most worthy of the magistrates, for the vecinos to have an interview with President Díaz. Don Porfirio appeared favorably impressed and told them that justice would be done. The litigation extended over three years, during which the issuance of amparos proved unavailing.

Not only did the villagers of Yautepec ultimately lose their case, but Jovito Serrano and his companion, Ambrosio Castillo, while on a trip in connection with the trial, were arrested in Mexico City, on May 11, 1905. The police, who presumably had been paid by the hacendado Pablo Escandón, changed the names of the prisoners for the records and then deported them to forced labor in Quintana Roo along with thirty-five other unlucky natives from different parts of Morelos. When the prisoners passed through Veracruz, Serrano was able secretly to mail a letter to his wife explaining what had occurred. At Santa Cruz de Bravo in Quintana Roo Jovito Serrano died on November 29, 1905, without his family’s ever being able to find out the cause of his death.5

Meanwhile, Pablo Escandón became governor of Morelos during the last period of the Porfirian regime. Accounts of his administration are mixed. In a contemporary view, Marie Robinson Wright refers in flattering terms to Governor Escandón as having fostered vocational education among the field workers. Another writer, Héctor Ribot, maintains, however, that Escandón accepted the governorship through vanity and that he ruled through lieutenants because his life as a clubman in Mexico City gave him no time for administrative duties.6

The background of unrest behind the Zapata revolt is seen in the tumultuous gubernatorial campaign and election of Escandón on February 7, 1909. Colonel Escandón, a staff officer of President Díaz, was the government’s candidate. Since Don Porfirio had already invited opposition and had announced that Mexico was ready for liberty in his famous Creelman interview, there was an independent contestant in the person of Ingeniero Patricio Leyva, son of General Francisco Leyva, who had been governor of Morelos under President Sebastián Lerdo de Tejada before 1876. Patricio Leyva had the backing of the local Club Democrático Liberal and was a member of the national Democratic Party, recently organized in Mexico City.

Colonel Escandón invited two men associated with the Democratic Party, Licenciados Heriberto Barrón and Diódoro Batalla, to visit Morelos and make campaign speeches in his behalf. Barrón and Batalla sought to overcome the unpopularity of their candidate by making promises of greater freedom to the people, only to find themselves jeered at and threatened with stoning and lynching until they withdrew to Mexico City. The orators of Patricio Leyva, on the other hand, were said to have inflamed the poorer classes by telling them that the great terratenientes ought to be killed like snakes and their wives and daughters seized in revenge for the violations of humble maidens by the powerful—adding that the haciendas belonged to the Indians, who had been despoiled of the land, and to the field hands, whose wages were stolen by the hacendados.7

Two young professional men in Mexico City, the brothers Alfredo and Gabriel Robles Domínguez, accepted an invitation from the leaders of the “disinherited and illiterate masses” to speak in favor of Leyva. They felt that their reputations as democrats and as members of the Democratic Party would suffer in the public eye when it was seen that some of their colleagues were willing to support Escandón, the candidate of the great and wealthy.

The brothers arrived at Cuernavaca toward the end of the campaign on February 5, 1909, and found that the city was full of troops under General Juvencio Robles. The atmosphere was thick with tension. Licenciado Gabriel Robles Domínguez made a moderate speech that evening but was threatened with hanging by the jefe político. He told his audience that they were within their rights in preventing Colonel Escandón from carrying out his promise to plant sugar cane in the very atrium of the parish church at Yautepec, the town which the Escandóns had already stripped of most of its lands.

Ingeniero Alfredo Robles Domínguez spoke briefly, urging all good citizens to vote. The crowd responded by crying out against their relatives’ being forced into military service and against the spoliation of their little farms or water rights until they had not even enough to eat or drink. On election day the polling places were manned largely by government employees protected by the armed forces. It was soon announced that Colonel Escandón had been victorious, and he took office on March 15, 1909. One of those who organized a group to uphold Patricio Leyva was Emiliano Zapata.8

Anenecuilco, the native village of Emiliano Zapata, had a long record extending back to colonial times of contentions and representations over its land rights, the most recently being with the Hacienda of the Hospital. After careful study of the documents Licenciado Francisco Serralde had given the people of Anenecuilco his legal opinion on February 8, 1906, that their claims were absolutely valid. The junta de defensa elected by the vecinos, had taken their troubles directly to Don Porfirio. They supposed that favorable action was about to be taken when the death of Governor Manuel Alarcón of Morelos intervened on December 15, 1908, followed by the death of the hacendado Vicente Alonso. The new governor, Pablo Escandón, or rather his substitutes, paid little attention to the petitions of the villagers.9

Emiliano Zapata had already been forced to serve in the military levy at Cuernavaca for a little over six months in 1908. In a meeting at Anenecuilco on September 12, 1909, he was chosen to be president of the junta de defensa with Francisco Franco as secretary. The next year he was able to take possession of some lands belonging to the village to which the Hacienda of the Hospital was trying to get title through the municipality of Cuautla.

