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by Joseph Judge
To understand the Plan of Ayala, one must first understand Emiliano Zapata. Zapata believed in social justice. He envisioned a Mexico that was controlled by the people. He believed that the time had come for the poor people of Mexico to take by what was rightfully theirs. Zapata was concerned for the people of his state Morelos. He realized that Francisco I. Madero was not ruling in favor of the people, which was what he had been elected to do. Therefore, he and his followers rebelled against the government in order for their demands to be met.
On November 27, 1911, Zapata published his manifesto calling it the Plan de Ayala. He issued the plan because he felt that he and the people of Mexico had been betrayed by Madero. Madero had been elected by the people because they wanted change and he had seemed to be the most likely candidate to deliver it. However, since elected, Madero had done nothing to help the people of Mexico. The nearly 2,000-word plan called for several changes in both the political and social aspects of Mexico.
The Plan of Ayala began by stating that Madero was a traitor to the people of Mexico that had elected him president. It cited that Madero had used brute force to silence those who asked about the promises of the revolution. It accused him of being a tyrant and of cooperating with the leaders and elite society that he had been elected to overthrow. The Plan stated that because of these reasons that the people would continue the revolution without his support or authorization until they achieved in overthrowing the dictators and leaders such as him. It went on to say that the revolutionists should no longer recognize Madero as either the Chief of the Revolution or President of the Republic.
Next, the plan announced the Chief of the Liberating Revolution to be General Pascual Orozco. Zapata himself would take this position if Orozco did not accept it. The Plan stated that "it makes its own the plan of San Luis Potosí…and it will make itself the defender of the principles it defends until victory or death." Furthermore, no compromises would be made until Madero was overthrown.
The Plan of Ayala also offered many new social ideas and changes to the poor people of Mexico. It stated that all usurped lands controlled by the landlords and bosses would give up those lands. The land would then go to the citizens of Mexico. Zapata felt that the Mexican people could not better themselves because these landlords and bosses had a monopoly on the land and all its elements. He stated this in the Plan of Ayala stating that because "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." One-third of the land that these men controlled would go to the people of Mexico so that they could become successful in the utilization of it and its resources. In other words, each person would have enough land to operate a farm and form colonies in hopes of becoming prosperous.
If the current landowners did not agree to these terms then the other two-thirds of their land would also be seized. This land would then being given to the people "for indemnizations of war, pensions for widows and orphans of the victims who succumb in the struggle for the present plan." However, if the landowners conceded to the terms of the Plan of Ayala and gave up the one-third of their land that it called for, then they would be allowed to retain possession of the other two-thirds of it. The revolutionists would use the procedures of deamortization and naturalization would apply and would punish the landowners for not abiding by these procedures.
The next topic covered in the Plan of Ayala dealt with the military chiefs. These supporters of the so-called traitors of the revolution had sworn to defend the Plan of San Louis Potosi. However, if they opposed and rejected the Plan of Ayala, then they too would be considered traitors of the cause they had once supported. It further stated that the expenses of the revolution would correspond with those set forth in Article II of the Plan of San Louis Potosí.
The Plan of Ayala laid out a conceivable plan for the events following a triumphant revolution. First, it stated that a council of delegates representing each state would select an interim President of the Republic. Second, a council of revolutionary chiefs of each state would select the governor for their state. Once appointed these officials would make certain that the future elections would be public and fair to the people.
Next, the Plan of Ayala offered a non-violent exit for Madero and the rulers of Mexico. If they agreed to renounce their authority and the posts they held, then they could do so without any threats to their well-being. Furthermore, it stated that if they did not and continued as they were currently then "on their heads will fall the blood and the anathema of our brothers."
Finally, the Plan of Ayala appealed to the citizens of Mexico:
Mexican People, support this plan with arms in hand and you will make the prosperity and well-being of the fatherland."
In stating this, the Plan reminded the people of the hardships and oppressions that they had suffered at the hands of corrupt government officials in the past.
The Plan was signed first by General in Chief Emiliano Zapata and followed by the signatures of over forty revolutionist leaders. Preceding the signatures were the words liberty, justice, and law.
The Plan of Ayala is considered to be one of the most radical reform documents in Mexican history. It is primarily this reason that it was taken so lightly at first. Ironically, its primary supporter in its popularity was Madero. In December of 1911, Madero was asked by the editor of Diario del Hogar, Mexico City's newspaper, if he could publish the Plan of Ayala. Madero laughingly agreed stating "publish it so everyone will know how crazy that Zapata is" (Parkinson, 123). This proved to be a fatal mistake. The citizens of Mexico read the Plan and, fueled by several acts of brutality by Madero, began to greatly support it.
In many ways, the Plan of Ayala is similar to the United States of America's Declaration of Independence. They are both manifestos calling for governmental and social change. Also, both documents were written and signed by revolutionists. To an extent, both call for the citizens to rise up against their oppressors with hopes of a better future. The Plan of Ayala was a voice for the citizens of Mexico. It was a voice that called for change. It was a voice which searched for liberty.__________
Parkinson, Roger. Zapata. Stein and Day. New York: 1975.