Emiliano Zapata-Revolutionary Defender of the Commons

Zapata was one of the two the most famous leaders of the Mexican Revolution, the other being Pancho Villa. Zapata was paid much lip but his revolutionary ideas are ignored by those who inherited the power won in the Revolution. Zapata's 'revolution as defence of the nation' is still a vibrant force in rural and indigenous Mexico today.

Zapata's Liberation Army of the South did not accept the new government, the Zapatistas fought on. The Zapatistas demanded 'tierra y libertad' - land and freedom - for their people. This was the core of Zapata's 'Plan de Ayala', clearly influenced by anarchist ideas, Zapata and his followers demanded the socialisation of land.

"The lands, forests and water that have been usurped ... will be immediately restored to the villages or citizens who have title to them ... Because the great majority of Mexicans own nothing more than the land they walk on ... one third of these properties will be expropriated ... so that the villages and citizens of Mexico may obtain ejidos , sites for towns, and fields." - Emiliano Zapata

A lot has changed in our world during the last 100 years, but Zapata's memory, like his ghost, rides on in Mexico. His name has been invoked by the indigenous rebel army in Chiapas, the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN), in their struggle against exactly the same social ills that Zapata fought against: large landlords and (often foreign-owned) big business running a corrupt and repressive régime that leaves the peasants, particularly indigenous peoples, landless and exploited. Throughout this century, people all over the world have risen up against oppression, taking heart from Zapata.

On 1 January 1994 the EZLN seized power in parts of Chiapas, southern Mexico, calling for the reforms Zapata had fought and died for. Forty thousand federal troops still surround the revolutionaries. The struggle of the indigenous and oppressed people of Mexico has never ceased and the EZLN have captured the imagination and support of many