Under the more aggressive leadership of Zapata the citizens were enjoying some success with their demands, when the revolt of Francisco I. Madero broke out against President Díaz. Zapata was particularly impressed with the land restitution clause in Madero’s revolutionary Plan of San Luis Potosí of 1910, which promised to return to villages the lands of which they had been despoiled. It was arranged to send Pablo Torres Burgos, a school teacher from the neighboring Villa de Ayala, to San Antonio, Texas to confer with Madero. Whether Torres Burgos actually saw Madero is a matter of dispute, but upon his return to Morelos he was considered to be the chief Maderista in that state.10

In support of Madero three bands of insurrectionaries were formed in the state, commanded by Emiliano Zapata, Rafael Merino, and Gabriel Tepepa. The fourth leader, Professor Torres Burgos, accompanied the column of Tepepa, which raided the towns of Tlaquiltenango and Jojutla on March 23 or 24, 1911. It is said that the professor was shocked by the violence of Tepepa’s men. Having withdrawn in disgust along the road to Moyotepec, Torres Burgos was overtaken and shot together with his son and an assistant by federal forces under Enrique Dabadié, jefe político of Cuernavaca.

The guerrillas of Emiliano Zapata occupied Izúcar de Matamoros on April 17, 1911, but on the following day the troops of Colonel Aureliano Blanquet drove them out. The rebel leader Rafael Merino was among those killed in that fighting. A conference of the rebel chiefs in Jojutla on April 22 finally recognized Zapata as head of the Madero Revolution in Morelos.11

During this period the young Rodolfo Magaña, who later became the historian of the Zapata movement, arrived at the camp of Zapata. Magaña brought with him a copy of the “Political-Social Plan, proclaimed by the States of Guerrero, Michoacán, Tlaxcala, Campeche, Puebla, and the Federal District.” This document had been composed in Mexico City by Profesora Dolores Jiménez y Muro in protest against the suspension of individual guarantees by the Díaz government on March 13, 1911. It was dated in the Sierra de Guerrero, March 18, 1911, and signed by various Madero sympathizers, among them Gabriel Hernández of Tlaxcala, and Carlos B. Múgica of Michoacán, a brother of the later famous Constitutionalist General Francisco J. Múgica. Zapata approved the plan and asked Magaña to write his friends to come to Morelos, but by then they were mostly scattered or imprisoned in the penitentiary of the Federal District.

The Plan político-social, while acknowledging Madero as provisional president and supreme chief of the Revolution, also contained some agrarian articles. The natives were to be protected, and usurped properties would be “returned to the old and legitimate owners.” Special commissions would be named to fix the wages of rural and industrial labor according to the capital income produced. The work day was to be limited to eight or nine hours, and Mexican nationals were to hold at least half of the job opportunities in foreign-owned companies. All proprietors who had more land than they were able or wanted to cultivate would be obliged to give their idle holdings to anyone who asked for them; yet the owners were to receive six percent interest on the tax value of the land. Several of the signers of this plan, including Profesora Jiménez y Muro and Gildardo Magaña, later were active adherents to the Zapata movement.12

On the military side, the forces of Zapata occupied Jonacatepec on May 5, and Cuautla on May 18, 1911, pillaging and burning as they went along. The difficulties in Morelos were accentuated by the extreme antagonism which sprang up between Zapata and Ambrosio Figueroa, leader of the Maderistas in the neighboring state of Guerrero. Named supreme chief of the Revolution in the south against the better judgment of Zapata, Figueroa soon undertook an armistice with Lieutenant Colonel Fausto Beltrán that would be binding on Zapata’s men as well as his own. When Cuernavaca was finally evacuated by the federals, troops of Manuel Asúnsolo, an officer of Figueroa, took possession on May 21, 1911.

