All summer long we have been reading and writing about the Mexican Revolution and its effects on the country of Mexico. My only personal experience with Mexico is traveling to border towns over the course of the past 20 years. Going to border towns in most countries one cannot gauge a countries history or significant events through the endless tourist trap stores. Mexico for me was quite different in that I was always able to find pictures, shirts and artwork of Pancho Villa, and Emiliano Zapata in the shops Tijuana, Nogales, and Ciudad Juarez. For someone with no knowledge of these men it may go unnoticed, but I knew who there were. Because of this class it brought back these memories of seeing these “souvenirs” of these revolutionaries. Throughout the summer reading more in depth on the Mexican Revolution and its interjection into the fabric of Mexican heritage it became evident why people such as Villa and Zapata are still revered. Compare how the Mexican people view Villa and Zapata to how Americans view American revolutionaries of Benjamin Franklin, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. For many in America relating to these men is nonexistent, and offers little impact of relevance. In Mexico it seems so many can relate and find relevance in Villa and Zapata. Quite possibly the relative closeness in time has something to do with this, but I would argue their message that they centered their fight on was based on the people. Because of this, people in Mexico and around the world continue to hold dear their memory by offering their images as a way to keep their vision and honor their legacy. Compare this with the border towns on the United States side. Are stores selling t-shirts with Franklin, Washington, and Jefferson?
In the United States honoring “revolutionary fathers of the country” such as, Washington, and Jefferson are a part of the landscape in Washington D.C. and found in countless place names around the country. In Mexico men such as, Pancho Villa, Emiliano Zapata, Francisco Madero, and Lázaro Cárdenas are immortalized and revered at the Monumento a la Revolución in Mexico City. The placement of the monument in the Plaza de la República serves as a prominent feature on the landscape of the city. The immense size of 220 ft in height is imposing and gives an immediate sense of importance. Another important aspect is this monument is the final resting place for the heroes of the Mexican Revolution. Honoring these men at the monument is a way to bring them to the people and helps continues their relevance for the people of Mexico.
Samuel Brunk’s book The Posthumous Career of Emiliano Zapata inspired me to further investigate Zapata’s affect on modern political music. In the introduction Brunk interjects a personal favorite of mine, the band Rage Against the Machine into the discussion. It reminded me of a Rage Against the Machine concert shirt I had, with Zapata on the front and a quote from him on the back that read, “Tierra, Justicia y Ley!.”
Even though Emiliano Zapata was killed on April 10, 1919 his message still lives on through music. A Google search of Emiliano Zapata songs listed about 182,000 results, which is amazing. Almost a hundred years after his death, who would of thought his vision would be carried on by musicians from around the world? Fortunately it has been carried on by musicians in an effort to inspire and resist brutality and decimation by horrible ruling regimes. An aspect that cannot be overlooked is the types of music Zapata’s message is included. You can here his message in funk, reggae, metal, rap, and rock. Even more amazing is the home countries of the bands including Zapata into their lyrics. As mentioned Rage Against the Machine is from the United States, Australian band Midnight Oil, Swedish band ABBA in their song “Fernando” and countless other artist from Spain, Mexico, France, Finland, Italy and Germany to name a few. Why was the message of Zapata used in such a manner worldwide? For many Zapata promotes a message of action against oppressors, he is the David to the ruling powers Goliath. He is a man of the people, not an overlord of the people and land. His relation to the individual is understood in the his fight for freedom and land preservation for those in peril. Zapata’s message is universal, you do not have to be Mexican to understand it and with so many musicians around the world utilizing what he personified it shows it can be applied all around the globe.
On page 141 of The Mexican Revolution 1910-1940 by Michael Gonzales there is a picture of a child revolutionary (picture below).
This picture was intriguing and led me to research more about the children of the Mexican Revolution. Throughout world history there are groups of people that are dismissed or omitted by historical record that played important roles. The Mexican Revolution was no different. For many, when people envision revolution or war, those who were the ones firing the weapons are at the forefront of historical record. In many instances women and children are the forgotten about entities involved in the devastation and upheaval. Surprisingly and thankfully there was quite a bit of research and published material on these children, but there is a renewed emphasis to try and preserve photographs, stories, and accounts of the children’s role and life during the Mexican Revolution.
What needs to be remembered about the children of the Mexican Revolution was there inclusion into the horrors of conflict. For many children their involvement was due to their mothers being involved by being in a support role for their men or in a fighting role. Because of this close interaction with conflict these children were soldiers, caretakers, and instrumental in the military affairs of both sides of the revolution. Children were also victims of the revolution with countless being killed. For children during the Mexican Revolution it was damned situation to be in. If you were able to survive it was hard and full of struggle, not suitable for a child. The alternative a death was realistic and common. To be a child in the Mexican Revolution was a horrible circumstance, which cannot be understated.