Emiliano Zapata Salazar (8 August 1879 – 10 April 1919) was a leading figure in the Mexican Revolution, which broke out in 1910, and which was initially directed against the president Porfirio Díaz. He formed and commanded an important revolutionary force, the Liberation Army of the South, during the Mexican Revolution. Followers of Zapata were known as Zapatistas. He is a figure from the Mexican Revolution era who is still revered today.
Zapata's primary goal was land reform to help the rural poor. Zapata's influence continues to this day, particularly in south Mexico. In the long run, he has done more for his ideals in death than he did in life. Like many charismatic idealists, Zapata became a martyr after his treacherous murder. Even though Mexico still has not implemented the sort of land reform he wanted, he is remembered as a visionary who fought for his countrymen.
There are controversies about the portrayal of Emiliano Zapata and his followers, over whether they were simply bandits or revolutionaries.But in modern times, Zapata is one of the most revered national heroes of Mexico. To many Mexicans, specifically the peasant and indigenous citizens, Zapata was a practical revolutionary who sought the implementation of liberties and agrarian rights outlined in the Plan of Ayala. He was a realist with the goal of achieving political and economic emancipation of the peasants in southern Mexico, and leading them out of severe poverty.
Many popular organizations take their name from Zapata, most notably the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional or EZLN in Spanish), the revolutionary movement of indigenous peoples that emerged in the state of Chiapas in 1994 and is colloquially known as "the Zapatistas". Towns, streets, and housing developments called "Emiliano Zapata" are common across the country and he has, at times, been depicted on Mexican banknotes.
Modern activists in Mexico frequently make reference to Zapata in their campaigns, his image is commonly seen on banners and many chants invoke his name: Si Zapata viviera con nosotros anduviera, "If Zapata lived, he would walk with us." Zapata vive, la lucha sigue, "Zapata lives; the struggle continues."