Zapata did not enter Cuernavaca until May 28, in agreement with Asúnsolo. Meanwhile, his animosity toward Figueroa had increased because of the shooting three days before at Jojutla of Gabriel Tepepa by order of Federico Morales, another lieutenant of Figueroa. The death of “El Viejo” Tepepa left Zapata as the sole survivor of the four original leaders in Morelos after only two months of fighting. At the moment of victory Figueroa began referring to Zapata in the press as a bandit, basing his denunciations on the sacking of Jonacatepec and Cuautla as well as the periodic inaction of Zapata that prevented him from imposing his will on his followers. The situation made it appear that Figueroa was the most important and desirable of the southern leaders while concealing the great strength and influence of Zapata among the mass of campesinos.13

On May 25, 1911, Díaz resigned the presidency and went into forced exile. His secretary of foreign relations, Francisco León de la Barra, conservative leader of the Catholic Party, followed as interim president for more than five months. In the forthcoming elections, it was assumed that Francisco I. Madero, leader of the successful revolution that overthrew Díaz, would be chosen as constitutional president.

Madero made his triumphal entry from the north into Mexico City on June 7, 1911. General Emiliano Zapata was one of the first to greet him at the railroad station. On the next day, Madero and Zapata had an interview in which Zapata was urged to mend his quarrel with General Figueroa. At that conference and on other subsequent occasions, Zapata repeatedly told Madero that his people in Morelos were interested only in the return of their lands stolen by the hacendados. Madero asked Zapata to have faith in him and said that the problem would be solved by legal means. From June 12 to 16, 1911, Madero made a trip to Morelos and Guerrero, arranging for the discharge of the rebel troops at Cuernavaca under the supervision of Gabriel Robles Domínguez.14

The mere spectacle of Madero’s treating with the Zapatistas inflamed the reactionary press in the capital to initiate a counterrevolution. El Imparcial called Zapata the “modern Attila.” A picture was painted of orgies of anarchy and brigandage in Morelos, with families fleeing in terror. Zapata was accused of having already broken up a number of haciendas. It was believed, however, that some of the wealthy men of Morelos had distributed money among the newspaper reporters to induce them to revile Zapata and keep the air alive with rumors of atrocities. Actually conditions were quiet in the state by the middle of June. Foreigners living in Cuernavaca considered that Zapata kept good order and that violence had ceased. But the conservatives had discovered in Zapata an instrument to discredit Madero and turn the revolutionaries against one another.15

Madero suggested that fears might be quieted by bringing in revolutionary troops from some other state (though not from Guerrero) to police Morelos. Provisional Governor Juan N. Carreón persistently wired the minister of gobernación, Licenciado Emilio Vázquez Gómez, to send such elements, but received no answer, according to Madero, because of the chaos in the department. Vázquez Gómez resigned as minister of gobernación on August 3, 1911, being replaced in that position by an hacendado, Alberto García Granados. The change of administrators soon led to the dispatch of General Victoriano Huerta and Colonel Blanquet with federal troops to take military action in Morelos if the lagging disarmament of the rebel forces could not be carried out immediately. In an effort for peace Madero went hastily on August 17, 1911, to Cuautla, where Zapata agreed that Eduardo Hay should become Governor of Morelos and Raúl Madero commander of the revolutionary troops, and that the federal army should be withdrawn from the state.16

Madero believed that he had settled matters satisfactorily, but, instead of withdrawing, General Huerta advanced, apparently seeking to provoke resistance. Nueva Era, the organ of the Maderistas founded in Mexico City and directed by Juan Sánchez Ascona, defended Zapata, explaining that unusual circumstances prevailed in the state of Morelos where the Mexican hacendados visited their properties only to take accounts or for pleasure trips. The paper said that the great fincas were generally administered by Spaniards who treated their campesinos worse than slaves. In contrast, the press of the old regime attacked Zapata and Madero unceasingly, while the sugar planters tried to use the Catholic Church for their defense, “to the grave detriment of honest and distinterested Catholics.” Nueva Era charged that either the government of interim President De la Barra was deceiving Madero or Huerta was disobeying the government.17

In any case, Madero considered that Huerta and Blanquet were “the least appropriate for the mission of peace,” because they were “hated in the region.” Nevertheless, President De la Barra ignored the mediations and recommendations of Madero, for he felt “that an individual with antecedents” like Zapata’s should not be allowed to maintain such an independent attitude. García Granados wanted the federal government to take steps “to guarantee lives and haciendas in that state which has suffered too much,” and “not to negotiate with bandits.” Hostilities broke out again at the end of August, and during September the federals continued to push the campaign against Zapata. When Ambrosio Figueroa was appointed governor of Morelos he was actively assisted in the field by Huerta and Federico Morales, so that Maderistas were being used to help fight Maderistas more than two months before Madero’s inauguration as president.18

