A people without monuments is a people without history.

—Absalón Castellanos Domínguez, Governor of Chiapas

My father doesn’t need commemorations. He’s already had plenty of speeches. Nothing but demagoguery. Nothing but empty promises, and the campesinos are still as screwed over as before.

—Mateo Zapata

The powerful and their big money don’t understand why Votán-Zapata doesn’t die, they don’t understand why he returns and raises his death-transformed-into-life through the word of truthful men and women.

—Comité Clandestino Revolucionario Indígena, Comandancia General del Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional

Emiliano Zapata is one of the most significant figures in Mexican history. In early 1911 he and a small group of campesinos from the south-central state of Morelos joined a broader rebellion against the regime of long-time president Porfirio Díaz. They fought to stop haciendas from continuing to infringe on the land and water rights of peasant communities in their state and to recover resources that had already been lost. They fought, too, for local liberties—for the right of villagers to take greater responsibility for their own destiny. They fought, in sum, for conditions crucial to the preservation of their rural culture. Zapata soon took over the leadership of this growing movement and Díaz, surprisingly, soon fell. Zapata then discovered, however, that leaders of other revolutionary groups did not consider land reform a pressing problem, if they thought about the issue at all. And so he continued to fight, for nearly a decade, in the struggle that became known as the Mexican Revolution, developing a national program and a national reputation in the process. On April 10, 1919, he was ambushed and killed at the hacienda Chinameca by soldiers loyal to the revolutionary faction of Venustiano Carranza, who had been trying since 1915 to consolidate power in Mexico City. Zapata was buried in the graveyard of the important Morelos town of Cuautla.

Zapata’s military career was over, but his posthumous career had just begun. His lasting power was vividly demonstrated on the first day of 1994, when the Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional (EZLN) rose up in the state of Chiapas against the regime of President Carlos Salinas de Gortari. For a historian who has devoted considerable time to exploring Zapatismo in dusty archives, it was astonishing—and somewhat disconcerting—to watch as these Chiapan rebels came to be called, so casually, los zapatistas. But the advent of this neo-Zapatismo has contributed to a remarkable contest over Zapata’s image during the 1990s, and this has certainly been rewarding for this scholar, not only in showing that Zapata continues to be significant, but in suggesting how and why that might be so.

In an attempt to allow market forces freer play in the Mexican economy, in 1991 and 1992 Salinas took the highly controversial step of abandoning those provisions in Article 27 of the Constitution of 1917 that called for the redistribution of land and protected communal landholding. Although for decades politicians of the ruling party—the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI)—had claimed that Zapata’s demands had been the inspiration for Article 27, the Salinas administration frequently employed the figure of Zapata, both visually and verbally, in pushing its reforms. Salinas’s successor, Ernesto Zedillo, has continued both his predecessor’s agrarian policies and his efforts to make use of the memory of Zapata.1

Salinas and Zedillo have not been particularly successful in giving a new meaning to Zapata’s legacy. Peasants opposing the changes to Article 27 have generally utilized Zapata in their marches, and since 1994 the EZLN has rallied opposition to the national government around a renewed Zapatismo, often in creative ways. In August 1994, for example, the EZLN held a convention in Chiapas. To house this event, it carved a new settlement out of the jungle, which it named Aguascalientes, in reference to the site of the convention that occurred in the thick of the Mexican Revolution in 1914. At that original convention, the followers of Emiliano Zapata and those of Francisco “Pancho” Villa formed an alliance, which was consolidated when Zapata and Villa met in Mexico City in December of that same year. There they were memorialized in one of the revolution’s most famous photographs, which pictured Villa sitting in the presidential chair, Zapata beside him with a giant sombrero on his knee, and a crowd of hopeful revolutionaries behind them. To advertise its Convención de Aguascalientes, the EZLN plastered Mexico City with posters that appropriated this photograph, inserting in place of Zapata the EZLN’s most prominent spokesman, Subcomandante Marcos, wearing his signature ski mask, but also with the sombrero. Beside him, supplanting Villa, was social activist and professional wrestler Superbarrio Gómez, in his customary wrestling garb. Salinas, too, proved himself adept at this kind of political theater. Shortly after the outbreak of the Chiapas insurgency he proclaimed amnesty for the rebels and expressed his desire for dialogue. Although Salinas was not ready to renounce the PRI’s historical ties to Zapata, he elected to announce these measures in front of an image of Carranza. The symbolism was not lost on Subcomandante Marcos.2

Clearly, Mexican politics in the 1990s are about more than policy offerings. They are also about style, about “spin.” And for Salinas, Zedillo, and the EZLN, finding the proper spin has meant, among other things, deciding how best to engage in the battle over symbols surrounding Zapata. This is true because Zapata, as the key spokesman for the revolution’s most fundamental social issue, has remained a commanding historical personage. But the political imperative to make something of Zapata has perhaps less to do with the story of Zapata the man than with that of his mythical twin—with the way in which memories of him have developed within Mexico’s political cultures since his death.

Florencia Mallon defines political culture as a combination of “beliefs, practices, and debates around the accumulation and contestation of power.”3 Myth, meanwhile, can be defined as “a usually traditional story of ostensibly historical events that serves to unfold part of the world view of a people or explain a practice, belief, or natural phenomenon.”4 This definition does not exclude the possibility that elements of a myth might be historically accurate. Indeed, it is difficult to make a precise distinction between myth and history, given that both fall short of “truth” in that both cut experience down to a thinkable, and therefore meaningful, size. The difference may lie in the kinds of meaning they contain: in its connection to “the world view of a people,” a myth is popular and communal in a way that history generally is not.5

In his book Imagined Communities, Benedict Anderson has drawn attention to the ways in which myth has helped people imagine—or create—nations, often by allowing them to envision a deep historical unity for a population based on what they assume to be shared cultural roots.6 Anderson also contends that nationalist thought is, in general, much concerned with issues of death and immortality and that this preoccupation is reflected in the tombs of the unknown soldier that exist in many countries. The imagining of a nation, in other words, often includes what can perhaps best be called ancestor worship.7

This generalization about ties between death and nationalism is intriguing because the circumstances of Zapata’s death have been of tremendous significance to the process through which he has been mythified. Speech makers habitually refer to him as the “Martyr of Chinameca,” and his death has provided a stage for remembering him through the rituals of commemoration held on the anniversary of his assassination, first at his grave and then, increasingly, elsewhere. Octavio Paz has written that Zapata’s image is “made up of patience and fecundity, silence and hope, death and resurrection.” To this he adds the observation that “Zapata dies at every popular fair.”8

The examination of the myth of Zapata, then, leads to questions about the formation, or reformation, of national identity after the revolution. The use of this myth by Salinas and Zedillo indicates that it also has something to do with state power and with continual efforts by representatives of the state to convince others of the state’s legitimacy.9 Relationships between elements of political culture, identity, and the state have only recently begun to receive careful attention from students of the Mexican Revolution. The participants, observers, and historians who first wrote about the revolution described it as a popular, agrarian event that overturned the feudal Díaz regime and instituted social reform.10 But as the decades passed and the new state revealed itself to be a corrupt and authoritarian structure that seemed incapable of—or uninterested in—resolving the problem of peasant poverty, this interpretation proved difficult to maintain. During the 1970s and 1980s, historians of the “revisionist” school downplayed popular mobilization and social reform and stressed, instead, the emergence of a new elite that established a more centralized and effectively coercive state. Among the products of the revisionist current was Ilene O’Malley’s study of the development of hero cults between 1920 and 1940; which explored how the state constructed a conservative, demobilizing myth of the revolution.11

Though it was often only implicit, a key question raised by the revisionists was whether a truly popular revolution could produce an authoritarian state. The publication of Alan Knight’s recent synthesis, which convincingly revived the popular and agrarian emphases of those who first wrote on the revolution, suggested a better question: Why and how did such a revolution produce such a state?12 In recent years historians have sought to answer this question by focusing on the relationship between Mexico’s various political cultures and the process of state formation. In a series of broad, suggestive articles, Knight has done much to frame the discussion of this relationship, arguing that at least up to 1940 the state had only limited success with a cultural project that aimed to modernize Mexican society, enhance identification with a national community, and, of course, legitimize state power.13 By scrutinizing the negotiations between the state and popular cultures that are embodied in public celebrations, political discourse, and the implementation of such revolutionary programs as “socialist” education and land reform, many of the contributors to two seminal edited volumes have also tried to measure the effectiveness of this project.14

Informed by these postrevisionist studies, this article will return to the subject of hero cults by tracing the development of the myth of Zapata over the longue durée of Mexico’s twentieth century. It will do this by analyzing commemorative rituals held on the anniversary of Zapata’s death against the backdrop of three distinct moments in postrevolutionary history. The first of these commemorations took place in 1924, when the representatives of the new state were clearly still in pursuit of legitimacy. The second occurred in 1950, by which time we might presume that the state had achieved legitimacy, if it ever did.15 The third anniversary to be discussed is that of 1995, when, as we have seen, the legitimacy of the state was again called into question.

This investigation of the Zapata myth will contend that the success of the state’s cultural project has indeed been limited. By honoring Zapata soon after his death as one of the founding fathers of the new revolutionary state, politicians gained considerable support from peasants in his home territory. In the decades that followed, these politicians were also successful in making the cult of Zapata an element of national identity by propagating it throughout Mexico. But while this combination of Zapata, nation, and state proved potent enough to reinforce the state’s legitimacy in the minds of some onlookers at any given anniversary ritual, the state never came to control memories of Zapata. One reason for this can be found in Paz’s slightly overstated observation that Zapata dies at every popular fair, which draws our attention to the fact that he has been remembered in localities all over Mexico. Like nations, smaller communities are imagined with the help of myths and through the repetition of rituals that—whether popular fairs or commemorations—bring people together to reaffirm communities of all sizes and disseminate myths within them.16 Even as Zapata helped people imagine a national community, in Mexico’s various corners ritual observances of his death gradually created the conditions wherein communities of protest could form around him and use him to challenge the state’s legitimacy.

