Emiliano Zapata was born on AUG. 8, 1879, in Anenecuila, Mexico. Zapata was the son of a peasant who trained and sold horses. At age seventeen Zapata was orphaned and forced to raise his brothers and sisters. In 1897 he was arrested for taking part in a protest by the peasants, and soon after was drafted into the army. He served six months, at which point he was discharged to a landowner to train horses. In 1909 he was elected president of defense by his people. After useless negotiations with the landowners, Zapata and a group of followers seized land that was appropriated by the haciendas and distributed the land among themselves.
In March 1911 Zapata's small force took the city of Cuautla and closed the road to the capitol. Zapata entered Cuernavaca, the capitol of Morelos with five thousand of his men. Zapata met up with a man by the name of Francisco Madero who was a landowner in the north while he was in Mexico City. During their meeting Zapata asked Madero to exert pressure on the provisional president to return the land to the ejidos. Madero insisted on the disarment of the guerrillas and offered Zapata a recompense so that he could buy the land, an offer that Zapata rejected. Zapata began to disarm his forces but stopped when the provisional president sent the army against the guerrillas.
Zapata died in an ambush. The popular legend is that the government staged the ambush and lied, that they didn't really get Zapata. The Zapata legend lives on in the Mexican countryside.