Shortly after dawn on 10 April, Zapata and his escort were up and riding. This was Zapata’s home ground. Chinameca hacienda lay along the Cuautla River barely thirty-five miles below Villa de Ayala. It was one of the first places he had seized after joining Madero in 1911. And as he recalled later in the day he had almost been trapped and killed here in that summer’s crisis. Many times he had ridden these same country trails - as a young man, headed for markets or stock auctions, then for the last eight years as a rebel, revolutionary, and outlaw, hiding and hunting. He knew every path, creek and fence. The countryside was cool and fresh in the early April morning. The rains and planting had already begun. In August he would be forty. Of his children he knew only the eldest, Nicolás, now thirteen; and he had hardly reared him. There was no omen about the day, a plain Thursday; dealing with Guajardo heightened the tension, but the basic strain of trust, fear, and hope was old and familiar. At about 8:30 in the morning he and his men came down out of the hills to Chinameca.

Outside the hacienda and back against its front walls stood various shops, and in one Zapata and Guajardo conferred. Inside the walls, Zapata’s escort rested. But the talk of ammunition and attacks was soon interrupted by reports that nationals were in the area. Zapata quickly directed Guajardo to guard the hacienda, and then organized patrols from his own men and sent them out on reconnaissance. He himself led one patrol. Although there was no sign of the enemy, Zapata posted sentries and returned to the hacienda environs. It was 1:30 in the afternoon. Only Guajardo’s troops were inside the walls now, except for the aide Palacios, who was in conference with Guajardo about collecting twelve thousand rounds from his cache of ammunition. Zapata waited. Invited in to join Guajardo for dinner and close the deal, Zapata chose to keep waiting. But as Guajardo’s officers went on repeating the invitation, tacos and beer sounded better. The day had started early, and there had been a lot of rough riding. By two o’clock Zapata was growing impatient; finally at 2:10 he accept. Mounting the sorrel Guajardo had given him the day before, he ordered ten men to come with him inside the hacienda gate.

‘Ten of us followed him just as he ordered,’ a young aide at the scene reported to Magaña that evening. ‘The rest of the people stayed [outside the walls] under the trees, confidently resting in the shade with their carbines stacked. Having formed ranks, [Guajardo’s] guard looked ready to do him the honours. Three times the bugle sounded the honour call; and as the last note died away, as the General in Chief reached the threshold of the door…at point blank, without giving him time even to draw his pistols, the soldiers who were presenting arms fired two volleys, and our unforgettable General Zapata fell never to rise again.’

John Womack, Jr. Zapata and the Mexican Revolution October 1, 2008
Posted on October 1, 2008