1924: Posthumous Zapata and the New Revolutionary Order

Zapata had already become the object of a hero cult while he was alive. Like other revolutionary leaders, he had become shorthand for his movement, simplifying its meaning, both for its members and for outsiders, by giving it a single human face. When he was killed in 1919 there were conflicting reactions among his followers. Some denied that it was Zapata who had been killed at Chinameca—denying the death of a hero is a conventional part of the mythification process. Others accepted his death and soon began the tradition of gathering at his grave on the anniversary of his murder.17

In April 1920, Carranza was still in power, so the gathering at the grave—assuming that there was one—was probably a simple local or familial affair. Shortly after that first anniversary, though, the crowning rebellion of the revolutionary decade took place. Alvaro Obregón, who had long fought under Carranza, rose up to remove him from power because Carranza was fixing the presidential race to favor a weak candidate who might serve as his puppet, and Obregón wanted to be president himself.18 By creating a broad coalition that encompassed many of the scattered guerrilla groups still fighting against Carranza—including the surviving Zapatistas—Obregón quickly won and took power, serving as president from 1920 to 1924.

Obregón was a masterful politician who understood that what had just happened in Mexico was a primarily rural revolution in which many country people, not all of them Zapatistas, had taken up arms to demand land. He realized that this demand would have to be addressed before political stability could be reestablished. But Obregón believed too much in capitalism and private property to pursue a thoroughgoing program of land reform. Instead, he promoted a rather limited agrarian reform, mostly doling out land in key regions where he wished to cultivate support.19 Meanwhile, since it was Zapata who during the revolutionary decade had most adamantly voiced the demand for land reform, Obregón began to preside over the resurrection of the peasant leader’s image. Once cleansed of certain troublesome realities—like the fact that Zapata had fought for years against the Constitutionalist faction to which Obregón belonged—the memory of the Martyr of Chinameca promised to be helpful in retaining the support of the peasantry.

And so it was that federal officials began to descend on the state of Morelos—and particularly on Cuautla—to commemorate the day of Zapata’s death through increasingly elaborate rituals. In 1924, on the fifth anniversary of his death, the national government took an important step in its acceptance of Zapata. A series of triumphal arches—decorated with flowers, streamers, and Mexican flags—were placed along the street that led from the train station to the graveyard as part of a ceremony to greet Obregón’s handpicked successor, Plutarco Elías Calles, who was then, in effect, campaigning for the presidency. Joining Calles in a procession that wound beneath these arches were other national politicians, representatives of state and local governments from all over Mexico, such prominent individuals as Zapatista intellectual Antonio Díaz Soto y Gama and the muralist Diego Rivera, and five thousand peasants from Morelos and the neighboring Federal District.20

After the procession arrived at the cemetery, several people spoke, including one who asked those listening to be thankful that they had an honest politician, in Calles, who would implement Zapata’s program without corruption. The crowd chanted “vivas” for Calles, who then proclaimed, “the agrarian program of Zapata is mine.” “I only want to tell you,” he added, “that the hero rests in peace, that his work is over, and that from today on present and future generations of campesinos will follow the path that he blazed through the heart of humanity.”21 Later, people piled floral wreathes around Zapata’s gravestone.

Like the commemorations that would follow year after year, this ritual was organized not by the national government, but by local and state officials and prominent Zapatistas. In this case, Governor Alfredo Ortega of Morelos, Díaz Soto y Gama and his Partido Nacional Agrarista (PNA), and Genovevo de la O (a Zapatista general who was now the military commander of Morelos) made the arrangements and sent out the invitations. The role of the national government seems to have been limited to facilitating transportation between Mexico City and Morelos.22 But the invitations that Obregón, Calles, and other national politicians were already becoming accustomed to receiving offered an opportunity to work on the edifices of state and nation. It gave them the opportunity to reaffirm alliances and understandings with local and state officials in Morelos and elsewhere, and, of course, the opportunity to appropriate Zapata, who could be used to justify their policies. Zapata thus came to serve as the vehicle for a symbolic occupation of a locality—Cuautla—that since 1910 had been difficult for national governments to control.23

National officials were not, however, the only beneficiaries of the event. State and local politicians also stood to gain from this chance to reaffirm their relationships with national politicians and institutions. Moreover, among the five thousand peasants in attendance at the 1924 commemoration, waving banners and shouting ovations, were many Zapatista veterans. Given that Zapatista intellectuals had received government jobs and that land reform was well underway in Morelos, the apparent enthusiasm of these veterans hardly seems surprising. After all, symbols like the one Zapata was becoming cut two ways, both justifying more material developments and being justified by them.24 Zapata’s followers were also getting something they needed. After a decade of warfare in which most of Mexico’s national administrations had labeled the Zapatistas bandits, their leader was now being acknowledged, in public ritual as well as national policy, as a founding father of the revolutionary state. The state was admitting that the Zapatistas had been right in their struggle all along. This must have been tremendously gratifying to the veterans, and there is no reason to suspect that there was any serious grumbling in the crowd about government hypocrisy.25 The representatives of the postrevolutionary state and the local peasants were now joined together in the mythification process.

This is not to say that there were no tensions beneath the surface of this gathering. The unseemly speed at which Zapata was moving toward apotheosis on the national level was not lost on observers of the postrevolutionary scene. Newspaper editorials discussed the political motives behind the commemoration, and some journalists maintained that Zapata would be better remembered as metropolitan newspapers had tended to describe him while he was alive—as a bloodthirsty bandit, the Attila of the South—rather than as some sort of revolutionary hero. In fact, public concern over what Calles meant when he adopted Zapata’s program at Cuautla soon had him explaining that he embraced Zapatista agrarianism in only its most general outlines.26

In addition, Zapatista unity was problematic. Zapatismo had ended the revolutionary decade in crisis. After mid-1915 it had become increasingly evident that Zapatista troops would not win the revolution. As Carrancista forces invaded Zapatista territory, both the food supplies and morale of the rebels declined precipitously; as a result, the movement suffered from a rising incidence of internecine conflict and a growing number of defectors.27 The legacy of this internal turmoil was still apparent in the 1920s. Differences between Zapatista intellectuals competing for leverage in national politics had broken into open squabbling during the 1923 commemoration of Zapata’s death, and political struggles in Morelos often found Zapatistas lined up on opposite sides.28

Another result of the crisis of the movement after 1915 was that for many peasants of Morelos and surrounding areas, Zapata was not an untarnished hero when he died. With his death, however, had come the opportunity for some to begin to rethink how he should be remembered. Oscar Lewis’s oral history account of the life of Pedro Martínez offers some clues as to how this reappraisal of Zapata might have developed. An inhabitant of Tepoztlán, Morelos, Martínez had left the failing movement in 1916 for the relative safety of Guerrero. But when he heard of Zapata’s death, he informs us, “[i]t hurt me as much as if my own father had died! I was a Zapatista down to the marrow of my bones. I had a lot of faith in Zapata’s promise, a lot of faith. I did indeed! I was one of the real Zapatistas.”29

Real Zapatista or not, Martínez had chosen to leave the Zapatistas, and he still nursed grievances against the movement when Lewis began interviewing him in 1943. “I didn’t have the kind of character suited to the Revolution,” he complained. “I was not good at it because I was not base enough.”30 We will never know when Martínez’s memories of Zapatismo and of Zapata crystallized into the shape they had taken, nor whether it was Zapata’s death, the coming of peace, or the Mexican state’s appropriation of the Martyr of Chinameca that motivated his return to the Zapatista fold. His description of Zapata as a father figure may have been mere hypocrisy, given that his identity as a Zapatista soon became crucial to a career in local politics. Or perhaps he remembered the peasant leader positively as a way of dealing with guilt about having abandoned the cause for which Zapata had died. It is also possible that he had always admired Zapata, never blaming him, personally, for the violence and hunger that had forced the flight to Guerrero. In any event, Pedro Martínez’s somewhat dissonant memories caution against any easy assumptions about the local roots of Zapata’s hero cult.

Despite some indications of a nascent tension in the interpretation of Zapata’s legacy, the apparent common feeling publicly displayed by those who participated in and observed the 1924 commemoration suggests that representatives of the state were enjoying some success in their quest to win legitimacy in Zapata’s home region through appeals to his memory. To the extent that it existed, this common feeling was built in part on material rewards, but it was about expectation as well, about the promise the young revolution held out that such rewards would continue to be offered. It presumably also had to do with the belief, shared by people of diverse class, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds, that after a decade of destructive civil war this promise would be best pursued through the orderly behavior that the organizers of the ritual sought to model.31 Zapata’s place in the new order was not, however, a foregone conclusion, and in the wake of the revolution the various overlapping communities in which his memory could play a role—Tepoztlán, the Zapatistas, the nation—were in a state of flux. Under these circumstances it would seem that the common feeling was less about agreement than it was the product of an unstable convergence of diverse positions. Far from enabling it to manipulate opinion, the state’s somewhat sudden and clumsy embrace of Zapata merely helped it open lines of negotiation.

1950: Words, Flowers, and Local Geographies

If in 1924 the postrevolutionary state was just being institutionalized, by 1950 that process had largely been completed. During the presidency of Lázaro Cárdenas (1934-40), many of the social reforms promised in the Constitution of 1917 had been implemented, including extensive land reform. National politicians could now more convincingly argue that Zapata’s policies had been applied not just to Morelos and a few other localities—as was the case in 1924—but to the entire nation. Coinciding with the reformism of the Cárdenas years was the creation of a single-party state.32 After 1940 the national government turned its attention to industrialization, and in the rush to capitalize the economy, social issues were put on the back burner. The land reform process had largely destroyed the hacienda system, but now the state, pursuing industrialization at the expense of campesinos, limited peasant enterprise by controlling credit, prices, marketing, and the processing of various agricultural products. It became increasingly clear that the distribution of land to the peasantry would not, by itself, solve peasant poverty.

