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Zapata de Fuentes

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Viva Zapata
Carlos Fuentes
MARCH 13, 1969 ISSUE
Zapata and the Mexican Revolution
by John Womack Jr.
Knopf, 360 pp., $10.00
During the summer of 1962 I visited the
villages and rice fields in the State of
Morelos. We were a small group of
Mexican writers and our purpose was to
investigate and denounce the murder of
Rubén Jaramillo by the state troops.
Jaramillo had been the agrarian leader of
Tlaquiltenango. During his lifetime, he had
defended the integrity of the ejido, or
communal lands, against the voracious
encroachments of real-estate dealers who
Emiliano Zapata; drawing by David Levine
wanted to create a suburban tourist haven
for nearby Cuernavaca. The metropolitan
investors insisted that the region would profit from the influx of affluent
vacationers and that Jaramillo was standing in the way of progress. The
agrarista chief held his ground: let the capitalists have the beautiful but barren
lands to the west of Tlaquiltenango; the Communal lands were the livelihood
of his people and his people were not about to relinquish their rights and their
roots in order to become waiters, gardeners, or soda-pop vendors.
But the investors had gone too far: plans had been drawn, officials had been
bribed, urbanization works already had been started. So one morning the
intransigent Jaramillo, along with his pregnant wife and three stepsons, was
hauled from his home by the state troops, mounted on an army truck, and taken
to the lonely plateau where the ancient pyramid of Xochicalco stands. There,
facing the misty blue hills and the deep grey gorges of the Sierra Madre,
Jaramillo and his family were shot to death. Their blood stained, once again,
the carved frieze of the plumed serpent that devours its own tail around the
base of the Toltec temple.
PUBLICIDAD
Jaramillo’s secretary received us in a simple brick hut. He was a bald, middleaged man with a big curly moustache and the face and hands of a smooth
brown Buddha. He was indistinguishable from the campesinos around him,
except for two details that marked him as a literate man: he wore, in the hot,
vibrant night, a black waistcoat, and a gold-plated ballpoint pen conspicuously
stuck out of his shirt pocket. He was gentle and proud, sad and firm in his
speech and manner. Yes, he had been warned by the state officials to lay off.
He knew who was responsible: a well-known and virtually untouchable
Mexico City financier, in collusion with the Governor of Morelos, who, by the
way, had been involved in the killing of Emiliano Zapata forty-three years
before. We all knew that the only man finally responsible for the actions of the
Mexican army was the President of the Republic. Yes, he would probably have
to flee and go into hiding. The real-estate people would probably win this time.
We did not try to hide our outrage; he remained serene. He looked at us, at our
city clothes, at our dove-blue Renault parked near the tropical veranda full of
hammocks and flower pots. “No coman ansias,” he murmured with wry
sympathy,…
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