Emiliano Zapata



1. Canto General

“Emiliano Zapata” is one of Pablo Neruda’s “Canto General” poems. In this blog the Canto General poems used for the oratorio Canto General, composed by Mikis Theodorakis, are available in Spanish, Greek, German, French, English and Dutch. You can find them in the menu up here, and in submenus. Search for Canto General.

The poem “Emiliano Zapata” is about a Latin American Libertador, Liberator. I found very interesting information, and this deepens the effects of the composition, and the lyrics. Note: the lyrics in the oratorio are not always the same as the original poem.




Emiliano Zapata

When suffering increased
on the earth, and desolate wastes
of thorn were the peasants’ legacy
and as long ago, voracious
ceremonial beards and whips,
then flower and fire galloped….

Drunken I go
to the capital….

Then Zapata was earth and dawn.
On the circle of the horizon
his legion of armed seeds appeared.
In an attack over waters and borders
the iron spirings of Coahuila,
the starry stones of Sonora:
everything sped to his daring train,
to his agrarian tempest of horse hooves.

….if he leaves the ranch
he will soon return….
….ribbons for your hair
don’t cry for your Pancho….
….Drunken I go away
to forget….

We demand a fatherland for the humiliated.
You knife divides the inheritance
and bullets and war horses make
the torturer, the beard of the executioner, quake.
The land is parcelled out with a rifle.
Don’t expect, dusty farmer,
after the sweat of your brow, perfect light
and pieces of heaven in your lap.
Arise and rise with Zapata.

Mexico, unsociable farmland, beloved
country divided among the unknown:
out of swords of com
your sweaty centurions came and rose toward the sun.
From the snow of the South I come to sing your praises.
Let me ride to your destiny
and fill me with gunpowder and plows.

…. If you must weep
      why return….




2. Who is Emiliano Zapata?

When searching for photos and historical facts about Emiliano Zapata, I was, watching the photos, the paintings about him, in an uncomfortable way impressed by the intense, and hateful expression in his eyes, he looks as if he is drunk. When reading more, I understand that it was pain, intense deep pain, that created this expression. He was drowning in it.


I was not nicely affected by the in so many pictures showed belts with bullets, draped around his neck, his body, either. The gun, presented with proud. On the web, photos and paintings of Emiliano Zapata are mostly for sale for too much money to buy them for using here in my blog. I do not want to offer any place to hatred, weapons, not any murderer, even if there was obviously not left any other choice, on that moment, than killing (or to be killed, or to be a slave), but I made an exception here because it is needed to add historical facts to the information about Pablo Neruda’s poetry, and the music of Mikis Theodorakis: the Canto General.

To be able to understand Emiliano Zapata, and to respect the choice Pablo Neruda made for his Canto General, for creating a poem to Emiliano Zapata, and also to respect the choice Mikis Theodorakis made for choosing this poem for his Canto General Oratorio, one needs to know the history of Mexico (*3) and to read Emiliano Zapata’s biography (*4).



3. The history of Mexico

My aversion against violence changed into a total understanding the Mexican Revolución when watching a video documentary about the history of Mexico, the country where Emiliano Zapata lived. The video shows information about exact the same people who invaded also North America, who created genocides there among the indigenous Americans, but also in Nicaragua, Mexico, and took everything they stepped on with their feet. In my opinion it would be a blessing for entire Latin America if Trump’s wall is going to be a fact, to keep these invaders finally out, for ever, after they have offered back all they colonised: California, Texas, Nevada, Utah, parts of Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma and Wyoming.



4. Emiliano Zapata – biography


Born on August 8, 1879, Anenecuilco, Mexico, Emiliano Zapata was a Mexican revolutionary and advocate of agrarianism who fought in guerrilla actions during the Mexican Revolution. He formed and commanded the Liberation Army of the South, an important revolutionary brigade, and his followers were known as Zapatistas. Zapata died on April 10, 1919.

▪️Early Years

Born on August 8, 1879, Emiliano Zapata was orphaned at the age of 17. A revolutionary from an early age, in 1897 he was arrested because he took part in a protest by the peasants of his village against the hacienda (plantation) that had appropriated their lands. After he was pardoned, he continued to agitate among the peasants, and because of his rabble-rousing, he was subsequently drafted into the Mexican army. After serving for only six months, Zapata was discharged to a landowner to train his horses in Mexico City. In 1909 his leadership skills were already well known, and he was summoned to his village of birth, Anenecuilco, where he was elected as the village’s council board president.

▪️Early Agrarian Battles

A man of the people, Emiliano Zapata became a leading figure in Anenecuilco, where his family had lived for many generations, and he became involved in the struggles of the local peasant farmers. There were many conflicts between villagers and landowners over the continual theft of village land, and in one instance, the landowners set an entire village on fire in response to peasant protests. Zapata managed to oversee the return of the land from some haciendas peacefully, but it was an ongoing struggle. At one point, after failed negotiations, Zapata and a group of peasants occupied by force the land that had been appropriated by the haciendas and distributed it among themselves.