Both Cárdenas’s reforms and the subsequent push to industrialize encountered some opposition. New political parties tried to challenge the power of the PRI, and some regional leaders managed to keep the federal government at a distance.33 There were also occasional armed movements, including that of Rubén Jaramillo in Morelos. Jaramillo was an ex-Zapatista who had, like Pedro Martínez, left the movement before the fighting was over. But in defending peasant interests against the state-owned sugar mill at Zacatepec, he inherited the Zapatista legacy, to the extent that one corrido calls him “a second Zapata.”34 In general, though, the violence of the revolution was now far in the past and a new national elite had increased state power and, apparently, captured considerable legitimacy.

President Miguel Alemán was in attendance at the Cuautla commemoration of Zapata’s death in 1950. So too were cabinet members; members of the national congress; representatives of various state governments; representatives of the Confederación Nacional Campesina (CNC), the official peasant organization that had been created during the land reform process; and several generals of various revolutionary groups. Also present were members of the Frente Zapatista. Founded in 1940, and composed of Zapatista veterans and their families, this organization worked to unify Zapatistas, spread the Zapatista creed, and guard Zapata’s reputation.

Decorations similar to those of 1924 were in place in Cuautla and surrounding villages. Alemán arrived at about 11 a.m. and climbed into a convertible adorned with flowers, where he was joined by several of Cuautla’s most attractive young women. Together they rode from the edge of town to one of the central plazas, where the platform and podium for the speakers had been set up in front of a statue that portrayed Zapata on horseback and leaning down, rather paternalistically, to listen to and comfort a peasant standing beside him. Zapata’s remains had been placed beneath this monument during the 1932 commemoration, but other changes to the square had been limited so that sufficient space would remain for the booths of the town’s “famous fair of the second Friday of Lent.”35

The commemoration on this day in 1950 was, as they had all come to be, as full of words as it was of flowers. The president of the Frente Zapatista, Adrián Castrejón, declared that he and other veterans “feel our chests flooded with emotion when we come to this site, where a monument is raised to his [Zapata’s] memory, to recall him with affection and reverence.” Congressman Norberto López Avelar then spoke for the PRI, despite the fact that he had fought in the revolution under the command of Zapata’s killer, Jesús Guajardo, and was accused by some of having directly participated in the assassination. A third speaker, CNC Secretary General Roberto Barrios, asserted that “the agrarian problem could be considered fully resolved” and that the government’s job now was to organize and improve existing ejidos.36

There were nearly three hours of speeches. The ritual also included floral offerings like those of 1924; the president and other officials mounted a brief honor guard before Zapata’s remains; and Alemán received Zapata’s widow. Eventually, a contingent of motorcyclists began the annual parade. Behind them filed thousands of campesinos of the Frente Zapatista who—according to the Frente’s newspaper, El Campesino—marched in perfect order, holding up thousands of pictures of Zapata as a demonstration of “discipline and respect toward their leader.” Also participating were a women’s contingent, athletes, school children, and a delegation of old revolutionaries who had fought under Pancho Villa.37

After the ceremony, Secretary of the Interior Adolfo Ruiz Cortines, who would succeed Alemán as president in 1952, spoke to the press. Ruiz Cortines noted that Zapata was among those who had most contributed to the progress of the nation. He reinforced and clarified Barrios’s message by announcing that the greater part of Mexico’s land had already been distributed, and that the Alemán government was now focusing on irrigation projects, roads, and schools. Placing special emphasis on the need for irrigation, he added the claim that if Zapata were alive, water would be his main priority.38

Zapata was also being remembered elsewhere on that same day in 1950. Using the land reform process as well as the cultural offerings of the institutionalized revolution—the educational system, the arts, and the mass media—national politicians, beginning at least with the Cárdenas regime, had promoted Zapata in Mexico’s provinces as a means of making him a truly national hero. In 1937, for instance, Cárdenas ordered governors to circulate the first two volumes of Gildardo Magaña’s history of Zapatismo, which had recently been published by the ruling Partido Nacional Revolucionario (PNR). “I believe it would be suitable to promote the distribution of the publication in question,” he added, “in schools, libraries, ejidos, unions, and civic centers, and so I urge you to acquire sufficient copies, because in doing so you will contribute to the defense and better understanding of the Revolution’s Social Program.”39 The new rulers of Mexico clearly understood that the memory of Zapata could only serve as a source of national unity if the citizens of those regions of the country that he had never visited while alive also had something to remember. Not surprisingly, commemorations had a role in this conscious spreading of the cult of Zapata. With help from the Frente Zapatista and the CNC, the federal government encouraged the commemoration of Zapata’s death throughout Mexico, with the result that in 1950 ceremonies were held as far from Morelos as Sonora, over 1,500 kilometers to the north.40

In Sonora’s Yaqui valley, the municipal presidents of Ciudad Obregón, Navajoa, and Bacum attended the celebration and the facades of the houses were decorated with national flags. The observance included two baseball games, a twenty-one gun salute, a barbecue, and a literary-musical event where a likeness of Zapata was positioned in a place of honor and the third grade girls sang a corrido. At San Pablo Oxtotepec, in the Federal District, two Zapatista veterans used the ritual as a platform from which to charge the secretary of defense with not having recognized their military rank. “They demand documents and photographs from us,” complained one, “as if the scars that reveal the bullets that perforated our bodies in the struggle were not enough.” Adrián Castrejón also spoke at Oxtotepec, stopping there on his way to Cuautla to note that many people were trying to end land reform, but that they would not succeed because Zapata’s “liberating message” was still alive in the consciences of the campesinos. In Atlixco, Puebla an “imposing” parade wound its way through the “principal streets” of the city. Zapatista veterans, military and civilian authorities, teachers, students, and peasants from various towns—with their respective bands—marched in the procession. After the parade Zapata was honored in front of his monument in the small plaza named for him, and there were an “infinity” of floral offerings. Elsewhere, commemorations included temporary altars to Zapata and at least one open podium.41

By 1950, then, the institutionalized revolution that emanated from Mexico City had taken over events at Cuautla, and the cult of Zapata had become a key element in a postrevolutionary political culture that was now established at the national level. In the practice of hero worship and the employment of funerary wreaths, this political culture drew from the prerevolutionary past; but it added new hero cults, of course, and placed value on the revolutionary ideas to which these cults had become attached.42 The speeches in Cuautla stressed that the revolution was a unified process; that the peasants were receiving material benefits from it; that Zapata was both a founding father of, and a martyr to, the revolution; and that the revolutionary process was ongoing. Speech makers emphasized that Alemán represented the continuation of the revolution in general and of Zapata’s work in particular.

The organizers of the ritual were also sending some nonverbal messages. If order had been an aspiration in 1924, by 1950 orderliness had infused this celebration of revolution, which was a display not only of national community but of power relationships and the position of diverse groups within that community. Women, therefore, had a separate contingent because it had become necessary, well before 1950, to assign them a place in the revolutionary order. Alemán’s convertible ride with the young ladies of Cuautla and the paternalism of the statue that housed Zapata’s remains suggest that the participation of these women in the parade did not necessarily reflect an equal status within the new order.43 What it did reflect was the progressive ideas that then Secretary of the Interior Ruiz Cortines was making part of Zapata’s legacy. Given that there is no evidence that Zapata gave any thought to the role of women, such representations of progress were gradually separating how Zapata was remembered from anything he actually did or said. In part this was the intent of politicians who, like Ruiz Cortines, prefaced policy offerings with claims about what Zapata would have wanted if he had been alive and thus sought to mediate between the Zapata of the past and the changed circumstances of the present by incarnating the continuity of his program. In part, though, this effect can simply be attributed to the passage of time. It was natural that the celebration of 1950 was at least as much a commemoration of past Zapata commemorations, which had by now become history, as it was of Zapata’s death and life.44

There were undoubtedly some in Cuautla who received these messages precisely as government functionaries intended them to be received. As the parade moved through streets imbued with the patriotic history of both the revolution and the independence struggle that preceded it, many participants and observers were surely swept up in a wave of patriotism, which created in them a feeling of inclusion in a shared national identity and experience that Zapata embodied.45 To the extent that the state succeeded in using the ritual to create such a feeling of national community, those present were limited and controlled by the premises of the Zapata cult, which thus became an effective part of the state’s cultural undertaking. But if the state’s representatives seemed intent on overwhelming those in attendance with words and flowers in a way that made the commemoration either numbingly routine or mindlessly patriotic, their strategy was not entirely successful. There was grumbling on that day in Morelos, grumbling that demonstrates that not everyone was numb, or at least that for many the patriotism soon wore off once the parade was over.

A recurring theme of dissent in 1950 was that of promises broken. When asked in 1996 to describe what commemorations of Zapata’s death were like, Zapata’s daughter, Ana María, remarked that an event that should have been “for the people” had long since ceased to be popular. It is difficult to ascertain when she formulated this view of these proceedings, but in 1950 she took advantage of Alemán’s presence to reiterate a request that her pension be increased—a request she had made on the same occasion the year before. Although Alemán apparently agreed to the increase both times, in 1952 Ana María was still not receiving her money.46 Alemán had also promised, at the 1949 commemoration, to compensate Zapata’s natal village of Anenecuilco for land it had lost to neighboring Villa de Ayala in the land reform process, and we might imagine that the Anenecuilcans again brought this conflict to his attention in 1950 because it had not been resolved. A 1952 petition from Anenecuilco complained, “we’re irritated by waiting and waiting” and threatened to settle things with Villa de Ayala directly.47 Finally, an editorial on the 1950 anniversary in a Cuernavaca newspaper noted that “the pseudo-Zapatistas, sycophantic beings who have accumulated large fortunes in the shadow of the Caudillo of the South” would, as always, be present. These politicians, the editorial continued, were responsible for the lasting exploitation of the peasantry.48

This grumbling was similar to what James C. Scott has called a “hidden transcript,” in that it constituted a critique by relatively powerless people directed against the behavior of the powerful who presided over the Cuautla ceremony. Because freedom of speech was often permitted in postrevolutionary Mexico, however, it was not necessary that the grumbling be hidden.49 It existed around the edges of the main show at Cuautla, where it could be heard, but where it was peripheral and inconsequential—a peripheral transcript—to the processes of state formation and nation-building as the revolutionary elite envisioned them.