Though the federal troops operating in Morelos were able to occupy various points, the harassments had the effect of invigorating the Zapata movement, which soon was completely out of control. Juan Andreu Almazán, a young Maderista general from Guerrero who had fought beside Zapata in the south, explained in an interview published on October 15, 1911, that “Zapata is something more than a man; he is a symbol for the people of Morelos; a symbol of the socialism which has awakened in that region. . .. I think that the only solution is to amnesty Zapata. . ..” Almazán held “that the Nation ought to make an expenditure, although it be large, to buy and divide the lands of Morelos in small lots to cede to the campesinos for the immediate purpose of avoiding worse evils.”19

Many dead and wounded were brought to Mexico City on October 16, 1911, from a military train wrecked by the Zapatistas at Ozumba. Eight days later the capital was thrown into terrible panic when a large band of surianos fell upon Milpa Alta at the boundary between Morelos and the Federal District, ravaging and burning the municipal palace and commercial houses. The Porfirian Chamber of Deputies, still intact, declared itself in permanent session and called Alberto García Granados, secretary of gobernación, and General José González Salas, subsecretary of war, to come before it to explain why the rebellion could not be controlled. García Granados hinted darkly that “there exists a powerful influence which prevents the orders of the government from being complied with.” González Salas, related to the Madero family by marriage, said that Zapata had many sympathizers in Morelos and the adjoining states.20

Although De la Barra, García Granados, and the officers in the field had insisted upon and guided the government’s unsuccessful military policy the Chamber was high in its praise for them. Deputy José María Lozano acclaimed García Granados for taking “the responsibility of opening that campaign of civilization against barbarism.” But no more could be expected of “our heroic Federal Army,” he said, because Madero, in negotiating with Zapata at Cuautla, had imagined that, like St. Francis of Assisi, he could perform the miracle of taming a wild beast.21

Deputy Francisco M. de Olaguíbel exonerated De la Barra, “the immaculate First Functionary of the Republic,” and placed full blame on Madero and González Salas. Olaguíbel sought to force the resignation of the subsecretary of war and pictured Madero as an accomplice of Zapata. Nevertheless, a crowd in front of the Chamber clamored for the dismissal of the minister of gobernación. On October 26, 1911, García Granados, González Salas, and Dr. Francisco Vázquez Gómez, all retired from the cabinet.22

The secretary of foreign relations, Licenciado Manuel Calero, testified before the deputies on October 27 that the social and land problems of Morelos could not be solved in a few months. In his opinion, the natural and inevitable consequence of the Revolution had been to arouse “an intensity of racial hatreds, suppressed passions, and eagerness for agrarian restitutions. . .. The Indian who thinks he has been despoiled of his lands and water, and the laborer mistreated by the overseer . . . strengthen and uphold the Zapatistas in their excesses.”

Calero asked the Chamber to cooperate with the government, which was struggling under severe disadvantages. The troops of the regular army, he said, “could not operate effectively, because they could not find organized forces to combat.” The federals would continue to hold the towns, he believed, but three new corps of rurales were being added to the three already in Morelos “under the supreme command of the Interim Governor of the State, Citizen Ambrosio Figueroa, whose fidelity and competence are well proved.” Yet Calero seemed unaware of the irreconcilable differences, which were not the same as the traditional bandit troubles in Morelos before the Porfirian era.

Upon assuming the governorship, Figueroa, a personal enemy of Zapata, had declared concern only for political and property rights. He intended to ignore the agrarian problem. Meeting in Jojutla on October 31, 1911 with General Arnoldo Casso López, chief of the federal garrison in Cuautla, Figueroa expressed his determination to pacify Morelos by exterminating Zapatism “through blood and fire.” Despite the deadly animosities and jealousies, Madero was optimistic when he became president on November 6, 1911, believing that everything could be settled peacefully and that the Zapata movement would cease of itself.23

General Zapata also expected a favorable change under the new administration. He ordered the suspension of hostilities and the concentration of his troops around Ayala. Negotiations began there on November 9 with Gabriel Robles Domínguez, the special envoy of President Madero. Two days later Zapata and Robles Domínguez reached agreement on the following bases for the surrender of the Zapatistas; (1) withdrawal of Figueroa as governor; (2) retirement of the forces of Federico Morales from Morelos; (3) general amnesty for all in arms; (4) issuance of an agrarian law to improve the condition of the field workers; (5) withdrawal of federal troops at the discretion of the president, but the withdrawal to be requested within forty-five days; (6) maintenance of a rural force of five hundred men from the troops of Zapata, respectfully asking that the command be given to Raúl Madero or Eufemio Zapata, brothers of the president and the rebel chief respectively. Other terms included the selection of a governor by the principal revolutionary chiefs in agreement with President Madero, while a garrison of fifty men from the rural corps was to be established at Ayala, presumably as a guarantee of personal safety to Zapata.24

Robles Domínguez made a quick trip to Mexico City on November 12, with the result that Madero sent orders to the secretary of war to suspend all hostilities in Morelos until peace could be arranged. At the same time, the president insisted that the rebels lay down their arms immediately in line with his policy of peace first and reform afterward. According to General Magaña this was like saying: “The doctor can do nothing as long as the patient does not recover his health.”

