Books and Movies Reviews

Zapatista Revolution

In his book Bitter Harvest Paul Hart attempts to illustrate the roots of the Zapatista Revolution in nineteenth century Morelos, Mexico. In doing so, he hopes to convince his readers that the conditions that resulted in the emergence of the Zapatistas, though localized, were not limited to Morelos in particular, but were the ultimate result of an expansive economic system adopted by the Mexican government. He writes, "From the 1840s on, Mexico pursued a national policy of economic growth and modernization that included the promotion of commercial agriculture at the general expense of village communities."1 Although a number of factors contributed to the widespread displeasure of the agrarian class in Mexico, the overall source of the social upheaval was the process of modernization; this process displaced many farmers, deprived them of their autonomy, and attempted to shape them into cogs in the mechanized process of corporate farming. This overhaul of agriculture inspired revolutions across the world; accordingly, as Hart contends, it should be seen as almost inevitable that the Zapatistas, or a group similar to them, arise out of such dramatic social unrest.
To begin with, the Zapatista Revolution emerged out of the growing economic hardship, which was acutely felt by farmers in the mid nineteenth century. However, the actual form and ideology that the movement generated was not uniformly accepted by all of its proponents. Although the concrete economic woes of the individual farmer were enough motivation for one sect of society to solidify politically, what attracted many other learned people to the revolutionary cause was a sort of nostalgia summarized by Richard Hofstadter as the "agrarian myth."2 Hofstadter separates the intentions of the, largely, uneducated farmers from those of their political and philosophical proponents by recognizing the difference between the practical aims of the farmers and the mo…

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