Peripheral transcripts—or at least conditions suitable for their conception—could also be found elsewhere. In many ways provincial rituals echoed the Cuautla ceremony. The speeches, floral offerings, and parades that occurred in places like Atlixco, for example, reveal some tendency toward formal, orderly events. But even if these ritual elements demonstrate that people in these localities participated in a national political culture, provincial rituals were not simply carbon copies of the Cuautla commemoration. Barbecue and baseball indicate a more relaxed atmosphere in the provinces, as does the participation of children in ways other than by marching in parades. The possibility of an open podium, meanwhile, hints that free speech may have been less peripheral to these village celebrations. And in the veterans’ protest of the Defense Ministry’s failure to recognize their contributions to the revolution, the kind of grumbling that existed around the edges of the Cuautla event took center stage at San Pablo Oxtotepec. While the state was forming at these sites as well as in Cuautla, and local and regional officials were likely to be present at any given village ceremony, only a highly centralized state structure could have assured that all of the state’s representatives would regulate the exchange of views about Zapata in the same way.50

The Zapata cult, in other words, was becoming a focal point of local communities in such a way that variations on its meaning could develop across Mexico. Commemorations were important to this process in that they enabled the myth to occupy local geographies, where it became associated with unique histories, daily activities, and individual memories. There can be little doubt that Zapata came to inhabit Atlixco, where he was fixed to a particular plaza by a monument. But it is possible that the anniversary of 1950 left his memory even in that baseball field in Sonora, for myth and geography have been strongly connected throughout Mexican history. The best example of this may be the pre-Columbian tendency to associate features of the landscape with accounts of creation, but interactions between myth and geography have occurred in built environments as well, such as the shrines that serve as Catholic pilgrimage sites. Indeed, Catholic practice links the names of saints to diverse centers of population and to rituals celebrated in those localities on specific days. Mexico has thus been the site of what might be called ritual geographies—constellations of natural features, buildings and streets, monuments, and centers of population that are given their particular shapes by ritual and myth—for as long as people have lived there. And it is in this context that the cult of Zapata has been developing a ritual geography of its own.51

By 1950 the state had disseminated Zapata’s myth in a way that helped make him a component of national identity; by associating themselves with Zapata during commemorations of his death, moreover, representatives of the state apparently maintained a measure of legitimacy in the countryside at a time when national policy did not benefit peasants. But “the reach of a politician,” Clifford Geertz has written, “is not quite the same as his grasp.”52 If Zapata was part of the process of imagining a national community, he was also present—in many areas due, ironically, to the state’s effectiveness in spreading his myth—where local communities were being reimagined in the aftermath of the revolution. Zapata did not necessarily unite people in places where his myth took root. There were local struggles for holiness within the cult and, as on the national scene, not everyone agreed that Zapata deserved to be honored.53 But local imaginings, as well as the grumbling in Morelos, had the potential to generate shared beliefs about Zapata that were peripheral to the construction of state and nation as it was pursued annually in Cuautla—beliefs that might ultimately call the state’s legitimacy into question.

1995: Resurrecting a Rebel

A crisis of revolutionary authority was evident in 1995. This crisis had its origins, perhaps, in 1968, when a massacre of student protesters at Tlatelolco’s Plaza de las Tres Culturas in Mexico City did much to discredit the ruling party. An increase in opposition movements—some of them armed—characterized the decades after Tlatelolco, and in 1988 the PRI began to encounter serious trouble at the polls.54 Then, on the first day of 1994, the Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional launched its rebellion in Chiapas. Several assassinations, rumored to be the result of infighting within the ruling party, only added to the PRI’s political woes in the mid-1990s. The crisis was not, however, wholly political. Economic instability was also on the rise after 1968, marked by a prolonged recession in the 1980s and a general failure of agricultural productivity that was the logical result of the concentration of resources in the industrial sector. In general, campesinos remained the poorest members of Mexican society, and population growth in the countryside outpaced land distribution. Finally, the monetary policies of Carlos Salinas and Ernesto Zedillo generated a deep recession in 1995, which further undermined the ruling party’s credibility.

By 1995 Zapata had aged from father to grandfather in the paternalistic language that some employed on the anniversary of his death. But this was not the only way his cult had changed.55 Again, part of the story has to do with geography. One important facet of the extension of the commemorations to Zapata was their arrival and evolution in Mexico City. Commemorations had been held there on the day of his death since the late 1920s, sometimes in front of a house that he had occupied near the San Lázaro train station and sometimes at the Monument to the Revolution, which was built in the 1930s. In the late 1940s, the Frente Zapatista began to lobby for a monument to Zapata in the capital, preferably on Mexico City’s showcase boulevard, the Paseo de la Reforma. As a result of these efforts, in 1958 an equestrian statue was unveiled at Huipulco, in the southern part of the city.56

The Huipulco monument became a natural gathering point for the peasants of the Federal District, but the evolution of this ritual geography around Zapata may also have helped his myth engage members of the urban groups that grew rapidly as Mexico industrialized after 1940. In any event, Zapata was present—now in opposition to government policies—in the student movement of the late 1960s and among urban guerrillas of the early 1970s.57 In the years following 1968, there also seems to have been a more populist cast to the rhetoric of prominent speakers at the commemorations of Zapata in Cuautla. Probably permitted by national officials as part of an effort to appease students and others who were disillusioned by government policies and brutality, this rhetorical turn developed the old proposition of the “continuing revolution” into the stance that it had to continue because it had not yet gone nearly far enough to fulfill Zapata’s agrarian demands.58

Meanwhile, the grumbling had continued at Cuautla, as had the practice of observing Zapata’s death in Mexico’s provinces—in 1969 the CNC organized more than 20,000 commemorative acts.59 Undoubtedly, then, exchanges were occurring among several concurrent trends: the adoption of Zapata by urban protesters, commemorative rhetoric about the revolution’s agrarian failures, diverse and locally focused ceremonies in the provinces, and the critique by some Morelenses of the official Zapata.60 Whatever the precise configuration of these exchanges, a different Zapata began to appear at anniversary rituals in the early 1970s. April 10 became the occasion for ritual protest on the part of campesinos who were increasingly united and mobilized. In 1972 hundreds of peasants from Tlaxcala and Puebla marched on Mexico City to commemorate Zapata’s death. Thereafter, the practice of converging on regional and national capitals grew, with the result that in 1984 peasants organized by the Coordinadora Nacional Plan de Ayala arrived in Mexico City after having marched through eighteen different states.61

There was also discussion of moving Zapata’s remains to the Monument to the Revolution. At the Cuautla commemoration in 1971, a campesino was given the rare opportunity to speak when Facundo Salazar Solís took the podium— ostensibly “outside the program”—to propose the transfer. The CNC and the Frente Zapatista quickly backed the motion, and Zapata’s sons Mateo and Nicolás came to support it as well, despite their frequent disagreements with the regime. Not surprisingly, however, folks in Cuautla insisted that Zapata had wanted to be buried in Morelos, and in 1979 independent peasant organizations came out against the nationalization of Zapata’s body, arguing that it was unacceptable for it to rest next to that of Carranza, which had been placed at the monument decades earlier. The idea lost steam, but not before it had become obvious that everyone involved understood the political implications of the ritual geography.62 Instead, in the late 1980s the remains were placed beneath a new monument in Cuautla. This towering statue depicted Zapata alone, facing forward and propping up a gun with one hand and holding his famous Plan de Ayala, the 1911 document that expressed his demand for land reform, in the other. He looked much like a latter-day Moses—the Plan de Ayala replacing the Ten Commandments—but, as always, interpretations varied. “It doesn’t look like mi general”, complained one old man who claimed to have fought with Zapata, “it looks more like a mariachi.”63

Another location periodically proposed for Zapata’s bones was Chinameca. Commemorations there had slowly grown to rival those of Cuautla—apparently because many believed that the place of Zapata’s death was best suited to the observance of that event—and it was in Chinameca that the main ceremony took place in 1995.64 Given the spiraling crisis, President Ernesto Zedillo hoped to use the commemoration for some kind of symbolic damage control and so made the trip to Chinameca himself. Indeed, while every president since Manuel Avila Camacho (1940-46) has attended at least one anniversary celebration in Morelos, Zedillo and Salinas have been the most regular presidential participants. On this occasion, Zedillo was joined by many other prominent politicians at the national and state levels, as well as by Zapata’s three surviving children.