The negotiations might still have been successful, except that the concentration of Zapatistas at Ayala, intended as an act of faith in the government, was too great a temptation for General Casso López, who had replaced Huerta, and for Governor Figueroa, who would have killed Zapata if he could. During the absence of Robles Domínguez, the “Colorados” of Figueroa under Enrique Castrejón and Federico Morales left Cuautla for Santa Inés, and a detachment of federal cavalry set out for Tenextenango, encircling the flanks of Zapata. On November 13, 1911, General Casso López refused to allow Robles Domínguez to return to Ayala from Cuautla on grounds that the troops were in motion to capture Zapata as quickly as possible under orders from Mexico City.25

It is not clear whether Madero’s original order suspending hostilities was delayed, ignored, lost, or countermanded, but it seems unlikely that the new chief executive could have upheld his assurances of personal safety to the southern leaders. This final break with Madero led Zapata to issue the Plan of Ayala, the most famous agrarian document of the Mexican Revolution. Written at a solitary place in the Sierra de Ayoxustla, near the village of Miquetzingo, by Professor and General Otilio E. Montaño in close collaboration with Zapata, the Plan of Ayala was signed November 28, 1911 by seven generals, seventeen colonels, thirty-four captains, and one lieutenant.26

The Zapatista document opened with a lengthy denunciation of Madero. It named General Pascual Orozco, who had been the rebel leader in Chihuahua against Porfirio Díaz, as “Chief of the Liberating Revolution” and if he could not accept this arduous post, “the Citizen General Emiliano Zapata shall be recognized as Chief of the Revolution.” Madero’s Plan of San Luis Potosí, as amended at Ayala, was still upheld, while the Revolutionary Assembly of the State of Morelos promised to defend those principles “until victory or death . . . inasmuch as the nation is tired of deceitful and traitorous men who make promises as liberators but who, upon reaching power, forget their promises and become tyrants.”

The plan proclaimed that lands, woods, and waters despoiled by “the hacendados, Científicos, and caciques,” should be recovered immediately by the villages or individuals having the true titles. Such claims then should be held by force of arms until after the triumph of the Revolution, when special tribunals would be established to adjudicate claims.27

The truly impressive features in the “social chapter” of the Plan of Ayala are found in Articles 7 and 8, which emphasized that “the great majority of the Mexican villages and citizens” owned absolutely nothing, not even deeds to usurped lands. In other words, the possibilities of restitutions were extremely limited, whatever the hopes of the persons involved. To give lands to the suffering masses of campesinos, Article 7 proposed to expropriate, as justified, one-third part of all the great latifundios “after previous indemnification to their powerful proprietors, so that the villages and citizens of Mexico [not just Morelos, but Mexico] may obtain ejidos, colonies, fundos legales, or fields for planting and tillage, and improve in every way and for everyone the lack of prosperity and well being of Mexicans.” Thus there are listed all the four remedies ever suggested for agrarian reform—ejidal grants (communal lands), agricultural colonies, town sites, and small private holdings (la pequeña propiedad).

Article 8 of the Plan of Ayala guaranteed the elimination of the hacienda system, since it provided for the confiscation of all the lands of great proprietors who resisted the plan. One writer has maintained that Zapata never wanted to destroy the haciendas but only to take one third of them.28 Yet how many hacendados would have been willing to see a third of their lands expropriated? Almost without exception they would certainly have resisted Zapata’s plan and, if the Revolution triumphed, lost everything.

