Peasant rebellions have sparked across the Mexican countryside throughout history. The most famous were those led by Ernesto Zapata in the early 1900s. Zapata’s legacy and inspiration continue to this day in the form of the ELZN, or Zapatista movement, responsible for the Chiapas uprising in 1994. The movement often invokes Leftist or Communist heroes such as Che Guevara. The First Declaration of the ELZN in 1993 stated:
We are a product of 500 years of struggle: first against slavery, then during the War of Independence against Spain led by insurgents, then to avoid being absorbed by North American Imperialism, then to promulgate our constitution and expel the French Empire from our soil…
they… use us as cannon fodder and pillage the wealth of our country. They don’t care that we have nothing, absolutely nothing, not even a roof over our heads – no land, no work, no health care, no food or education. Nor are we able to move freely and democratically elect our political representatives, nor is there independence from foreigners, nor is there peace nor justice for ourselves and our children… But today, we say enough is enough.
Zapatista movements also seek to break the power of the PRI, built up over time with the placement of local officials who often used the patronage system to alternately placate and subjugate peasant populations.
Next: Inside Mexico: Rural Life: Rural Anti-Poverty Programs