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Emiliano Zapata was a leading figure in the Mexican Revolution (1910–1920), during which he formed and commanded the Liberation Army of the South, an important revolutionary brigade. Followers of Zapata were known as Zapatistas.
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The battle was described as "six of the most terrible days of battle in the whole Revolution,” and it was clearly a clarion call to the Zapatistas. When Díaz’s men withdrew, Zapata’s forces took control of the town. This defeat, paired with defeat at the First Battle of Ciudad Juárez at the hands of Pancho Villa and Pascual Orozco, led Díaz to determine that his time was up. A week later, he resigned and headed to Europe,
leaving behind a provisional president.
Francisco Madero entered Mexico City in victory, and Zapata met him there to ask him to exert pressure on the provisional president to return misappropriated land to its original landowners, again returning to the cause most deeply embedded in his heart.
Madero insisted on the disarmament of Zapata’s guerrillas and offered Zapata money to buy land if he could ensure the disarmament. Zapata rejected the offer but began to disarm his forces regardless. He soon stopped the process, however, when the provisional government sent the military to confront the guerrillas.
Following Zapata’s rebuff of Madero’s offer, relations between the two soured, and in the summer of 1911, Madero appointed a governor who supported plantation owners’ rights over those of the peasant farmers, angering Zapata. Attempts at compromise between the two fell flat in November 1911, days after Madero became president of Mexico, and Zapata fled to the mountains.
Disillusioned with Madero’s stances on land ownership and his post-revolutionary stances generally, Zapata prepared the Plan of Ayala, which declared Madero incapable of fulfilling the initial and ongoing goals of the revolution.
With the Plan of Ayala, the Revolution was renewed, this time with Madero in its sights instead of Díaz. The Plan promised to appoint a provisional president until there could be legitimate elections and pledged to buy back a third of the (stolen) land area held by the haciendas and return it to the farmers. Any hacienda that refused to accept this plan would have their lands taken, without recompense. Zapata also adopted the slogan "Tierra y Libertad" ("Land and Liberty").
With Zapata’s Revolution an ongoing event, in 1913 General Victoriano Huerta assassinated Francisco Madero and took control of the country. Huerta soon approached Zapata, offering to unite their troops, but Zapata rejected Huerta's offer.
This prevented Huerta from sending his troops to confront the guerrillas of the north, who, under the direction of Venustiano Carranza, had organized a new army, led by Pancho Villa, to defeat him. Huerta was then forced to leave the country in July 1914.
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