During this time, and for many years to follow, Zapata continued to faithfully campaign for the rights of the villagers, using ancient title deeds to establish their claims to disputed land, and then pressuring the governor of the region to act. Finally, in the face of the glacial pace of governmental response and the clear favoritism toward the wealthy plantation owners, Zapata started to use force, simply taking over the disputed land and distributing it as he saw fit.

▪️The Revolution Begins

Around this time, Mexican president Porfirio Díaz was being threatened by the candidacy of Francisco Madero, who had lost the 1910 election to Díaz but had subsequently fled the country, declared himself president and then returned to confront Díaz.

In Madero, Zapata saw an opportunity to promote land reform in Mexico, and he made a quiet alliance with Madero. Zapata was wary about Madero, but he cooperated once Madero made promises about land reform, the only issue Zapata truly cared about.

In 1910, Zapata joined Madero’s campaign against President Díaz, taking on an important role as the general of the Ejército Libertador del Sur (Liberation Army of the South). Zapata’s army captured Cuautla after a six-day battle in May 1911, a clear indication that Díaz’s grasp on power was tenuous at best. The battle was described as “six of the most terrible days of battle in the whole Revolution,” and it was clearly a clarion call to the Zapatistas. When Díaz’s men withdrew, Zapata’s forces took control of the town.  This defeat, paired with defeat at the First Battle of Ciudad Juárez at the hands of Pancho Villa and Pascual Orozco, led Díaz to determine that his time was up. A week later, he resigned and headed to Europe, leaving behind a provisional president.

Francisco Madero entered Mexico City in victory, and Zapata met him there to ask him to exert pressure on the provisional president to return misappropriated land to its original landowners, again returning to the cause most deeply embedded in his heart.

Madero insisted on the disarmament of Zapata’s guerrillas and offered Zapata money to buy land if he could ensure the disarmament. Zapata rejected the offer but began to disarm his forces regardless. He soon stopped the process, however, when the provisional government sent the military to confront the guerrillas.

▪️The Revolution Deepens: The Plan of Ayala

Following Zapata’s rebuff of Madero’s offer, relations between the two soured, and in the summer of 1911, Madero appointed a governor who supported plantation owners’ rights over those of the peasant farmers, angering Zapata. Attempts at compromise between the two fell flat in November 1911, days after Madero became president of Mexico, and Zapata fled to the mountains.

Disillusioned with Madero’s stances on land ownership and his post-revolutionary stances generally, Zapata prepared the Plan of Ayala, which declared Madero incapable of fulfilling the initial and ongoing goals of the revolution.

With the Plan of Ayala, the Revolution was renewed, this time with Madero in its sights instead of Díaz. The Plan promised to appoint a provisional president until there could be legitimate elections and pledged to buy back a third of the (stolen) land area held by the haciendas and return it to the farmers. Any hacienda that refused to accept this plan would have their lands taken, without recompense. Zapata also adopted the slogan “Tierra y Libertad” (“Land and Liberty”).

With Zapata’s Revolution an ongoing event, in 1913 General Victoriano Huerta  assassinated Francisco Madero and took control of the country. Huerta soon approached Zapata, offering to unite their troops, but Zapata rejected Huerta’s offer.

This prevented Huerta from sending his troops to confront the guerrillas of the north, who, under the direction of Venustiano Carranza, had organized a new army, led by Pancho Villa, to defeat him. Huerta was then forced to leave the country in July 1914. [source]

▪️Zapata’s death

Emiliano Zapata was invited by a military named Jesús Guajardo to a meeting on April 10, 1919: it was a well organised trap to assassinate Zapata. When Zapata arrived at the Hacienda de San Juan, in Chinameca, Ayala municipality, Guajardo’s men riddled him with bullets. [source]



4. Movie: “Zapata: El suiño del héroe”



5. Websites:



6. Videos







About "The Music of Mikis Theodorakis"

The blog "The Music of Mikis Theodorakis" started in 2010. The not-for-profit activities of the initiator were and are to collect, create and publish information about the MUSIC of the Greek composer Mikis Theodorakis via YouTube, Google+, Twitter, and this blog. Sources for this information are utterly strictly related with Mikis Theodorakis' Music only. The icon is a bouzouki. It is Greece's national symbol for freedom. During the Regime of the Colonels (Military Junta, 1967-1974) the bouzouki was forbidden. Mikis Theodorakis used this authentic Greek instrument in almost all his compositions, and Greeks were listening to Theodorakis's music in the underground scene, during the Military Junta time.
This entry was posted in Mikis Theodorakis, Music, Pablo Neruda, Poetry, Poltics, Songs of Resistance, South America and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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