Additional proof that the Plan of Ayala was intended to apply to the entire nation comes from Articles 12 and 13, which called for the meeting of a convention of the victorious revolutionary chiefs from all of the states of Mexico to name an interim president of the republic who would arrange elections to organize the federal government. The revolutionary leaders as a council in each of the states would likewise select state governors who would see to the formation of local administrations.29

Some writers have assumed that the Plan of Ayala was only for the state of Morelos, that is, local in its purpose and application. To that end Zapata is frequently quoted as having called upon the world to know that “we will not lay down our arms until we are given possession of our village lands.” Owing to the influence of Professor Montaño, however, the plan presents a broad platform not characteristic of Zapata’s previous utterances. Andrés Molina Enríquez, the father of Mexican agrarian reform, portrays Montaño as “the sociologist of Zapatism [and] true author of the Plan of Ayala.” The supreme contribution of Montaño was to formulate a practical revolutionary program that could be applied anywhere in the republic to break up the great latifundios.30

Thus is revealed the transformation of Zapata. First, we have an uncultured peasant, elected to preside over the junta de defensa of his native village and willing to accept the Porfirian regime if it would only honor the modest land claims of the vecinos. When the greed of the hacendados precluded any compromise, Zapata joined the Madero movement; then by a process of elimination he was left as the main popular leader in Morelos. The failure to work out a peaceful settlement during the interim presidency of De la Barra and the presidency of Madero raised Zapata to the position of a national agrarian liberator with an intrenched local stronghold. “I am resolved to fight,” he wrote in a letter of December 6, 1911 to Gildardo Magaña, “against everything and everybody without any other bulwark than the confidence, affection, and support of my people.”31

Esquivel Obregón said in 1912: “Zapata has been rightly called the Attila of the South; but, to prove the degenerate Romans knew that the evils of the Asiatic hordes were a deserved punishment, remember that Attila was called the ‘Lash of God.’”32 When Madero was killed and General Huerta seized power in February 1913, the Zapatistas continued to resist Huerta as they had opposed Madero. At that time, Francisco Bulnes declared: “The Plan of Ayala is not anarchic as is generally thought; on the contrary, it is just, and the government ought to study it and give it the solution which it requires and which will put an end to this series of revolutions that the country has been suffering since 1910.”33

Far from taking such advice, Huerta waged a long and ineffective military campaign against Zapata at the end of which his government was actually proposing to exterminate the local population in Morelos and introduce thirty thousand Japanese colonists as replacements for the native labor.34 In the belief that Morelos and Chihuahua were the principal centers of the rebellion which was causing the collapse of his regime, Huerta finally issued a decree on June 17,1914, reducing the state of Morelos to a territory and dividing Chihuahua into two territories and a smaller state.35

After the Constitutionalists had driven out Huerta, the Ayala document reached the pinnacle of its national importance when it was formally adopted on October 28, 1914 by the Sovereign Revolutionary Convention at Aguascalientes. Unfortunately, the First Chief of the Constitutionalist Revolution, Venustiano Carranza, would never accept the Plan of Ayala nor abide by the decisions of the Convention. Seeking political advantages, the First Chief found it necessary to issue decrees that gave lip service to the agrarian movement although at heart he always remained the creole hacendado. During his presidency Carranza fought a real war of extermination against the Zapatistas in Morelos. Yet he could never destroy Zapata’s fame as the supreme historic symbol of Mexican agrarian reform.36


Francisco R. Almada, Gobernadores del Estado de Chihuahua (México, 1950), 269-271, 444-445; Fernando Jordán, Crónica de un pais bárbaro (México, 1956), 261-274; Ramón Puente, Vida de Francisco Villa, contado por él mismo (Los Angeles, 1919), 27-28; Ernest Gruening, Mexico and Its Heritage (New York, 1928), 60, 141-144; Frank Tannenbaum, Mexico, the Struggle for Peace and Bread (New York, 1950), 52-62.


Hubert Howe Bancroft, History of Mexico (San Francisco, 1883), II, 308-311, 483; Othón Flores Vilchis, El problema agrario en el Estado de Morelos (México, 1950), 20-23, 66; Marte R. Gómez, La cuestión agraria en los primeros congresos del México independiente (México, 1955), 8-14, map opposite page 28; Jesús Sotelo Inclán, Raíz y razón de Zapata (México, 1943), 31-34.


Gildardo Magaña, Emiliano Zapata y el agrarismo en México (México, 1934-1937), I, 7, 14, 16-23; Flores Vilchis, El problema agrario, 63, 78.


Flores Vilchis, El problema agrario, 78-80; Magaña, Emiliano Zapata, I, 22-23, 80-88; Antonio Díaz Soto y Gama, “Hechos que provocaron la revolución del sur,” El Fronterizo (Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua), January 29, 1954; one of a series of articles which also appeared in El Universal of Mexico City and was published in book form as La revolución agraria del sur y Emiliano Zapata, su caudillo (México, 1960), 68-70.


Antonio Díaz Soto y Gama, “La revolución y sus causas,” El Fronterizo, January 20, 1954; Magaña, Emiliano Zapata, I, 88-90.


