Yes, he is, because almost everybody thinks he is. No Mexican historical character has achieved such a status, almost of a saint. Back in 1994, an indigenous revolutionary guerrilla called EZLN (National Liberation Zapatista Army) used his figure as a symbol of poor indians fighting oppressive whites. I was a government negotiator with them. But Zapata was by no means indigenous (he was mixed-race), by no means poor. He defended the rights of small landholders and, certainly, those of tenants to own land: "Land belongs to whoever works on it". In that sense, he came to symbolize champions of the destitute. What most people fail to grasp is that he was defending the colonial order, not the previous pre-hispanic one. And, without a doubt, he derailed Madero's peaceful democratic revolution by taking up arms the minute Madero began his presidency. In that sense, he betrayed the democratic movement and, as I said, caused a bloodbath. But my opinion is very much a minority.
--Previous Message-- : I'm actually finishing up reading Home, a sort : of companion novel to Gilead that recounts : the same events from a different (minor) : character's point of view. (Sort of what I : imagine Gregorius to be, except written by : the original author.) There is even a third : novel that gives yet another character's : point of view, but I will certainly read The : Underdogs before I read anything else. : : But I felt a need to post here. Zapata is : usually depicted as a Mexican hero to those : of us North of the Border. So he was not a : hero at all? : : --Previous Message-- : I finished it. Most Mexicans read this in : high : school, but somehow I didn't. I enjoyed it a : lot. As for the title, it's certainly hard : to translate. A literal translation would be : "The Ones Below", but indeed : "The Downtrodden", as Joffre : proposes, would work quite well. As it is, : "The Underdogs" is OK because the : "army" depicted in the novel is : rather far from the main action and is not : on the winning side in the end. : : A little historical background, in case it : is useful: In November 1910, Madero started : the revolutionary movement. After very : little fighting, in 1911, dictator Porfirio : Diaz left for France. Madero, after winning : elections, took power. But immediately, in : 1911, the very overestimated and indeed : treacherous hero Emiliano Zapata took arms : against Madero. Thus, what could have been a : peaceful revolution became a bloodbath of : another ten years. Madero sent the most evil : character in Mexican history, Victoriano : Huerta, to defeat Zapata, and then staged : (with the help of the American ambassador : Henry Lane Wilson) a coup d'etat, assumed : power, and had Madero assassinated. This put : everybody in arms, from Pancho Villa to : Carranza, both in the North. : : The novel starts precisely when the former : original revolutionaries are fighting the : counter-revolution of Huerta. So, the novel : takes place between 1913 and 1915, possibly : the most chaotic period of the entire civil : war. We'll discuss it later on, but one : outstanding fact of the book is that : Azuela's characters are never very sure : which side they're fighting on, who they're : fighting against, and what's happening. The : main political point is that most : revolutionaries did not revolt in favor of : any ideals, causes, or principles; not even : in terms of national causes, but only out of : very local, very personal motives, like : hating the oppressive landlords. Many of : them (though by no means all) were basically : rascals and other guys who had pending : counts with justice. They soon become as : brutal, greedy, and murderous as the : previous regime. One sentence by character : Luis Cervantes shocked me deeply: it seems : to be prescient of the current state of : affairs in Mexico: "Perhaps we had : overthrown a murderous tyrant to empower : twenty thousand". : :