Friday, September 28, 2012

Letter from Emiliano Zapata to the President of the US

Letter from Emiliano Zapata to Woodrow Wilson,
President of the United Sates

General Headquarters of Yautepec, Morelos
August 23, 1914.


 
Mr. Woodrow Wilson,
President of the USA. UU. of America. Washington.

Dear Esteemed Sir:

I have seen in the press statements you made regarding the agrarian revolution which for four years has been developing in this Republic, and with great surprise I became aware that in spite of the distance you have accurately understood the causes and aims of the revolution which has increased especially in the South of Mexico, a region which has had to suffer the most from acts of dispossession and extortion by the large landholders.



That conviction that you sympathize with, the agrarian emancipation movement, leads me to explain to you regarding the facts and background of the press in Mexico City, which being dedicated to serving the interests of the rich and powerful, has always worked to deface with infamous calumnies before the rest of America and the world in order that the deep significance of this great proletarian movement would never become known.

I'll start by pointing out to you the causes of the revolution that I lead.



Mexico is still today is a country in full feudal epoch, or so it was at the outbreak of the 1910 revolution.

A few hundred landowners have monopolized all the arable land of the Republic, from year to year they have been increasing their domains, which in order to accomplish they have had to strip the people of their ejidos or communal fields, and their modest parcels of individual inheritance.  There are cities in the State of Morelos, for example Cuautla, which are lacking even land needed to dispose of their garbage, land which is rightly required for the development of the population.

So it is that the landowners, by dispossession upon dispossession, today with this pretext, tomorrow with another, have been absorbing all properties that rightfully belong to and from time immemorial have belonged to the Indigenous Peoples, lands from whose livelihood and culture the Indigenous Peoples have drawn sustenance for themselves and their families.

To realize this extortion, the land barons have used legislation which has been elaborated under their influence that has allowed them to take over vast tracts of land, with the pretext that these lands are idle, or not protected by legally correct titles.

In this manner, aided by the complicity of the courts and even worse acts of the sort, such as false imprisonment or forced consignment into the military, the small landholders are robbed, and the great land barons have become sole owners of the entire country.  The Indigenous Peoples now disposed of their lands, have been forced to work on plantations for low wages and are forced to endure the extreme mistreatment of the landowners and their stewards or overseers, many of whom, being Spanish or the children of Spanish parents, consider that they are entitled to conduct themselves as if they live at the time of Hernán Cortés, in other words as if they were still the conquerors and masters, and that we the "peons" were mere slaves, subject to the brutal law of conquest.

The landowner's position regarding the “peons” is exactly equal to that held by the feudal lord, the earl or baron of the Middle Ages, in regards to their servants and vassals.

The Hacendado (Squire) in Mexico has at his will the complete person of “his peon".  He may reduce him to prison if he likes, he may forbid the “peon” to leave the ranch with the pretext that there is debt that can never be repaid, being so ordered by judges whom the hacendado bribes, and then there are the prefects or "political bosses" who are always their allies.  The landlord is truly the complete Lord of Life and Property without doubt, within their vast domains.

This unbearable situation is from whence originated the Revolution of 1910 and which as primary principle and direction has intention to destroy the feudal regime and fight against the monopoly of land in the hands of a few.

But unfortunately, Francisco I. Madero who coming from a wealthy and powerful family which owns large tracts of land in the north of the Republic, Madero naturally quickly joined with other landowners, and invoking the power of legislation (laws for the rich and favoring the rich) as an excuse, chose not to fulfill the promises he had made to restore the stolen lands to their rightful owners and destroy the overwhelming monopoly of the landowners, through the expropriation of these lands in the name of public interest and with corresponding compensation, if possession was legitimate.

Madero failed in his promises and the revolution continued, mainly in the regions that had seen the greatest abuses and assaults by the hacendados, such as in the states of Morelos, Guerrero, Michoacan, Puebla, Durango, Chihuahua, Zacatecas, etc., etc.

