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EDITOR IN CHIEF- ABDULLAH BIN SALIM AL SHUEILI

Mexico torn over Zapata’s legacy, 100 years on

Jean Luis ARCE -


Protests erupted on Wednesday at commemorations to mark the 100th anniversary of the death of Mexican revolutionary Emiliano Zapata, underlining how divisive the mustachioed peasant leader remains a century later. Zapata, one of the main leaders of the Mexican Revolution, which broke out in 1910, was killed in an ambush by a rival revolutionary faction, leaving his struggle for the rights of indigenous Mexicans and peasants unfinished.


It remains unfinished to this day, according to many of those who see themselves as his heirs — including the Zapatista National Liberation Army, or Zapatistas, a former rebel group that staged a brief but bitter uprising against the Mexican government in the 1990s.


To make their point, the Zapatistas led a noisy protest on the sidelines of the commemorations in Chinameca, the small town where Zapata was assassinated, in the central state of Morelos.


Hundreds of protesters shouted anti-government slogans as Zapata-themed floats paraded by and young students marched beside them in the garb of Zapata’s guerrillas: broad-brimmed sombreros and farmers’ shirts, with red handkerchiefs around their necks and bandoliers of bullets across their chests.


The protesters then set up a stage and read out a series of diatribes against President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador. Lopez Obrador, an anti-establishment leftist, sees himself as a defender of Zapata’s legacy and has declared 2019 “The Year of Zapata.”


But he has alienated the Zapatistas with his plans for mega-infrastructure projects they say will damage the environment and infringe on indigenous land rights, including a railroad across southern Mexico and a new gas-fired power plant in Morelos, Zapata’s home state.


“We know this government, like all the country’s previous bad governments, wants to hijack the image of Emiliano Zapata Salazar so his struggle for land rights will die along with him,” said indigenous activist Marichuy Patricio, reading out a message from “Sub-Commander Moises,” the current leader of the Zapatistas.


If Zapata were alive today, “there would be a huge fight. He would not march alongside” Lopez Obrador, said Irving Sanchez, 30, who bore a long black mustache that he called a tribute to the late revolutionary. — AFP


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