Back to Inquiry Set

Plan de Ayala

Zapata, Emiliano

Zapata, Emiliano “Plan de Ayala,” in Zapata and the Mexican Revolution, translated by John Womack (New York: Knopf, 1969), 400 – 404.

Emiliano Zapata was the most prominent leader of the campesinos of Morelos and the South. Southern Mexico has more rainfall than the North, along with rich soil for farming. It was heavily populated by Indians and mestizos, many of whom owned little or no land and worked as laborers on haciendas, great estates owned by wealthy creoles or light-skinned people. Zapata helped organize the peasants who rose in rebellion against Dίaz into an army. Once Madero was in power, he condemned Zapata’s followers as “bandits.” Zapata’s response was to write the Plan de Ayala. What demands did Zapata make? What was his perspective on the revolution and on what needed to change in Mexico?



inept: incapable, unable

pueblos: Indian and mestizo communities

científicos: much-hated advisers to Porfirio Díaz

usurped, despoiled: taken away illegally

expropriated: taken away

proprietors: owners

indemnization: payment; Zapata meant that the large landowners would be paid for the loss of one-third of their land


sowing: planting crops


 Along with Pancho Villa, Zapata has become a major mythologized figure of the Mexican Revolution. Handsome, articulate, and dedicated to his vision of land reform, he was unwilling to compromise, a trait some admired and others condemned. Students should recognize Zapata’s skillful use of rhetoric and the elements of his land reform plan, which called for confiscated land to be returned to peasant communities or individuals who had owned it previously, and for redistribution of one-third of the land owned by wealthy landowners to a new set of ejidos. Zapata believed that the purpose of the revolution was land reform for the landless peasants of the South. Zapata encouraged the Morelos campesinos to attack local large landowners and take over their haciendas. When Madero tried to force the campesinos to return the land, Zapata broke away and swore to continue the revolution.

Taking into consideration that the so-often-repeated Francisco I. Madero has tried with the brute force of bayonets to shut up and to drown in blood the pueblos who ask, solicit, or demand from him the fulfillment of the promises of the revolution, calling them bandits and rebels, condemning them to a war of extermination without conceding or granting a single one of the guarantees which reason, justice, and the law prescribe . . .
For these considerations we declare the aforementioned Francisco I. Madero inept at realizing the promises of the revolution of which he was the author, because he has betrayed the principles with which he tricked the will of the people and was able to get into power: incapable of governing, because he has no respect for the law and justice of the pueblos, and a traitor to the fatherland, because he is humiliating in blood and fire Mexicans who want liberties, so as to please the científicos, landlords, and bosses who enslave us, and from today on we begin to continue the revolution begun by him, until we achieve the overthrow of the dictatorial powers which exist. ….
… [W]e give notice: that [regarding] the fields, timber, and water which the landlords, científicos, or bosses have usurped, the pueblos or citizens who have the titles corresponding to those properties will immediately enter into possession of that real estate of which they have been despoiled by the bad faith of our oppressors. …
In virtue of the fact that the immense majority of Mexican pueblos and citizens are owners of no more than the land they walk on, suffering the horrors of poverty without being able to improve their social condition in any way or to dedicate themselves to Industry or Agriculture, because lands, timber, and water are monopolized in a few hands, for this cause there will be expropriated the third part of those monopolies from the powerful proprietors of them, with prior indemnization, in order that the pueblos and citizens of Mexico may obtain ejidos, colonies, and foundations for pueblos, or fields for sowing or laboring, and the Mexicans' lack of prosperity and well-being may improve in all and for all.
Mexican People, support this plan with arms in hand and you will make the prosperity and well-being of the fatherland.
Ayala, November 25, 1911
Liberty, Justice and Law!
General in Chief Emiliano Zapata … [and many others]