The parade no longer played a part in the main ritual, but there were, of course, the traditional speeches.65 After receiving what a Cuernavaca newspaper called an “effusive” reception from the campesinos, Zedillo spoke before a statue of Zapata on a rearing horse that had been placed at the precise spot where the Martyr of Chinameca had been shot. Calling for national unity, Zedillo promised a “permanent dialogue” with the peasants. He also promised that policies such as the Programa de Certificación de Derechos Ejidales (PROCEDE), through which both he and his predecessor, Salinas, sought to guarantee individual property rights within ejidos, would help make the countryside more productive. The governor of Morelos, Jorge Carrillo Olea, also spoke, insisting that Zapata’s legacy had to do with “the march of the great Mexican people” toward dignity and civil rights, and not with violence, destruction, and the defense of group interests as some people seemed to believe. Zedillo then boarded a helicopter bound for Guerrero, where he inaugurated a number of public works.66

Elsewhere, the tone of the 1995 commemorations was quite different, and the case of Oaxaca is enlightening. Located in southern Mexico, as is Chiapas, Oaxaca was also poor, heavily rural, and Indian, and was plagued by endemic land disputes—all of which made it fertile ground for the Zapata cult. These disputes were often between neighboring villages, reflecting the fact that Oaxaca was perhaps the most diverse and fragmented state in Mexico, with hundreds of separate municipal governments operating in localities differentiated by specific dialects of various Indian languages, as well as by other distinctive cultural and political traditions.67 In Oaxaca, as in other parts of Mexico, the state, the CNC, and the Frente Zapatista have long been at work sowing memories of Zapata, and the result has been a well-developed geography of commemorations that dates back at least to the 1930s.68 At these ceremonies Zapata has sometimes been used to bring together diverse villages in a way that might have laid the groundwork for the ritual protest that started in the 1970s. In 1965, at the Zapata commemoration in San Baltazar Chichicápam, for instance, the ejidal president of San Nicolás Yaxé called for “peace and concord” among the participating pueblos of Chichicápam, Yaxé, and Guilá.69

On April 10, 1995, Oaxaca governor Diódoro Carrasco Altamirano traveled to the town of Loma Bonita in the northeastern part of the state. There, in the Benito Juárez auditorium, he addressed three thousand people, including state functionaries, municipal authorities, and members of peasant organizations. He highlighted his participation in the agrarian transformation initiated by Salinas and continued by Zedillo and spoke of the need to resolve land conflicts between communities. He also made several promises about public works in the area, in accord with an increasing tendency among politicians to at least symbolically reach into government coffers to finance projects and thus display their commitment to revolutionary progress.70

Carrasco Altamirano added that he respected the right of people to “demonstrate respectfully” on the day of Zapata’s death. Surely he was thinking of what was then happening in the city of Oaxaca, where 15,000 peasants with ties to various organizations were marching to protest government policies. Around 10:45 A.M., approximately 6,000 members of the CNC arrived at Oaxaca’s monument to Zapata, located on Eduardo González Boulevard, where they left a floral offering and put in place a guard of honor. At least two cenecistas removed their hats and crossed themselves in front of Zapata’s image. Also present were several members of a nonofficial peasant group, who loudly criticized the CNC ritual. One of them yelled, “that’s an offense, not an offering.”71

After the CNC left, opposition groups began to arrive en masse. One participant, who wore a ski mask in imitation of the Chiapan guerrillas, embraced the Zapata statue and waved the national flag while hundreds of others—not just peasants but teachers as well—chanted against various government policies. These protestors removed the flowers of the CNC peasants, engaged in a ritual of their own that included more floral offerings, and then replaced the CNC’s offerings, but in a different arrangement. On the same day, peasants besieged the residence of the state government, shouting “Zapata vive, vive / la lucha sigue, sigue” (Zapata lives, lives / the fight continues, continues).72

Although security measures were taken, it was probably no coincidence that Carrasco Altamirano left for Loma Bonita rather than remaining to preside over a commemoration in the state capital, as was more customary. But he had to plan his escape route carefully because the city of Oaxaca was not the only place in the state where in 1995 the anniversary of Zapata’s death was a moment of protest. In Juchitán, on the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, members of the Coalición Obrera Campesina Estudiantil del Istmo (COCEI), militants of the Partido de la Revolución Democrática (PRD), oil workers, teachers, merchants, and others challenged the government’s economic policies by blocking roads and occupying banks and government offices.73 At the same time, in the district of Juxtlahuaca there was a march of five hundred members of the Frente Indígena Oaxaqueña Binacional, which was composed of migrant workers of diverse Indian ethnicity who demanded that the governor respond to a petition they had given to him during the previous year.74 Elsewhere in Oaxaca, and across Mexico, similar protests were occurring.

Ernesto Zedillo still sought to use Zapata to strengthen national unity, and Carrasco Altamirano apparently hoped to foster a sense of community among Oaxaqueños by linking Zapata to concrete rewards—or at least to the promise of such rewards—as had many politicians before him. It is clear, though, that in 1995 the most dynamic communities remembering Zapata were communities of protest. These protestors challenged the sense of order that the postrevolutionary state, and many ordinary citizens, had tried to instill in the commemorations. They even challenged the sacred nature of anniversary events—visible in the flowers and altars—if sacredness meant that those who honored Zapata had to be decorous no matter what they thought of government policies. In fact, the custodians of a more oppositional Zapata took advantage of the religious aura of the day: to some extent the commemorations had become protected arenas because Zapata’s symbolic weight required that the authorities be cautious about cracking down on protest.75

One intriguing line of inquiry into how the ongoing elaboration of Zapata’s ritual geography might have helped empower such protest springs from the two peasants who crossed themselves in front of his Oaxacan monument. Zapata’s myth has contained a religious element ever since some Zapatistas began to assert—soon after his death—that he did not die at Chinameca and would some day return. For years people reported seeing his white horse in the hills of Morelos, and Zapatista veterans sometimes gathered on April 10 to await his return and the justice it would occasion.76 Surely the fact that Zapata’s death occurred during the Easter season, and that his statue in Cuautla was built on the site of the fair held on the second Friday of Lent, reinforced the myth’s religious qualities.77

The Morelenses who argued that Zapata did not die at Chinameca put him in the context of a popular messianism that national politicians, who were often anticlerical, would not echo. Politicians were not averse, however, to resurrecting Zapata in their own, rhetorical, way. In 1921 Querétaro congressman José Siurob made his preference for metaphor, rather than messiah, obvious at the Cuautla commemoration. He began by telling the story of an Indian isolated in the mountains who refused to believe that Zapata had died. Then he volunteered his own interpretation: “Proletarians of Morelos, although you see that grave simply adorned with two trophies of death, Zapata has not died; he lives, and he will live as long as lands are being given to the humble in Morelos.”78

Since it seems to have been the state—instead of popular tradition—that brought Zapata to Oaxaca, we might presume that he arrived there cloaked in the rhetoric of a purely symbolic resurrection. But the behavior of those two men in front of his statue in 1995 hints that Siurob’s interpretation did not make a lasting impression on the popular Catholicism of Oaxaca’s peasants.79 What was at stake in these different ways of conceptualizing Zapata’s resurrection? When national politicians used religious imagery, they were hoping to inspire a “transfer of sacrality” to the secular ideology of nationalism.80 Peasants who contended that Zapata had survived Chinameca, on the other hand, were evidently placing their new secular hero into an old religious framework. The former, in other words, aspired to make Zapata a secular santo; the latter preferred to imagine him as a man-god in the tradition of Quetzalcóatl and Jesus Christ.81 Continuing in this vein, one might propose that the state’s Zapata—dead and only metaphorically resurrected—tended to be a defeated peasant consigned to the past.82 In 1924 Calles made sure to note, after all, that Zapata’s work was over. Zapata as a man-god who remained, in some less metaphorical sense, alive was of course a threat in the present.

But if by 1995 it was manifest that the state could not control how Zapata was remembered, ritual protest did emerge from within a national culture that protestors seemed to share with those they protested against. Though members of Oaxaca’s independent peasant organizations found fault with the CNC’s floral offering, they reused the CNC’s flowers and added flowers of their own. And so while demonstrations in Oaxaca constituted the symbolic capture of the city as the governor retreated, the word “symbolic” is critical. It was not a rebellion but, in essence, the acting out of a political position in the insistence that politicians negotiate more seriously and find a way to include the disillusioned in some national consensus about Zapata, the revolution, and the general direction of Mexican life. Indeed, the drive to negotiate was everywhere apparent. As Zedillo expressed his desire for dialogue in Chinameca, Chiapas celebrated the promise of future peace talks. In March, the Zedillo administration had given the EZLN an ultimatum that threatened the renewal of military action on the part of the state if the rebels did not agree, by April 10, to return to the bargaining table. But minutes before the start of this anniversary of Zapata’s death an accord was signed and the showdown averted.83


The state has had some notable successes with the Zapata cult. In appropriating Zapata as one way of reconstructing national community after a decade-long civil war that permitted local ideas of community to flourish, representatives of the state did much to make him into the founding father of the institutionalized revolution that he eventually became. The state was also effective in carrying this myth far beyond Zapata’s home territory, in the hope that it would serve as part of the glue that would hold the nation together.

But though the postrevolutionary government did use Zapata’s memory in a way that might have helped mystify and manipulate, Ilene O’Malley’s emphasis on state agency—at least in the case of this hero cult—seems misplaced. The state was not able to force its version of Zapata on the peasantry.84 Rather, the Zapata myth was a relatively unambitious part of the cultural project, which was often employed not with the idea of remaking rural Mexico—as socialist education was intended to do—but of propitiating it, at least in areas where agrarismo was strong. The cult began, after all, among the Zapatistas, whose memories of Zapata colored the way in which politicians came to think and speak of him. These Zapatistas were not simply trying to keep politicians honest about the facts of Zapata’s life, for the ways in which they remembered Zapata were not entirely ingenuous or authentic or apolitical. They were using Zapata to negotiate, and in general the myth of Zapata might be seen as a vehicle for negotiating—across ethnic, class, and cultural lines—the meaning of the revolution and the benefits it would have for different groups.

If there was never a time at which the new political elite could fully shape Zapata, then how can we explain the vast differences between the anniversaries we have examined? In 1924 the case seems relatively simple. Negotiations over Zapata’s meaning helped the state secure some legitimacy in Morelos, with considerable reinforcement from the land reform process that was taking place there. By 1950 negotiations were more complicated, in part because the coincidence of material rewards for peasants and the state’s use of the Zapata myth was now not nearly as great: Alemán attended the commemoration, but rural Mexico was being neglected as the country industrialized.

Here we might resort to the notion of “contradictory consciousness,” which suggests that political allegiances to different communities—or potential communities—can coexist.85 To be a valuable component of the government’s cultural project, the official Zapata did not have to convince everyone at all times. It merely had to mystify enough to keep people divided about what the relationship between the state and Zapata truly was and how or whether the memory of Zapata could be used to challenge government policies. Nor did this mystification have to win over minds completely to keep communities of protest from forming; it only had to foster a kind of cognitive dissonance through arguments, such as that of Jorge Carrillo Olea, that Zapata’s legacy was not about violence. While the presence of such dissonance is difficult to document, it seems to have existed in the comments of Pedro Martínez; it might also be extrapolated from the behavior of Ana María and Mateo Zapata, who have appeared at the Cuautla commemorations year after year alongside national and state politicians, despite their critiques of government policies.86 We might therefore speculate that in 1950 some of those who attended the commemoration were partially convinced by the state’s messages, despite the fact that the commemorative process also generated peripheral transcripts. In fact, it was in its ability to keep those transcripts peripheral that the success of the state’s Zapata could be measured.

