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Womack’s ZAPATA and the Mexican Revolution

Womack’s ZAPATA and the Mexican Revolution

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Published by amygraceleary
Womack (1968) presents a commendable and complex portrait of the contributing factors and conditions preceding the Mexican Revolution, creating a well-rounded narrative examining political and agrarian transformations on local and national levels. However, his examination of the Mexican Revolution in an international context proves to be somewhat lacking when contrasted with his thorough inspection of the state of Morelos and its inhabitants.
Womack (1968) presents a commendable and complex portrait of the contributing factors and conditions preceding the Mexican Revolution, creating a well-rounded narrative examining political and agrarian transformations on local and national levels. However, his examination of the Mexican Revolution in an international context proves to be somewhat lacking when contrasted with his thorough inspection of the state of Morelos and its inhabitants.

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Published by: amygraceleary on Feb 21, 2011
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Womack’s ZAPATA 1
Womack’s
Zapata and the Mexican RevolutionWomack (1968) presents a commendable and complex portrait of the contributing factorsand conditions preceding the Mexican Revolution, creating a well-rounded narrative examining political and agrarian transformations on local and national levels. However, his examination of the Mexican Revolution in an international context proves to be somewhat lacking whencontrasted with his thorough inspection of the state of Morelos and its inhabitants. Heapproaches his analysis of the Mexican Revolution with a structural conception of contributivefactors in social, political, and economic sectors. He (1968: 10) introduces his analysis of theRevolution with the line: “. . . the Mexican Revolution happened because the high politicians of the country openly failed to agree on who should rule when President Porfirio Díaz died.” Withthis clear-cut and immediate opening, he launches into an account of substandard politicalleadership in the face of increasingly global economic development further exacerbating preexisting socioeconomic disparities and social stratifications dating back to Spanishcolonialism.Pointing (Womack, 1968: 10) to a political trend of belief in natural law and the nation’sdependence on politician (termed científico) control and the resultant científico profit, Womack sets the background for civilian oppression and increasingly dramatic levels of socialstratification. Womack (1968: 11) cites Díaz’s three decades of political maneuvering— including intentional goals of maintaining unstable political and financial relationships, as wellas constant involvement with politicking—resulting in a centralized government almostcompletely dependent on Díaz. Needless to say, the necessity of finding a successor in his oldage concurrently ushered in a certainty that the subsequent leader would be met with a
Amy Leary
 
Womack’s ZAPATA 2
debilitating imbalance of central government. However, Womack does not present the causes behind the Mexican Revolution as strictly reactionary movements to the inferior leadership of Díaz and the subsequent disinterested leadership of Pablo Escandón. Indeed, Womack examinesthe transformation of the planters’ production role in the face of an increasingly capitalist systemof trade and imprudent reforms—as well as general disinterest on Escandón’s part—resulting ina strained consolidation of power in the planters’ hands. Initially mentioning (Womack 1968:43) the transformation of Morelos’ previously coexisting economic enterprises and communitiesinto country towns controlled by landowners, Womack describes a steady increase of government repression through implemented administrative procedures as well as more informallandowner domination over peasants. He provides (Womack 1968: 44) a vivid portrait of exploitation of all who failed to fall under the category of landowner. In addition, Womack (1968) details the government’s intentional disregard for peasants’ rights in the followingexcerpt:
. . . It was Escandón’s responsibility as a good científico planter to establish the practice of oppression as policy. The villagers were already weak, their leaders and advocates jailed or driven into hiding . . . andEscandón proceeded without hesitation. The state government’s refusal to do justice became a clear rule(P. 52).
Womack (1968) presents the transformation of the political landscape and newly imposedrestrictions for peasants as an environmental background necessary in shaping the character of Emiliano Zapata. Womack (1968: 6) cites Zapata’s childhood witnessing of patriarchalhumiliation, as well as a lifetime of observing increasingly repressive governmental impositionsregarding the peasant’s way of life and means of compensation. When Womack (1968) beginsto focus on the development of Zapata as a revolutionary hero and figure, the narrative begins to
Amy Leary
 
Womack’s ZAPATA 3
shift. At this point, Womack loses a little of his authority regarding revolution analysis becauseit is at this point where the figure of Zapata becomes more central to the account than thesurrounding sociopolitical environment of Mexico. Of course, this shift in focus does notdiscredit Womack’s research. On the contrary, the shift in concentration merely indicates hisemphasis on the individual in his analytical approach to revolutions. In addition, the figure of Zapata, highly evocative even to this day, is cloaked in myth and fable. Such a culturallyintegral figure cannot help but represent a larger message—in this case, a larger movement.Despite his immense research, Womack (1968) cannot completely separate reality from culturalrepresentation, and although he strays from examination of the revolution in a broader context,Zapata can be perceived as the historical representation of many. Not surprisingly, given the immediate indication of Womack’s selected title,
 ZAPATAand the Mexican Revolution
places a significant emphasis on Zapata’s charismatic leadership andthe ensuing possibility for social change as a direct result of Zapata’s magnetic personality.Beginning his narrative (Womack 1968: 3-7) with a prologue reimagining the election of Emiliano Zapata for the village representative council and concluding his analysis (Womack 1968: 371-386) with an epilogue detailing the enduring influence and inspiration of Zapata’smemory, Womack makes his central focus regarding the Mexican Revolution profoundly clear:the Mexican Revolution was a movement made possible because of the leadership of anindividual. True, Womack provides a thorough background of sociopolitical conditions thatmade such a revolutionary figure possible. Nevertheless, the author’s dedicated concentration onZapata as a revolutionary figure faintly echoes another author’s emphasis on the power andinfluence of the individual.
Amy Leary

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