*Includes online resources and a bibliography for further reading
"Pancho Villa," people whispered at the beginning of the 20th century, "can march 100 miles without stopping, live 100 days without food, go 100 nights without sleep, and kill 100 men without remorse." The legend of Francisco Villa is full of heroism, tragedy and romance. It is the story of a poor farmer boy who became a bandit out of necessity, after avenging an injustice on his family; a military genius who flew from an oppressive government to lead the largest revolutionary army in his country's history, and defeated dictatorship to become Mexicós liberator, only to fall again in disgrace when his troops abandoned him or were massacred by the enemy. Pancho Villa and his cavalry, Mexicans point out with a certain amount of pride, invaded the United States, and although they came and tried to capture him, they never found him. This is, at least, the version that most of them know, but it's certainly not the same as in their textbooks. The story of Francisco Villa bypassed official censorship from generation to generation, like leaves sailing at full speed on the surface of a stream.
But the historical reconstruction is full of nuances. Was he a freedom fighter, or a bandit? Was he a Mexican Robin Hood, or a thief and a murderer? Was he present when his troops invaded U.S. territory? Was the advance of his famous "Dorados" (the "golden ones," the name of his troops) the cause for joy, or terror among the people as they passed the countryside towards Mexico City? Pancho Villás personality has been controversial since the very beginning of his career as a General of the revolutionary army.
A little more than 100 years ago a Mexican peasant named Emiliano Zapata gathered a rural army from the plantations and villages of southern Mexico, seized the lands of the haciendas, and began to distribute them among the peasants of Anenecuilco, his hometown, in the state of Morelos. Outraged and impatient with the ceaseless destitution of the indigenous peoples at the hands of the landowners, he had decided to take justice in his hands. His flag was Liberty and Justice, the exact opposites of the two burdens that had tyrannized the rural population: work in semi-slavery conditions and immense inequality.
Zapata, who in a few years assembled a popular army of 25,000, was a unique case in the history of Mexico. His country's past had consisted of opportunist generals revolting against the government seeking not to make justice, but to seize power. Conversely, Zapata was not interested in politics or power plays, except in their most practical and immediate form: to distribute land among the peasants; to allow them to work in peace; and to defend their gains by force of arms. Thus, it was only inevitable that in his time, he was seen as a menace, someone to get rid of in order to return to peace and order.
Nearly a century after his death, Zapata remains an opaque figure. To call oneself a Zapatista in Mexico can get a person in trouble, yet he led one of the peasant rebellions most studied by scholars. Historians have produced biographies that portray him as a hero, such as John Womack in the 1960s, and that of his successor and closest aide, Gildardo Magaña, who wrote one shortly after Zapata's death. More meticulous books have appeared in recent past, like the one by Samuel Brunk, who concedes that the press may have exaggerated Zapata's exploits, but not completely.
Pancho Villa and Emiliano Zapata: The Lives and Legacies of Mexico's Most Famous Revolutionaries chronicles the lives of two of Mexico's most legendary figures. Along with pictures of important people, places, and events, you will learn about Pancho Villa and Emiliano Zapata like never before.