Zapata, Emiliano (1877-1919) was a legendary Mexican revolutionary leader and agrarian reformer. Born in San Miguel Anenecuilco in Morelos State, an illiterate tenant farmer of almost pure Indian blood, he recruited an army of Indians from villages and haciendas in Morelos. Under the rallying cry Land and Liberty they joined the Mexican revolutionist Francisco Madero in the 1910 revolt against the Mexican soldier-statesman Porfirio Díaz.
Madero assumed presidency in 1911 however Zapata and his followers soon rejected Madero who failed to uphold his word. Zapata then formulated his agrarian reform plan; known as the Plan of Ayala. This plan called for the land to be redistributed among the Indians.
With the Mexican revolutionary general Francisco [Poncho] Villa, Zapata marched on Mexico City, entering it the first of three times in 1914. The following year Zapata withdrew to Morelos where, still resisting, he later was ruthlessly assassinated by an agent of Carranza, a lowly Mexican statesman.
Although regarded as a pillaging bandit by his enemies, Zapata was idolized by the Indians as a true revolutionary reformer and hero; his life has inspired countless legends, movies and books. Viva Zapatista!
Juarez, Benito Pablo (1806-72), national hero and president of Mexico (1861-63 and 1867-72).
Juarez was born of Indian parents on March 21, 1806, near the town of Oaxaca and was educated in law.
He became governor of the state of Oaxaca in 1847 but was imprisoned when the Mexican general Antonio de Santa Anna seized the national government in 1853.
He escaped to the U.S. but returned to Mexico in 1855 to take part in the revolution that overthrew Santa Anna.
Juarez became minister of justice in the newly established government and instituted a series of reforms that were embodied in the constitution of 1857.
In 1858 Juarez became provisional president after the outbreak of a revolt but soon afterward he was forced to flee the national capital, Mexico City, and established a new seat of government in Veracruz. He initiated a number of sweeping reforms, including the reduction of the civil power of the Roman Catholic church by confiscating ecclesiastical property. He defeated the opposing forces in 1860 and 1861 then established his government in Mexico City where he was constitutionally elected president.
After five years of civil war and facing economic chaos Juarez suspended payments to foreign creditors. France, Spain, and Great Britain intervened, and landed troops at Veracruz. Juarez reached a settlement with Great Britain and Spain; those countries withdrew from Mexico, but the French remained and captured Mexico City.
Maximilian, archduke of Austria, the puppet of Emperor Napoleon III of France, was crowned emperor of Mexico in 1864. Juarez then moved his capital to the north and continued military resistance until Maximilian’s government fell in 1867.
Juarez returned to Mexico City and was reelected president. Juarez died of apoplexy on July 18, 1872, in Mexico City. He is regarded as one of the greatest heroes in Mexican history.
Morelos y Pavón, José María (1765-1815), Mexican priest,
who led the independence movement after the execution of Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla.
Morelos was born in present-day Morelia, Michoacán. Ordained in 1797, he was a parish priest until he joined Hidalgo’s rebellion in 1810. Given a military commission, he soon gained control of a wide territory in central Mexico and by 1812 he was recognized as the leader of the rebellion.
He and his troops captured Acapulco in 1813. Later that year he sponsored the Congress of Chilpancingo, which issued a declaration of independence, promulgated a constitution. Morelos was appointed generalissimo of the insurgent government.
Royalist forces captured him in November 1815, convicted of heresy and defrocked by the Inquisition, he was then turned over to the church and executed.
Nezahualcoyote was the son of Ixtlilxóchitl, King of Texcoco from 1409 until 1418. Defeated in battle by Tezozómoc, Ixtlilxóchitl retreated to the jungle where his enemies pursued him. A valiant struggle ensued when he was found and he was killed in full view of
his young son, Nezahualcoyote, who was hiding in a tree. This heir to the throne of Texcoco
managed to escape the soldiers of Tezozómoc and found sanctuary across the mountains to the east.
As legend has it Tezozómoc had his soldiers ask every child in Texcoco, ‘Who is your king?’ When the little children answered either ‘Ixtlilxóchitl’ or ‘Nezahualcoyote,’ they were immediately butchered.
Several thousand children were put to death before parents taught their children to fear the name of Tezozómoc. In 1420, at the age of one hundred, Tezozómoc died and Nezahualcoyote came to rule the city of Texcoco until 1472.
To a considerable extent Texcoco’s strength was owing to the legacy of Nezahualcoyote. Not only was he renowned for his military exploits, Nezahualcoyote is recalled for his cultural refinement. Renowned for his philosophical verse, this “Poet King of Texcoco” was also a wise legislator and an impartial judge. In addition he was also an engineer who was instrumental in the construction of the great aqueduct, which brought water to Tenochititlán from the mainland and of a long dike across the lake.
He was a scholar and book collector, his Texcoco, “the Athens of Anáhuac,” had libraries housing thousands of manuscripts.
Nezahualcoyote died in 1472 and is remembered as one of the great Indian Kings.
Juana Inès de La Cruz (1651-95), Mexican poet and scholar.
She was born in San Miguel and largely self-educated. She learned to read at the age of three. In her teens, she served as a lady-in-waiting at the court of the viceroy of New Spain. She was renowned for her beauty, wit, intelligence, and learning. After several years, she abandoned her court lifestyle to become a nun.
As a nun, Juana de la Cruz studied theology, literature, history, music, and science. She wrote poetry that earned her the sobriquet “The Tenth Muse”. Her writings, comprising lyric and allegorical poems and religious and secular dramas, were published in Spain between 1689 and 1700.
Ignacio Zaragoza was the Mexican general commanding the Mexican troops in the battle against the French.
Shortly after the Spanish and British troops withdrew their armies from Mexico, the French army, began to march inland on its war of occupation. In Puebla a decisive battle was fought and won by General Zaragoza’a brave soldiers.
The dejected French invaders, many veterans from more glorious days in Crimea war, retreated to lick their wounds in Orizaba.
May 5 – Cinco de Mayo – would be added to the national calendar of holidays in honor of the great Mexican victory.
Mexicans won the battle of Puebla that day, the French returned a year later with thirty thousand fresh troops, and after encircling Puebla and reducing the city to rubble with heavy bombardment, finally captured Puebla.