Marie Robinson Wright, Mexico, a History of Its Progress and Development in One Hundred Years (Philadelphia, 1911), 456-460. Héctor Ribot, El Atila del sur, novela histórico-trágica (México, 1913), 13, 16.


Manuel Bonilla, Diez años de guerra (Mazatlán, Sinaloa, 1922), 84-85; Rubén García, El antiporfirismo (México, 1935), 77; Alfonso Taracena, Mi vida en el vértigo de la revolución, anales sintéticos, 1900-1930 (México, 1936), 72.


Diego Arenas Guzmán, La consumación del crimen (México, 1935), 19-25, 29-32, 56-59, 68-70; Agustín Víctor and Gustavo Casasola, Historia gráfica de la revolución, 1900-1940 (México, n.d.), I, 117-118; Magaña, Emiliano Zapata, I, 106-107; Ramón Prida, ¡¡De la dictadura . . . a la anarquía!! (El Paso, 1914), I, 348-352; Sotelo Inclán, Raíz y razón de Zapata, 178, 233; Alfonso Taracena, La tragedia zapatista (México, 1931), 8.


Sotelo Inclán, Raíz y razón de Zapata, 160-189, 195-196; Díaz Soto y Gama, “El sur encuentra a su caudillo,” El Fronterizo, February 3, 1954.


Díaz Soto y Gama, La revolución agraria, 69-70, 82-85; Flores Vilchis, El problema agrario, 72-73; Magaña, Emiliano Zapata, I, 104-105, 108-109; Porfirio Palacios, El Plan de Ayala, sus orígenes y su promulgación (México, 1950), 11.


Casasola, Historia gráfica, I, 234-237; Baltasar Dromundo, Emiliano Zapata, biografía (México, 1934), 45-49; Pedro González-Blanco, Pe Porfirio Díaz a Carranza (Madrid, 1916), 231-234; Magaña, Emiliano Zapata, I, 108-113; Jesús Romero Flores, Anales históricos de la revolución mexicana (México, 1939), I, 180-184; Taracena, La tragedia zapatista, 9-11.


Secretaría de Educación. Pública, Documentos de la revolución mexicana (México, 1945), 47-51; Magaña, Emiliano Zapata, I, 117-126; Francisco Naranjo, Diccionario biográfico revolucionario (México, 1935), 268-270; Romero Flores, Anales históricos, I, 174, 186-187, IV, 221-223.


Antonio Díaz Soto y Gama, “Revolución relámpago,” El Fronterizo, February 11, 1954; Dromundo, Emiliano Zapata, biografía, 50-51; Magaña, Emiliano Zapata, I, 127-133, 165-166; Romero Flores, Anales históricos, I, 184-185; Taracena, La tragedia zapatista, 12-14; Casasola, Historia gráfica, I, 278-281.


Casasola, Historia gráfica, I, 300-301, 312-317; Antonio Díaz Soto y Gama, “Calumnias e intrigas contra Zapata,” El Fronterizo, February 17, 1954.


El Imparcial, June 18-20, 1911; The Mexican Herald, June 20, 1911; Rosa E. King, Tempest Over Mexico (Boston, 1935), 62-76; Magaña, Emiliano Zapata, I, 157-164, 179-206; Taracena, La tragedia Zapatista, 15-16.


Dromundo, Emiliano Zapata, biografía, 53-57; Manuel González Ramírez (ed.), Manifiestos políticos, 1893-1913 (México, 1957), 285-368; Magaña, Emiliano Zapata, I, 229-326; Alfonso Taracena, Madero, vida del hombre y del político (México, 1938), 445-475; Taracena, La tragedia zapatista, 17-19.


Nueva Era, August 17, 22, 1911; Casasola, Historia gráfica, I, 324, 326-327, 332-336; Antonio Díaz Soto y Gama, “Madero y Zapata,” El Fronterizo, February 24, 1954.


Casasola, Historia gráfica, I, 371-372; Charles C. Cumberland, Mexican Revolution, Genesis Under Madero (Austin, 1952), 176-182; Gabriel Ferrer de Mendiolea, Vida de Francisco I. Madero (México, 1956), 116-117; Magaña, Emiliano Zapata, II, 24-27.


El Diario, October 15, 1911; Enrique Lumen, Almazán, vida de un caudillo y metabolismo de una revolución (México, 1940), 48-82; Sotelo Inclán, Raíz y razón de Zapata, 201-203; “Memorias del General Juan Andreu Almazán,” El Universal, September 23 to October 15, 1957.


