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Liberation Army of the South (Ejército Libertador del Sur)
Fuerzas surianas a las ordenes de Emiliano Zapata.jpg
Zapata's Liberation Army of the South on the march in Morelos
Active 1910–1920
Disbanded 1920
Country  Mexico
Type Zapatismo
Size 4000–27000
Engagements Battle of Cuautla, Battle of Chilpancingo
Emiliano Zapata
Felipe Neri
Otilio Montaño Sánchez
Genovevo de la O
Manuel Palafox
Amador Salazar
Eufemio Zapata

The Liberation Army of the South (Spanish language: Ejército Libertador del Sur , occasionally abbreviated to ELS) was an armed group formed and led by Emiliano Zapata that took part in the Mexican Revolution. The force was commonly known as the Zapatistas.

The Zapatistas were formed in 1910 in the southern Mexican state of Morelos. Zapata, whose main cause was land reform, became one of the major figures of the Mexican Revolution.

The Zapatistas originally aligned with Francisco Madero in opposition to the regime of president Porfirio Diaz, who was soon after overthrown in 1911. After Madero's regime, too, proved uncommitted to the cause of land reform, the Zapatistas turned against him. Fighting continued against the successive leaders Victoriano Huerta and Venustiano Carranza. In 1914, Zapata met at the head of his army with Pancho Villa and his forces at Mexico City to determine the course of the revolution, but they returned to their respective territories without a connected anti-Constitutionalist coalition.[1] When back in Morelos, the Zapatistas fortified themselves against incursions by the forces eager to reassume control of the liberated territories known as the Morelos Commune. Zapata's assassination in 1919 struck a mortal blow to Zapatistas, and the army slowly disbanded afterwards.

The Zapatistas were mainly poor peasants who wished to spend much of their time working their land to produce an income. As a result, Zapatista soldiers tended to serve for several months at a time, and then return home to spend most of the year farming.

The structure of the Zapatista army was very loose and the rank system limited in scope. The Zapatista army was united entirely by the charismatic leadership of Zapata. It was divided into small, largely independent units rarely numbering more than one hundred men, each commanded by a chief (jefe). These units spent the overwhelming majority of their time separated from the other units. Officer ranks were eventually introduced to coordinate groups. The chief of a unit over about fifty men was, generally speaking, given the rank of general. Smaller bands were commanded by colonels and captains. Not all captains were "official", that is to say, recognised by Zapata and senior Zapatistas, some being "unofficially" proclaimed captains by their unit. Beyond Zapata's overall command and the leadership of bands, there was limited use of ranks or hierarchy. Sub-officer ranks were introduced late in the revolution in an effort to create a more disciplined force. One of Zapata's famous dictums was "al ratero perdono pero al traidor jamas"; "a robber I can forgive, but a traitor... never."


  1. Adolfo Gilly,The Mexican Revolution

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