To continue in this vein, ideas about Zapata’s political significance held by those who attended the commemorations in 1950 were evidently contradictory, while by 1995 a more decidedly oppositional consciousness was evident at rituals like those of Oaxaca. An alternative explanation would be that differences in behavior at the ceremonies in those two years had to do with changing strategies for negotiating material rewards rather than with developments in consciousness. People often behave in ways that are inconsistent with what they believe if they expect to profit from that behavior, and expectations about benefits did vary over time. In 1924 the promise of material rewards from the young revolution was considerable, and there was little or no dissent at the ceremony. In 1950 the bloom was off the revolutionary rose and more complaining could be heard, but Cardenismo was not yet a distant memory and ritualized exchanges about the allocation of resources proceeded in an orderly fashion. By 1995 recent history offered little hope, at least for peasants, that cooperating with the ruling party would lead to satisfactory benefits, and protest became a favored negotiating ploy. The trouble with removing consciousness from the equation, however, is that focusing exclusively on material rewards does not explain the existence of the cultural apparatus. If Zapata’s meaning was beside the point, why did the anniversary of his death become a moment of negotiation? Although it would be a serious mistake to lose sight of the practical considerations of the various participants in commemorations, what people thought about Zapata surely has some explanatory value.

In any event, contradictory consciousness draws us back to the geography of the commemorations and to the non-national communities that took shape around Zapata’s memory. In order to unite people, myths must be broad and ambiguous enough to be attractive to groups with different interests. But this flexibility means that they can be used in different ways, especially when they are rooted in new geographies and put into new ideological frameworks: Zapata as man-god rather than as secular santo. Given the suitability of the Zapata myth to peasant consumption, it is hardly surprising, then, that peasants—and, of course, others—made Zapata their own as he penetrated new localities and became part of a revolutionary layer of meaning that settled over past meanings, much as pre-Columbian religious landscapes had been dotted with Catholic shrines. In the decades between 1950 and 1995, peripheral transcripts gestated in Mexico’s geographical periphery until markedly different images of Zapata could be marched—or, in the case of the EZLN, e-mailed—back to local, state, and national centers of political power.

In documents composed for recent commemorations, the EZLN has developed a link between Zapata and Votán, who was, according to Tzeltal Indian myth, the first man to give land to indigenous peoples.87 Connected in EZLN writings to other national heroes—Miguel Hidalgo, José María Morelos, Vicente Guerrero—Votán-Zapata was the perpetual loser of Mexican history, who was able to transcend defeat because he found immortality in what was essentially a national community. “All of us,” a missive of April 10, 1995, read, “are one in Votán-Zapata and he is one in all of us.” But this national community was not completely inclusive. Rather, it was based on a rereading of Mexican history generated by conflict, much like those undertaken by previous rebels—leaders of independence and revolution alike—as they struggled to define Mexico. In this rereading, Zapata was at the center of a new creation myth for the nation that privileged the peripheral—the Indian and, in a broader sense, those who lived in “misery.” Excluded from this community were the powerful who, the EZLN asserted, wanted to “defeat and kill Votán-Zapata for good,” and had tried to do so in 1521 and 1919.88 While the ultimate impact of this alternative national project remains to be seen, the powerful certainly have failed if it was their aim to kill Zapata. Zapata instead took a winding path back to provincial, rural Mexico, where he has again been making national demands much as he did when he first began to intrude on Mexican consciousness in 1911.89

In tracing the trajectory of the Zapata myth across twentieth-century Mexican history, this article offers some suggestions about how the kind of intercourse between diverse political cultures that has recently begun to interest scholars might play out in the long term. If the postrevolutionary state found itself unable to reshape rural Mexico with programs like socialist education, the study of the Zapata cult indicates that the long-term prognosis for less ambitious aspects of the cultural project was also not entirely promising. Geography impeded government control of Zapata, and the state apparatus proved little more than a modest umbrella under which sundry memories of Zapata could flourish. Zapata’s myth was generated more by an amorphous and inclusive revolutionary process than by the relatively limited state. This is not to say that the state was particularly weak. It gained strength from Zapata and from the broader base of support he helped secure, strength that is reflected in the longevity of PRI rule. Moreover, it does seem that some enduring sense of national community took shape around Zapata, because even though in Chiapas he again adopted the guise, at least briefly, of a violent revolutionary, he remained the focus of negotiation. He was also, however, the focus of potential national projects distinct from that of the PRI.

In closing, a comparison may be useful. In Russia, statues of Lenin have recently been felled as another entrenched revolutionary party, and the system that perpetuated it, lost power. This is not likely to be the fate of monuments to Zapata.90 As the twentieth century draws to a close, Mexicans have learned to think with Zapata, not merely about him, and this would seem to promise that his posthumous career will be a long one.91

The research on which this article is based was funded by two summer research fellowships from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Earlier versions were presented to the Dirección de Estudios Históricos of the Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia in 1996, and at the 1997 meeting of the Latin American Studies Association. Thanks are due to many people, including Gil Joseph, Jonathan Amith, and the anonymous reviewers at the HAHR, Ruth Arboleyda, Roger Davis, Laura Espejel, Matt Esposito, Ben Fallaw, Javier Flores, Eitan Ginzburg, Emily Greenwald, David Lorey, Alicia Olivera, Anne Perry, Francisco Pineda Gómez, Elsie Rockwell, Salvador Rueda, Paul Vanderwood, and Mary Kay Vaughan.


For some examples of Salinas’s use of Zapata, see Lynn Stephen, “Pro-Zapatista and Pro-PRI: Resolving the Contradictions of Zapatismo in Rural Oaxaca,” Latin American Research Review 32, no. 2 (1997): 50-54.


Manú Dornbierer, El prinosaurio: la bestia política mexicana (Mexico City: Ed. Grijalbo, 1994), 169-70, 191. Alan Knight, “Weapons and Arches in the Mexican Revolutionary Landscape,” in Everyday Forms of State Formation: Revolution and the Negotiation of Rule in Modern Mexico, eds. Gilbert M. Joseph and Daniel Nugent (Durham: Duke Univ. Press, 1994), 64, contends that the PRI began abandoning the use of revolutionary symbols during the 1980s. This may be true in part, but I do not find the process so clear-cut.


See Florencia E. Mallon, Peasant and Nation: The Making of Postcolonial Mexico and Peru (Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1995), 220. To be precise, this is Mallon’s definition of a regional political culture, but it is clearly more broadly applicable.


Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 10th ed. (Springfield, Mass.: Merriam-Webster, 1993), 770.


For a recognition of myth’s communal aspect, see Enrique Florescano, “Prólogo,” in Mitos mexicanos, coord. Enrique Florescano (Mexico City: Aguilar, 1995), 9.


Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism, rev. ed. (New York: Verso, 1991), 6, defines nation as “an imagined political community—and imagined as both inherently limited and sovereign.”


Anderson, Imagined Communities, 4-12.


Octavio Paz, The Labyrinth of Solitude: Life and Thought in Mexico, trans. Lysander Kemp (New York: Grove Press, 1961), 142, 148.


Nora Hamilton, The Limits of State Autonomy: Post-Revolutionary Mexico (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1982), 7, defines the state as an entity “constituted by the civil and military bureaucracy, or state apparatus, on the one hand, and those having formal control of this apparatus, the government (constituted in various branches, levels, etc.), on the other.” For a definition that emphasizes that a state is not an especially coherent whole, that state formation is a continual process, and that the struggle for power that this process entails has much to do with political culture, see Mallon, Peasant and Nation, 9-10.


For the historiography, see Gilbert M. Joseph and Daniel Nugent, “Popular Culture and State Formation in Revolutionary Mexico,” in Joseph and Nugent, Everyday Forms of State Formation, 5-12; and Mary Kay Vaughan, “Remarks on New Cultural Approaches to Mexican Revolutionary Studies,” paper presented at the annual meeting of the Conference on Latin American History, New York City, 5 Jan. 1997.


Ilene V. O’Malley, The Myth of the Revolution: Hero Cults and the Institutionalization of the Mexican State, 1920-1940 (New York: Greenwood Press, 1986).


Alan Knight, The Mexican Revolution, 2 vols. (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1986). Twentieth-century revolutions that appear to be “popular” have, of course, produced authoritarian outcomes in a wide variety of contexts throughout the world.


See, for instance, Knight, “Weapons and Arches”; “Popular Culture and the Revolutionary State in Mexico, 1910-1940,” HAHR 74 (1994); and “Peasants into Patriots: Thoughts on the Making of the Mexican Nation,” Mexican Studies/Estudios Mexicanos 10 (1994).


Joseph and Nugent, Everyday Forms of State Formation; and William H. Beezley, Cheryl English Martin, and William E. French, eds., Rituals of Rule, Rituals of Resistance: Public Celebrations and Popular Culture in Mexico (Wilmington, Del.: Scholarly Resources Books, 1994).


For the contention that the state had achieved a measure of legitimacy by this time, see Mary Kay Vaughan, “The Construction of the Patriotic Festival in Tecamachalco, Puebla, 1900-1946,” in Beezley, Martin, and French, Rituals of Rule, 235-36.


Some of the inspiration for this geographical argument comes from the series of talks given by Richard White at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln in April 1996. On the workings of myth and ritual in Mexican localities, see William H. Beezley, Cheryl English Martin, and William E. French, “Introduction: Constructing Consent, Inciting Conflict,” in Beezley, Martin, and French, Rituals of Rule, xxix; Vaughan, “Patriotic Festival,” 214, 219; and James B. Greenberg, Santiago’s Sword: Chatino Peasant Religion and Economics (Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1981), 193.


On resurrected heroes, see Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces (New York: Pantheon Books, 1949), 143; and James C. Scott, Domination and the Arts of Resistance: Hidden Transcripts (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1990), 96-101.


