“Let’s see if we can get back what was stolen from us.”
For the documentary, The Last Zapatistas, Forgotten Heroes director Francesco Taboada Tabone includes interviews with the remnants of General Zapata’s followers who fought in the revolution of 1910. This film was released in 2002, and many of those interviewed were born in the late nineteenth century. They tell their stories to the camera–how they fought for Zapata, and how he died. Many of the survivors were in their early teens when they joined Zapata, and they describe how the army conscripted young men, and exiled adult males, so to them joining Zapata’s army was the only viable choice.
One man remembers how the army used Yaqui Indians to fight in battles–giving each Indian a lump of sugar and a marijuana cigarette prior to being used as “cannon fodder.” Another recalls using homemade grenades packed with dynamite and pieces of metal inside large squash. Some of these old Zapatistas bring out their ancient weapons for the camera and recall the massacres conducted by the army–including one instance of seven young boys being hung from trees near a church. They discuss how the revolution failed to materialize, and that Zapata’s ideals–“Land, water, justice and law” are just as relevant today as they were almost a century ago. These old Zapatistas warn that Mexico’s current unrest and impending agrarian and ecological disasters could very well herald in another civil war. One has only to consider the recent events in Oaxaca and the death of Brad Wills to grasp a sense of this.
Bearing in mind the fact that the Mexican Revolution took place almost 100 years ago, the poverty of the old Zapatistas is startling. What does this mean when considering the 1910 revolution? And what does this mean about current conditions for Mexican peasants? The interviews are invaluable, but some background information could have bolstered the film with structure and context. In Spanish with subtitles.