Manuel Márquez Sterling, Los últimos días del Presidente Madero (Habana, 1917), 255-260; Gregorio Ponce de León, El interinato presidencial de 1911 (México, 1912), 216-218; Romero Flores, Anales históricos, I, 218-225; Stanley R. Ross, Francisco I. Madero, Apostle of Mexican Democracy (New York, 1955), 198-199, 223.


Salvador Sánchez Septién (ed.), José María Lozano en la tribuna parlamentaria, 1910-1913 (México, 1956), 29-35.


Magaña, Emiliano Zapata, II, 28-43; Palacios, El Plan de Ayala, 38-43; Taracena, La tragedia zapatista, 20-21; Francisco Vázquez Gómez, Memorias políticas, 1909-1913 (México, 1933), 459-460; Casasola, Historia gráfica, I, 373-374.


Antonio Díaz Soto y Gama, “Maniobras para distanciar a Madero de Zapata,” El Fronterizo, March 3, 1954; Magaña, Emiliano Zapata, II, 23-24, 43-48; Lamberto Popoca y Palacios, Historia del bandalismo en el Estado de Morelos (Puebla, 1912), 90-99; Taracena, La tragedia zapatista, 22; El Paso Morning Times, November 7, 1911.


Casasola, Historia gráfica, I, 397; Antonio Díaz Soto y Gama, “¿Por qué rompió Madero con Emiliano Zapata?,” El Fronterizo, March 14, 1954.


Dromundo, Emiliano Zapata, biografía, 58-59; Magaña, Emiliano Zapata, II, 42, 86-107; Taracena, La tragedia zapatista, 23-24.


Magaña, Emiliano Zapata, II, 111-114; Palacios, El Plan de Ayala, 53-56; Taracena, La tragedia zapatista, 24-25; González-Blanco, De Porfirio Díaz a Carranza, 237-244, gives a Spaniard’s unfavorable interpretation of Zapata and the Plan of Ayala.


El Diario del Hogar, December 15, 1911, was the first to publish the Plan de Ayala; Plan de Ayala, documentos interestantes de la revolución de ideales (Puebla, 1913), 6-17; Dromundo, Emiliano Zapata, biografía, 63-77; México revolucionario, a los pueblos de Europa y América, 1910-1918, 142.


Angel Lascuráin y Osio, “Aclaración a mi artículo, ‘Fines del agrarismo,’” Excelsior, December 22, 1955, said that Zapata sought only one third of the haciendas; González Ramírez (ed.), Planes políticos, 73-77; Magaña, Emiliano Zapata, II, 114-139.


Alberto Morales Jiménez, Historia de la revolución mexicana (México, 1951), 125-134; Palacios, El Plan de Ayala, 53-65; Prida, ¡¡De la dictadura . . . a la anarquía!!, II, 706-710; Romero Flores, Anales históricos, I, 228-231, IV, 227-231; Jesús Silva Herzog, El agrarismo mexicano y la reforma agraria, exposición y crítica (México, 1959), 177-180.


Andrés Molina Enríquez, La revolución agraria de México (México, 1933-1937), V, 93-95; Ross, Francisco I. Madero, 251-252; El Paso Morning Times, October 31, 1914.


Magaña, Emiliano Zapata, II, 140-142.


Toribio Esquivel Obregón, El problema agrario en México (México, 1912), 25-26; Jesús Silva Herzog (ed.), La cuestión de la tierra (México, 1960-1962), II, 139.


Luis F. Bustamante, Savia roja, socialismo mexicano (San Luis Potosí, 1914), 57-58.


El País, May 14, 17, 1914. El País was suppressed by Huerta for its critical attitude; Diario de los debates de la Cámara de Diputados del Congreso de los Estados Unidos Mexicanos, Year II, Period II, Second XXVI Legislature, Vol. IV, No. 36, May 13, 1914, 2-5; No. 39, May 16, 1914, 9-10; No. 40, May 18, 1914.


Diario oficial de los Estados Unidos Mexicanos, Vol. CXXXII, No. 36, June 11, 1914, 385; No. 41, June 17, 1914, 450-451. Gildardo Magaña and Carlos Pérez Guerrero, Emiliano Zapata y el agrarismo en México (México, 1952), III, 192-196.


Díaz Soto y Gama, La revolución agraria, 170-178, 187-199, 224-238; Antonio D. Melgarejo, Crímenes del zapatismo (México, 1913), 135-140; A. N. Molina Enríquez, El agrarismo de la revolución, exégesis, crítica y reencauzamiento (México, 1953), 23-32; Molina Enríquez, La revolución agraria, V, 142-143.

Author notes


The author is Associate Professor of History at Texas Western College of the University of Texas.