Linda B. Hall, Alvaro Obregón: Power and Revolution in Mexico, 1911-1920 (College Station: Texas A&M Univ. Press, 1981), 203-48.


Linda B. Hall, “Alvaro Obregón and the Politics of Mexican Land Reform,” HAHR 60 (1980).


El Universal (Mexico City), 11 Apr. 1924; and Excelsior (Mexico City), 12 Apr. 1924.


El Universal, 11 Apr. 1924.


Excelsior, 10 Apr. 1924; and Obregón’s personal secretary to the director of the National Railroads of Mexico, Mexico City, 8 Apr. 1924, Archivo General de la Nación, Mexico City, Fondo Presidentes, Alvaro Obregón/Plutarco Elías Calles (hereafter cited as AGN-OC), exp. 205-Z-2. See also, in the same file, Rodrigo Gómez to Obregón’s personal secretary, Mexico City, 2 Apr. 1924. In 1923, at least, the Obregón administration helped fund the event; see Obregón to State Treasurer of Morelos, Mexico City, 29 Mar. 1923, AGN-OC, also in exp. 205-Z-2.


See David I. Kertzer, Ritual, Politics, and Power (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1988), 23, 29, for the European conventions of “royal entry” and “triumphal entry” into a given locality, both of which were intended to put power on display. On the symbolic occupation of Morelos by the nation, see Claudio Lomnitz-Adler, Exits from the Labyrinth: Culture and Ideology in the Mexican National Space (Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1992). 55-57.


See Clifford Geertz, The Interpretation of Cultures: Selected Essays (New York: Basic Books, 1973), 90.


In fact, there is scattered evidence to suggest that peasants may have agreed with official readings of revolutionary history. For the memory in one Morelos village in 1984 that the Zapatistas won the revolution and that Obregón ratified their land reform, see Joann Martin, Contesting Authenticity: Battles over the Representation of History in Morelos, Mexico (South Bend: Helen Kellogg Institute for International Studies, Univ. of Notre Dame, 1993), 13.


See Nemesio García Salcedo, “Ante la tumba de Zapata,” El Universal, 7 Apr. 1924; Excelsior, 3 and 10 Apr. 1924; and El Universal, 12 and 14 Apr. 1924.


Samuel Brunk, Emiliano Zapata: Revolution and Betrayal in Mexico (Albuquerque: Univ. of New Mexico Press, 1995), 171-225.


El Demócrata (Mexico City), 11 Apr. 1923; and Sergio Valverde, Apuntes para la historia de la revolución y de la política en el estado de Morelos, desde la muerte del gobernador Alarcón, pronunciamiento de los grates. Pablo Torres Burgos y Emiliano Zapata mártires, hasta la restauración de la reacción por Vicente Estrada Cajigal impostor (Mexico City: n.p., 1933), 245-55.


Oscar Lewis, Pedro Martínez: A Mexican Peasant and His Family (New York: Vintage Books, 1964), 108.


Lewis, Pedro Martínez, 101-2.


Thomas Benjamin, “La Revolución: Memory, Myth and History in Twentieth-Century Mexico,” unpublished manuscript; and David Lorey, “The Revolutionary Festival in Mexico: The Case of November 20 Celebrations in the 1920s and 1930s,” paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Historical Association, New York City, 5 Jan. 1997. Both authors note the orderliness of revolutionary celebrations in comparison to older patriotic festivals. William H. Beezley, “The Porfirian Smart Set Anticipates Thorstein Veblen in Guadalajara,” in Beezley, Martin, and French, Rituals of Rule, 186, discusses the drive of the Porfirian government for more orderly rituals. For a provocative exploration of how the pendulum has swung between order and disorder in Mexican history, see Paul J. Vanderwood, Disorder and Progress: Bandits, Police, and Mexican Development, 2d ed., rev. and enl. (Wilmington, Del.: Scholarly Resources Books, 1992).


Building on Calles’s Partido Nacional Revolucionario (PNR), Cárdenas created the Partido de la Revolución Mexicana (PRM). It was renamed the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI) in 1946.


On this regionalism, see Jeffrey W. Rubin, “Decentering the Regime: Culture and Regional Politics in Mexico,” Latin American Research Review 31, no. 3 (1996).


On Jaramillo, see Plutarco García Jiménez, “El movimiento jaramillista: una experiencia de lucha campesina y popular del período post-revolucionario en México,” in Morelos: cinco siglos de historia regional, coord. Horacio Crespo (Mexico City: Centro de Estudios Históricos del Agrarismo en México; Universidad Autónoma del Estado de Morelos, 1984), 301-10; and Donald C. Hodges, Mexican Anarchism after the Revolution (Austin: Univ. of Texas Press, 1995), 67. A corrido is a Mexican folksong.


For the quote, see Excelsior, 20 Nov. 1931. See also Excelsior, 31 Mar. 1965; and El Campesino (Mexico City), 1 May 1950. Published monthly, El Campesino was the official organ of the Frente Zapatista.


El Campesino, 1 May 1950; Excelsior, 11 Apr. 1950; and Roderic Ai Camp, Mexican Political Biographies, 1935-1981, 2d ed. (Tucson: Univ. of Arizona Press, 1982), 172. López Avelar would become governor of Morelos in 1958.


El Campesino, 1 May 1950. Spokesmen for Zapatismo had become great proponents of order in the years since 1924; see Carlos Reyes Avilés, Cartones Zapatistas (Mexico City: Dirección de Investigaciones Históricas y Asuntos Culturales, 1928), 63. In describing the parade of Zapatista veterans at the 1928 commemoration, Reyes Avilés proudly notes that some were armed because they played a role in keeping order in Morelos. See also the speech of Porfirio Palacios recorded in El Campesino, 1 May 1951.


El Campesino, 1 May 1950.


For the quote, see Lázaro Cárdenas to Governor of Aguascalientes Juan G. Alvarado, Mexico City, 1 Dec. 1937, Archivo General de la Nación, Mexico City, Fondo Presidentes, Lázaro Cárdenas (hereafter cited as AGN-LC), exp. 704/215. For another example of the conscious geographical broadening of the cult of Zapata, see Marjorie Becker, Setting the Virgin on Fire: Lázaro Cárdenas, Michoacán Peasants, and the Redemption of the Mexican Revolution (Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1995), 82. Magaña had been one of Zapata’s most prominent urban advisers, and in 1937 he was governor of Michoacán.


For an order, during the Cárdenas years, that local commemorations be held, see Oaxaca Nuevo (Oaxaca), 9 Apr. 1938.


El Campesino, 1 May 1950.


See Charles A. Weeks, The Juárez Myth in Mexico (Tuscaloosa: Univ. of Alabama Press, 1987), 37, for the elements of a commemoration for Benito Juárez in 1887.


For a more thorough analysis of the machismo and paternalism behind Zapata’s image, see O’Malley, Myth of the Revolution, 41-70.


For the recognition that these commemorations had a history, see Teódoro Hernández, “El XXX aniversario de la muerte de Zapata,” El Popular (Mexico City), 9 Apr. 1949, in the Biblioteca Nacional, Mexico City, Fondo Silvino González, newspaper clippings on Zapata.


For Cuautla during independence, see Brian R. Hamnett, Roots of Insurgency: Mexican Regions, 1750-1824 (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1986), 157-64.


Interview with Ana María Zapata, Cuautla, 29 July 1996; and Ana María Zapata to Miguel Alemán, Cuautla, 31 Mar. 1952, Archivo General de la Nación, Mexico City, Fondo Presidentes, Miguel Alemán (hereafter cited as AGN-MA), exp. 514/34132.


Comisariado Ejidal Joaquín Quintero et al. to President Miguel Alemán, Anenecuilco, Apr. 1952, AGN-MA, exp. 404.1/2979.


El Informador (Cuernavaca), 9 Apr. 1950.


On hidden transcripts, see Scott, Domination, xii, 14; on freedom of speech, see Daniel C. Levy and Gabriel Székely, Mexico: Paradoxes of Stability and Change, 2d ed. (Boulder: Westview Press, 1987), 91.


For two of several recent works that have called for conceptualizing the postrevolutionary state as a less centralized structure, see Claudio Lomnitz-Adler, “Ritual, Rumor and Corruption in the Constitution of Polity in Modern Mexico,” Journal of Latin American Anthropology 1 (1995); and Rubin, “Decentering the Regime”


Judith Friedlander, Being Indian in Hueyapan:A Study of Forced Identity in Contemporary Mexico (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1975), 153, notes that in Hueyapan, Morelos, a particular barrio was responsible for hosting the commemoration of Zapata’s death—because one of its streets was named for Zapata and another was called “10 de Abril”—just as barrios had long been responsible for holding celebrations in honor of their patron saints. For other examples of ritual geographies in Mexico, see Luz Jiménez, Life and Death in Milpa Alta: A Nahuatl Chronicle of Diaz and Zapata, trans. and ed. Fernando Horcasitas (Norman: Univ. of Oklahoma Press, 1972); John M. Ingham, Mary, Michael, and Lucifer: Folk Catholicism in Central Mexico (Austin: Univ. of Texas Press, 1986), 57-59, 122, 188; and Greenberg, Santiago’s Sword, 84. Two recent works dealing with the relationship between geography and memory elsewhere are Pierre Nora, dir., Realms of Memory: Rethinking the French Past, 3 vols., English language edition edited and with a foreword by Lawrence D. Kritzman, trans. Arthur Goldhammer (New York: Columbia Univ. Press, 1996-98); and Simon Schama, Landscape and Memory (New York: Knopf, 1995).


Geertz, Interpretation of Cultures, 338.


See El Campesino, 1 May 1955, for a description of conflict at Tlalchapa, Guerrero; and El Campesino, 1 May 1954, for events at Coyuca de Benítez in the same state.


Among the armed movements were the guerrillas of Lucio Cabañas and Genaro Vázquez in Guerrero, both of which used Zapata; see Hodges, Mexican Anarchism, 95, 102.


Excelsior, 11 Apr. 1996.


