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Emiliano Zapata and The Plan of Ayala

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Emiliano Zapata and The Plan of Ayala

Emiliano Zapata

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The Plan of Ayala (Spanish: Plan de Ayala) was a document written by Mexican Revolution leader Emiliano Zapata and his supporters in November of 1911, in response to Francisco I. Madero and his Plan of San Luís. The plan is a denunciation of Madero as well as a manifesto of Zapatismo and what it stood for. It calls for land reform and freedom, and would become very important to Zapata's movement until his assassination in 1919.

Zapata and Madero:

When Madero called for armed revolution against the Porfirio Díaz regime in 1910 after losing crooked elections, Zapata was among the first to answer. A community leader from the small southern state of Morelos, Zapata had been infuriated by members of the wealthy class stealing land with impunity under Díaz. Zapata's support for Madero was vital: Madero may never have dethroned Díaz without him. Still, once Madero took power in early 1911 he forgot about Zapata and ignored calls for land reform. When Zapata once again took up arms, Madero declared him an outlaw and sent an army after him.

The Plan of Ayala:

Zapata was enraged by Madero's betrayal and fought against him with both the pen and the sword. The Plan of Ayala was designed to make Zapata's philosophy clear and draw support from other peasant groups. It had the desired effect: disenfranchised peons from southern Mexico flocked to join Zapata's army and movement. It did not have much effect on Madero, who had already declared Zapata to be an outlaw.

Provisions of the Plan:

The Plan itself is a short document, containing only 15 main points, most of which are quite tersely worded. It denounces Madero as an ineffective President and liar and accuses him (correctly) of trying to perpetuate some of the ugly agrarian practices of the Díaz administration. The plan calls for Madero's removal and names as Chief of the Revolution Pascual Orozco, a rebel leader from the north who had also taken up arms against Madero after once supporting him. Any other military leaders who fought against Díaz were to help overthrow Madero or be considered enemies of the Revolution.

Land Reform:

The Plan of Ayala calls for all lands stolen under Díaz to be immediately returned: there was considerable land fraud under the old dictator, so a great deal of territory was involved. Large plantations owned by a single person or family would have one-third of their land nationalized, to be given to poor farmers. Any who resisted this action would have the other two-thirds confiscated as well. The Plan of Ayala invokes the name of Benito Juárez, one of Mexico's great leaders, and compares the taking of land from the wealthy to Juarez' actions when taking it from the church in the 1860's.

Revision of the Plan:

Madero barely lasted long enough for the ink on the Plan of Ayala to dry. He was betrayed and assassinated in 1913 by one of his Generals, Victoriano Huerta. When Orozco joined forces with Huerta, Zapata (who hated Huerta even more than he had despised Madero) was forced to revise the plan, removing Orozco's status as Chief of the Revolution, which would henceforth be Zapata himself. The rest of the Plan of Ayala was not revised.

The Plan in the Revolution:

The Plan of Ayala was important to the Mexican Revolution because Zapata and his supporters came to regard it as a sort of litmus test of who they could trust. Zapata refused to support anyone who would not first agree to the Plan. Zapata was able to implement the plan in his home state of Morelos, but most of the other revolutionary generals were not very interested in land reform and Zapata had trouble building alliances.

Importance of the Plan of Ayala:

 

At the Convention of Aguascalientes, Zapata's delegates were able to insist on some of the provisions of the Plan being accepted, but the government cobbled together by the convention did not last long enough to implement any of them.

Any hope of implementing the Plan of Ayala died with Zapata in a hail of assassins' bullets on April 10, 1919. The revolution did restore some lands stolen under Díaz, but land reform on the scale imagined by Zapata never happened. The plan became part of his legend, however, and when the EZLN launched an offensive in January of 1994 against the Mexican Government, they did so in part because of the unfinished promises left behind by Zapata, the Plan among them. Land reform has become a rallying cry of the Mexican poor rural class ever since, and the Plan of Ayala is often cited.

Source: McLynn, Frank. Villa and Zapata: A History of the Mexican Revolution. New York: Carroll and Graf, 2000.

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