Then came the Coup of the Citadel, that is the effort made by the ancient Porfiristas and conservative elements of all shades to seize power again, for they feared that Madero would be forced one day to have to keep his promises.  At that juncture, the campesino population became justly alarmed and revolutionary ferment spread with more force than ever, since the coup, followed the assassination of Madero, was a challenge - a true threat to the revolution of 1910.

At this point the revolution encompassed the full extent of the Republic, and chastened by past experience, and I chose not to await final victory but instead began the distribution of land and the expropriation of the large estates.  Thus as has happened in Morelos, Guerrero, Michoacan, Puebla, Tamaulipas, Nuevo Leon, Chihuahua, Sonora, Durango, Zacatecas, San Luis Potosi: in such a way that it can be said that the people have done justice for themselves, as the legislative process does not favor justice and given that the current Constitution is a hindrance rather than a defense or security for working peoples, and especially for the campesino communities.

It was at this point that the Campesino Pueblos realized the need to break the old patterns of legislation, and seeing in the Plan de Ayala the articulation of their desires and the expression of the principles that should underpin the new legislative process, began to implement such a plan, as required by the supremacy of law and justice, and this is how revolutionaries throughout the Republic have restored the lands of the dispossessed peoples.  They have divided up the monstrous estates and punished the eternal enemies of the people, the feudal lords, with confiscation of their estates, along with the caciques and chief accomplices of the dictatorship of Porfirio Diaz as well as the perpetrators and accomplices of the Coup of the Citadel.

It is to be ensured, therefore, that there will be no peace in Mexico until the Plan de Ayala is raised to the rank of law or constitutional provision, and fulfilled across the entire country.
 

This position is reference not only in terms of social issues, or the need for land redistribution, but also with regard to the political question, or the manner of appointing the interim president who must issue the call for elections and has to start the process of implementing land reform.

The country is tired of impositions, Mexico no longer tolerates imposed masters or leaders, our desire is to take part in the appointment of our governors, and since the interim government should emanate from the revolution and in order to assure this, is logical and fair that these be true representatives of the Revolution, or the heads of the armed movement, who should carry out the appointment of Interim President.  This is guaranteed by article twelve of the Plan de Ayala, in spite of the wishes of D. Venustiano Carranza and his circle of ambitious politicians, who propose that the Carranza step into the position of President by surprise, or rather, by a bold stroke of audacity and imposition.

The only way to wisely choose the Acting President is through the collective conviction of the revolutionary leaders across the country.  Only so can be presented a man who by his record and his ideas provide absolute guarantees, while with Carranza as an owner or shareholder owning large properties in the Border States, his imposition is a threat to the campesinos of the country, as he would opt for the same policies as Madero.  His ideas are clearly identified, with the only difference that Madero was weak, while Carranza is man capable of exercising a most tremendous dictatorship, which would again provoke a formidable revolution, perhaps bloodier than those before.

Therefore you will see, being that the Revolution of the South is a revolution of ideals, not of revenge or retaliation, that this revolution has committed before the country and before the civilized world, to a formal contract to provide full guarantees for the lives and interests of nationals and foreigners, before and after our victory, and I am happy to make you aware of this fact.

This long exposé should confirm to you in your well-illuminated mind regarding our movement of Southern Mexico, and convince you that the vile, banal, and corrupt press of Mexico City has maligned my personality and that of my compatriots.

May these notes better illustrate, along with the information which Messrs. Dr. Charles Jenkinson and Thomas W. Reilly will share with you, and who as kind visitors of this State, we have had the pleasure to offer our modest but gracious hospitality, and via whose kind conduct I send these lines.

For my part I can say to you that I understand and appreciate the noble and uplifting policy that you are carrying forward, within the limits of respect for the sovereignty of each state in this beautiful and not always happy Continent of the Americas.

I would have you believe that, as long as this policy respects the autonomy of the Mexican people in pursuit for their own ideals [and] as they understand them, I will be one of many of your sympathizers from this sister Republic and hopefully not the least useful of your servants, which I reiterate now with my particular appreciation.


General Emiliano Zapata
Mexico

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Translation: Tupak Huehuecoyotl
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