El Campesino, 1 Sept. 1949 and 1 Mar. 1956; Moisés González Navarro, La Confederación Nacional Campesina, un grupo de presión en la reforma agraria mexicana (Mexico City: B. Costa-Amic, 1968), 200; and Carlos J. Sierra Brabatta, Zapata: señor de la tierra, capitán de los labriegos (Mexico City: Departamento del Distrito Federal, 1985), 111-12, 121. On the Paseo de la Reforma, see Barbara A. Tenenbaum, “Streetwise History: The Paseo de la Reforma and the Porfirian State, 1876-1910,” in Beezley, Martin, and French, Rituals of Rule. This monument has since been moved farther south, to the Alameda del Sur at the intersection of the Calzada de las Bombas and Avenida Canal de Miramontes.


Hodges, Mexican Anarchism, 113, 129; and El Campesino, 31 Oct. 1971.


El Campesino, 30 Apr. 1969 and 30 Apr. 1971.


For the CNC’s commemorations, see Excelsior, 10 Apr. 1969. For more unhappiness in Morelos, see the editorials in El Eco del Sur (Cuautla), 10 Apr. 1966 and 7 Apr. 1968; and Polígrafo (Cuautla), 10 Apr. 1954 and 11 Apr. 1966.


On general interconnections between urban and rural movements during this period, see Hodges, Mexican Anarchism, 138.


Armando Bartra, Los herederos de Zapata: movimientos campesinos posrevolucionarios en México, 1920-1980 (Mexico City: Ediciones Era, 1985), 106, 153; and Excelsior, 11 Apr. 1977. Land invasions began to occur on April 10 as well. See, for instance, Víctor Raúl Martínez Vásquez, Movimientopopulary politica en Oaxaca (1968-1986) (Mexico City: Consejo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes, 1990), 143. Finally, for an insightful discussion of whether 1968 was truly a watershed in terms of the formation of social movements, see Alan Knight, “Historical Continuities in Social Movements,” in Popular Movements and Political Change in Mexico, eds. Joe Foweraker and Ann L. Craig (Boulder: L. Rienner Publishers, 1990), 94-95. Clearly, behavior at these Zapata rituals reflects significant change, at least by the early 1970s.


Salvador Rueda Smithers and Laura Espejel López, “El siglo xx: bajo el signo de Emiliano Zapata,” in Morelos: el estado, coords. David Moctezuma Navarro and Medardo Tapia Uribe (Cuernavaca: Gobierno del Estado de Morelos, 1993), 88; El Campesino, 30 Apr. 1971; Excelsior, 11 Apr. 1971 and Oct. 15-18, 1979; and El Nacional (Mexico City), 25 Aug. 1979. Moving Zapata’s body to Mexico City had been proposed as early as 1942; see Sierra Brabatta, Zapata: el señor de la tierra, 84. For a similar effort on the part of the nation to appropriate Pancho Villa’s remains, see Ana María Alonso, “The Effects of Truth: Re-presentations of the Past and the Imagining of Community,” Journal of Historical Sociology 1 (1988): 43.


For the quote, see Excelsior, 10 Apr. 1996; also, interview with Ana María Zapata, 29 June 1996.


Periódico Oficial (Cuernavaca), 10 Mar. 1965; Presente (Cuernavaca), 5 Apr. 1959; and Sierra Brabatta, Zapata: señor de la tierra, 89.


On the phasing out of the parade, see El Campesino, 30 Apr. 1971; and Polígrafo, 12 Apr. 1977.


Diario de Morelos (Cuernavaca), 10 and 11 Apr. 1995; Noticias (Oaxaca), 11 Apr. 1995; “Palabras del Presidente Ernesto Zedillo,” Chinameca, Morelos, 10 Apr. 1995, internet, http://www.quicldink.com/mexico/gobfed/zedill67.htm; and La Jornada (Mexico City), 11 Apr. 1995.


Philip A. Dennis, Intervillage Conflict in Oaxaca (New Brunswick: Rutgers Univ. Press, 1987), 5, 19, 51.


See, for instance, Oaxaca Nuevo, 9-11 Apr. 1938; El Campesino, 1 May 1954 and 1 June 1955; and Oaxaca Gráfico (Oaxaca), 10 Apr. 1962 and 9 and 11 Apr. 1969.


Oaxaca Gráfico, 11 Apr. 1965.


Noticias, 10 and 11 Apr. 1995. Though the trend grew over time, the inauguration of public works projects can already be seen in the 1920s; see Reyes Avilés, Cartones Zapatistas, 63. For previous rituals at Loma Bonita, see El Campesino, 1 June 1953 and 1 June 1954.


Noticias, 11 Apr. 1995.


Noticias, 10 and 11 Apr. 1995. Among organizations participating were the Comité por la Defensa de los Intereses del Pueblo (CODEP) from Putla, Tlaxiaco, and Juxtlahuaca; the Movimiento de Unificación y Lucha Triqui (MULT); the Organización Obrera Campesina Emiliano Zapata (OOCEZ); the Organizaciones Democráticas de Telixtlahuaca; the Comité Promotor por la Coordinadora de Organizaciones Populares (CPCOP); Section 22 of the Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores de la Educación (SNTE); and the Unión de Indígenas Zapoteco-Chinantecos ‘Emiliano Zapata’ (UIZACHI-EZ).


Noticias, 11 Apr. 1995. Much has been written about COCEI in recent years. See Jeffrey W. Rubin, “COCEI in Juchitán: Grassroots Radicalism and Regional History,” Journal of Latin American Studies 26 (1994); and Howard Campbell, Zapotec Renaissance: Ethnic Politics and Cultural Revivalism in Southern Mexico (Albuquerque: Univ. of New Mexico Press, 1994).


Noticias, 11 Apr. 1995.


This is not to say that in the 1990s there have been no efforts to control the ceremonies. In a personal communication in April 1997, Elsie Rockwell informed me that in 1994 the authorities had shut down a commemoration in Puebla. In 1996 campesinos from Tepoztlán, Morelos, who intended to confront Zedillo at a ceremony to be held in the town of Tlaltizapán, were met on the road by police. In the skirmish that followed, one protestor died and many were injured or arrested; see La Jornada, 11 Apr. 1996; and Carlos Monsiváis, “Crónica de Tepoztlán,” La Jornada, 15 Apr. 1996.


Alicia Olivera, “Ha muerto Emiliano Zapata? Mitos y leyendas en torno del caudillo,” Boletín del Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia, época II, 13 (1975): 48, 51.


On Lent celebrations in the Cuautla region, see Guillermo Bonfil Batalla, “Introducción al ciclo de ferias de cuaresma en la región de Cuautla, Morelos, México,” Anales de Antropología 8 (1971).


El Demócrata, 12 Apr. 1921.


For more on Zapata as messiah in Oaxaca, see Stephen, “Pro-Zapatista and Pro-PRI,” 48.


On “transfer of sacrality,” see Adrian A. Bantjes, “Burning Saints, Molding Minds: Iconoclasm, Civic Ritual, and the Failed Cultural Revolution,” in Beezley, Martin, and French, Rituals of Rule, 271. Bantjes borrows here from Mona Ozouf, Festivals and the French Revolution, trans. Alan Sheridan (Cambridge: Harvard Univ. Press, 1988).


Serge Gruzinski, Man-Gods in the Mexican Highlands: Indian Power and Colonial Society, 1520-1800, trans. Eileen Corrigan (Stanford: Stanford Univ. Press, 1989), 187, suggests that Zapata was the last man-god, though he does not compare well to the colonial man-gods that Gruzinski discusses.


See Guillermo Bonfil Batalla, México Profundo: Reclaiming a Civilization, trans. Philip A. Dennis (Austin: Univ. of Texas Press, 1996), 55, on the state’s tendency to present the Indian world as a dead one.


Excelsior, 10 Apr. 1995.


Friedlander, Being Indian, 153-59, also stresses state imposition.


On the Gramscian idea of contradictory consciousness, see Daniel Nugent and Ana María Alonso, “Multiple Selective Traditions in Agrarian Reform and Agrarian Struggle: Popular Culture and State Formation in the Ejido of Namiquipa, Chihuahua,” in Joseph and Nugent, Everyday Forms of State Formation, 239.


Geertz, Interpretation of Cultures, 120, argues convincingly that human beings move fairly easily between contrasting ways of understanding the world.


Stephen, “Pro-Zapatista and Pro-PRI,” 60.


For the quotes, see the Comité Clandestino Revolucionario Indígena, Comandancia General del Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional, “Votán-Zapata se levantó de nuevo,” 10 Apr. 1995, in Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional, EZLN: documentos y comunicados, 2 vols., prologue by Antonio García de León, chronicles by Carlos Monsiváis and Elena Poniatowska (Mexico City: Ediciones Era, 1994-95), 2:306-9. See also Comité Clandestino Revolucionario Indígena, Comandancia General del Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional, “Votán-Zapata,” 10 Apr. 1994, in Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional, EZLN: documentos y comunicados, 1:210-13.


It is conceivable that Votán-Zapata was largely the creature of EZLN intellectuals, some of whom, like Subcomandante Marcos, were not from Chiapas. At the same time, this notion was clearly based on a deeper history of Zapata in Chiapas, which included protest in his name. Votán-Zapata was, in other words, a product of regional history, even if he was also an intellectual construct. On Zapata’s role in Chiapan protest, see Bartra, Los herederos de Zapata, 122; and Excelsior, 11 Apr. 1983.


The difference may stem from the fact that while peasant memory of Lenin was conditioned by a popular “naive monarchism,” Lenin’s cult lacked the deep roots that came from Zapata’s peasant origins. See Nina Tumarkin, Lenin Lives!: The Lenin Cult in Soviet Russia (Cambridge: Harvard Univ. Press, 1983).


This notion is adapted from the insinuation by Carmen Nava, “Printed Mass Media Coverage of Patriotic Events, Brazil: 1940-1990,” paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Historical Association, New York City, 5 Jan. 1997, that people think with the nation rather than—or as well as—about it.