Reflections on the Importance of Villa and Zapata & the Monumento a la Revolución

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.

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Zapata After Death in Song

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!.”

zapata shirt

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.

 

   

Children of the Mexican Revolution

On page 141 of The Mexican Revolution 1910-1940 by Michael Gonzales there is a picture of a child revolutionary (picture below).
child revolutionary

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.

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mex revolutionary boy

 

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Pancho Villa, The Mexican Revolution and Marijuana

I was looking up some information on Pancho Villa and I came across this article.

Pancho Villa, The Mexican Revolution and Marijuana.

With a title like this how could you not open and read it?  Fascinating aspects of this article stem from the soldiers Villa counted on to fight.  The Yaqui Indians were part of his militia and because of their propensity of smoking marijuana as part of their cultural identity this was an aspect of Villa’s fighting contingent.  In addition the article promotes the notion of Villa smoking marijuana before battle to become “max valiante” (more valiant).  Kind of fun to think about Pancho Villa smoking marijuana before going into battle.  I guess whatever it takes. go Pancho!

Hope you all enjoy!

Gonzales Chapter 1

 

In reading this chapter of The Mexican Revolution 1910-1940 by Michael Gonzales it is clear Porfirio Díaz was quite the busy dictator of Mexico doing everything to centralize his power and control of the country and its people.  Gonzales in this chapter presents the situation in Mexico under Porfirio Díaz in a general manner to set up the rest of the book without bogging the narrative down.  In order to do this he tried and did about everything possible to garner support from most, especially those with the financial means to continually prop up his rule.  He did not discriminate when it came to foreign investors or other governments.  He would easily play American investors no differently than English or French investors.  Díaz not only had foreign investors such as Andrew Carnegie or Lord Cowdray wanting to rub shoulders with him, but he had foreign governments willing to overlook some of his more repressive, self-serving policies.  When you have Theodore Roosevelt declare in front of you that you “are the world’s greatest living statesman” (Gonzales, pg. 5) it just validated your ways and other powerful countries were supportive of your rule.  As with today, for any foreign leader to be pictured with an American president serves a number personal and public validations and for Porfirio Díaz this was true as well.

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Porfirio Díaz and President Taft 1909

Not having to worry about other countries, especially the powerful neighbor to the north interfering to bring your rule down was important to maintaining power.  If Díaz’s rule would end it would have to come from within.  This would eventually take place only after years of control and changing the dynamics of Mexico socially, industrially and politically.  

As with any driven leader the goal was to stay in power for as long as possible.  I call it the “good to be king syndrome,” which infects many politicos, regardless of place in the world.  Porfirio Díaz was no different in this regard.  In order to do this he needed to accept 19th century liberalism, economic policies, social and religious policies to align Mexico with other industrialized countries of the world.  He also needed to reign in the propensity of American investors from totally running through Mexico buying everything like a kid running through a toy store.  In order to do this he first and foremost needed to consolidate his political power across the board in Mexico.  To do this it was not beneath him to venture into shady policies and placing people in positions of power who were in line and close to him personally.  Controlling a country for Díaz meant being in complete charge of all dealings within its borders and not having control would weaken at the very least his grip on Mexico.  A major part of a dictator maintaining control and one that cannot be overlooked is how a dictator handles the military.  For Díaz, the military was a concern to his rule.  As Gonzales points out, “during the course of his dictatorship, he cut the size of the army from 30,000 to 14,000 men and the number of generals by 25 percent.  In addition, the president gradually replaced most military governors.” (Gonzales, pg. 17)  Of course the generals who would remain were known to be extremely loyal to the Díaz regime and from his perspective would pose no internal or military threat against his rule.

 

Díaz and his goals of supreme rule over Mexico not only dealt with controlling the military, but also delved into the economics of Mexico. He understood another way to maintain power was to improve the economic conditions of the country.  If people were happy economically they would never want to replace him.  To do this the country went on a spree of projects designed to help the country economically.  These would include a massive undertaking of adding thousands of kilometers of railroad track.  A total of “24,560 kilometers of track were laid between 1880 and 1910.” (Gonzales, pg. 21)  Adding kilometers of track would enable the expansion of trade to the United States and to increase products that could go to the Mexican ports more quickly.  All the track added also led to expansion of not only agricultural production, but mining production as well.  The ability to transfer products and materials more quickly was instrumental in taking Mexico forward economically and industrially.  An effect of raising the internal transportation standards in Mexico helped bring about the revolution of 1910.

As Mexico became more accessible, Díaz became overly chained to outside interests investing heavily in the country.  The over reliance of outside conglomerates can be seen by the rise in commercial farms and land being controlled by foreign investment.  As more and more foreign entities were doing business in Mexico the people, particularly the peasant class was being squeezed from all sides.  They were displaced, overworked, underpaid and one could say trampled upon by the policies and rule of Díaz.  When the majority of people are feeling misery it is only a matter of time before the people rise and fight against the powers at be.  Mexico was no different in this regard.  The policies of Díaz directly contributed to the revolution and the rise of characters like Emiliano Zapata, and Francisco Modero.

Gonzales, Michael J. The Mexican Revolution, 1910-1940. Albuquerque: U of New Mexico, 2002. Print.