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Honoring the Revolution

Today is El Dia de la Revolución, a holiday to commemorate the Mexican Revolution of 1910. We woke up early and walked to Paseo de Montejo to take photos of the festivities. As we watched the youth of Merida parade through the streets in a desfile (parade) to honor the struggles of their ancestors, we were reminded of a book we read recently.

The following are excerpts from that book called Tempest Over Mexico by Rosa E. King. The book was published in 1935 by Little, Brown & Company and we found it in a used book store. Rosa E. King is our honorary ancestor today. She was a British expatriate who lived and worked in Cuernavaca at the beginning of the 20th Century (she owned a hotel) and experienced the Revolution in Mexico firsthand. She met some of the most important players of her time, including Emiliano Zapata and Victoriano Huerta. She was a keen observer, a skilled writer and like us, she loved and appreciated the spirit of Mexico. In tribute to the people who have struggled for Mexico, we offer you these words of hers to accompany our photos…

"The wonderful soldiers’ women — none like them in the world for patience and bravery at such times — combed the town for food, and when they could not get it any other way they stole, whatever and wherever they could, to nourish their men. These were the type of women who one day, in the north, when their men ran short of ammunition, tied their rebozos to the ammunition cart and hauled it to them. I bow in respect to the Mexican women of this class — the class despised by the women of indolent wealth, ignorantly proud of their uselessness. The Mexican women who marched with the Mexican soldier, who went before him to the camping place to have refreshment ready, who nursed him when sick and comforted him when dying, were helpers and constructionists, doing their part in laying the foundation of this liberal government of today. Mexican women of education, just emerging from your shells of blindness, remember this and honor, wherever she may be found, the Mexican soldier’s woman!"

"Poor fellows! Victims of the cruel leva, the enforced military service, caught coming out of their homes or the shops or the bull ring and thrown into the army, there to be left without food or money. Their last pay was long since spent. This was the Federal Army!"

"The government made every effort to paint the Zapatistas as monsters and so whip up feelings against them; but even at that time, when we lived in constant danger from them, we realized that these wild men had a spirit our men lacked. For good or evil, they were united by a passionate faith in their leader Zapata, and Zapata followed a vision — land and liberty for his people — and let nothing stand in his way. There was no treachery among the Zapatistas, no money or the love of it, and no self-seeking. Call them fanatics, if you will — but they made our Federals look shabby."

"Much has been said to whitewash (Pancho) Villa, but in the part of the country where I live he is called, by common consent, murderer and bandit. To the people of Morelos, which he ravaged later, Villa personifies the worst side of the Revolution, as does Zapata the best. Zapata wanted for his people only the land itself, which was rightfully their own, so that they might work out their salvation; and he never swerved from that goal. But Villa lost himself in the red mists of hatred. At the age of 14 he had killed his first man, to avenge a scoundrel’s outrage of his sister’s honor. It was as though all his career were colored by a feeling of reprisal against the world for the bad start he and his fellows had got in life. Wherever he marched he conquered in these days, and wherever he conquered followed death and destruction, plunder and rapine — all the crimes and excesses that war makes palatable to those who commit them."

"Oh, Natividad," I burst out, "how can you stand like that, doing nothing, when our homes are in ruins? Don’t you care what becomes of you?" Natividad’s old eyes were patient with me as she answered very gently, "There is something to eat for today, and my head is tight on my shoulders; what more may one expect, niña?"

"Niña," she called me, "child" — a word used freely among these people in endearment; but as Natividad said it, I felt its meaning. I saw myself, in the face of these quiet Indians, a child out alone after dark. It was not the past six years of civil war, in whose painful uncertainties I had learned so much, which had taught these people to live in the moment. Centuries loomed behind Natividad’s words; as she spoke out of the wisdom of an old race that lived in a valley that all men coveted, who had suffered again and again the onslaught of invasion."

"And then I caught the rhythm of their feeling, and understood that to them La Revolucion was infinitely more than the Revolution of 1910. It was the long continuous movement of resistance, like a rolling wave, that had swelled against Cortez and his conquistadores, and the greedy Aztec lords before them; that had engulfed the armies of Spain and the armies of France as it now engulfed the hacendados. It was the struggle of these people for a birthright, to develop in their own way, inspite of strangers who came greedily to skim the cream, and ignorantly, to make the people over. "

We hope these excerpts and photos — and this website — inspire you to find out more about Mexico and Mexico’s history, to take time each day that you are here to learn from Mexico and the Mexican people, and to honor the spirit of Mexico that is within all of us.

- – - – -

Want to read more about the Revolution and the history of Mexico? Here are a few books we have read and can recommend:

Mexico: Biography of Power – Enrique Krauze (The best history of Mexico we have found so far. It is dense but seems fair and balanced. One of the books we’ve read to each other on those long drives between Merida and Cancun.)

Tempest over Mexico: A Personal Chronicle – by Rosa E. King (Riveting first-person account of the Revolution. Better to read *after* you’ve learned something about the Revolution from Sr. Krauze)

Rain of Gold – by Victor Villaseñor  (You’ll never see Mexico or Mexicans the same way again…)

Wild Steps of Heaven – by Victor Villaseñor (If you loved Rain of Gold like we did, you’ll want more. This is the story of Sr. Villaseñor’s grandfather)


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9 Responses to “Honoring the Revolution”

  1. The book Tempest Over Mexico is no longer in print nor under copyright. Here is a website where you can find reproductions of the cover, the woodcut illustrations and a PDF format transcription of the entire book itself. Enjoy!

  2. I almost didn’t read this because it isn’t about “my” history. You are rapidly teaching me that anything I find on Yucatan Living is well worth the read. …and, considering all I have to read in a day just for work – if you can make me download one book and want to order two more, – you’re good… really good!

  3. Beautiful photos. Thank you for making them available.

  4. Enjoyed the article. Are not the men of Marcos in Chiapas, Zapatistas? I thought that the big board in Parque Principal or Plaza Grande in Centro were the words of the modern day Zapatistas? Anyway. The Mel Gibson Movie: APOCALYPTO is about to come out. How do the Mayas in Yucatan feel about this movie? Do they think it will portray them favorably? I think like any US movie, much of it will be fictional. Which Maya tongue will the movie use? I understand the Mayan in Yucatan is different from the other Maya language in Guatemala and Chiapas? Just a few thoughts.

  5. Thank you for a beautifully done artistic joining of history with the faces of the Yucatecas of today. Absolutely great!

    From the far north.

  6. Great blog , I am from Mexico. I surf the Net found your blog. I was actually looking a site of photos of compatriot yucatecos , but I saw your article where you talk of Emiliano Zapata and Cuernavaca and I wanted to leave a reply. I live in Cuernavaca, in the state of Morelos, inside of Mexico. It is curious that I found an article about my city, Cuernavaca ,Morelos, Mexico :) . Anyway, I only want say que Emiliano Zapata was a military hero. He lived in another village that belonged to the state of Morelos in the land of Mexico. He fought the people who lived in Morelos because his lands were expropriated unjustly by the Government. He lived and was born in Anenecuilco, another village near Cuernavaca. Marcos lives in Chiapas, and he is fighting similarly against el Government. A greeting from Cuernavaca, Emiliano Zapata and I like your blog =).. Bye

  7. Hello, Rosa King is my great-great-grandmother; thank you for posting an excerpt of her book!

  8. Hello

    I’m writing this post because everyone should know that for limited time anyone can buy an autographed copy of Rain of Gold book at list price. For more information visit:

  9. We absolutely LOVE Victor Villasenor’s books and can highly recommend them to anyone, especially anyone interested in Mexico.


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