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“Ill be a Zapatista til the day I die”

12 February 2005

Translated from 11-Feb-2005 Jornada article by Arturo Garcia Hernandez.

One of the last survivors of the Ejército Libertador del Sur (Southern Liberation Army), Mauricio Ramirez Cerón, 100, passed away Wednesday night at his home in Tilzapote, Morelos.

Ramirez Cerón was 14 when he became a spy for Emiliano Zapata’s army. In an interview with la Jornada three years ago, Ramirez Cerón maintained he felt “proud to have served a man like General Zapata, the purest man of the Revolution. I will be a Zapatista until the day I die”.

Ramirez Cerón has been in noticeably deteriorating health for the last year. His remains were buried yesterday afternoon in Tilzapote’s municipal cemetery.

“A harmless kid” Mauricio Ramirez Cerón (1904 -2005)

It was in this small town, on the Morelos- Guerrero state line, where the then adolescent first met the rebel leader during a village dance.

As Ramirez Cerón explained in 2002 , he approached the caudillo and asked him for a gun, begging to “fight by his side “. Zapata responded that he was a small boy, but seeing how serious he was, sent the boy to see one of the Zapatista Generals, Lorenzo Velásquez. .

“Velázquez said I looked like any harmless kid, so he sent me out with a commission as a spy. I was commanded to report on the Carrencistas, finding out who the local chiefs were, who were volunteers, what arms they had, and if they had sufficient supplies,” Ramirez Cerón recalled.

He always lived in Tilzapote, in a house located in a place framed by a small and calm pond, surrounded by hills. From his terrace, drawing a finger across the landscape, the revolutionary recalled the past for his interviewer:

“I was born here in 1904. I was seven when the Revolution exploded. Although small for my age, I’d been to school, and, let’s say my betters, talked to me. They told me there was going to be a Revolution, and explained the principles of Madero’s uprising. At the time, it was tyranny. A cane-cutter or a poor farm worker only earned 37 centavos working from sunup to sun-down. When General Zapata came this way, I already had my revolutionary schooling.”

Armed with only a machete for killing snakes, Mauricio went to battle in trousers, a serape, a palm-leaf hat, a water bottle, a napkin for his tortillas.

If somebody stopped him, he had only the napkin for protection, claiming he on his way to pick up tortillas: “I didn’t say anything until I was a day out of Buenavista, in the shadow of the Carrancistas. I was serving in the Southern Liberation Army with will. I knew if they caught me, I couldn’t say anything, even if they killed me.”

Mauricio Ramirez Cerón shared his experiences as a Southern Liberation Army soldier with historians over the years, and were recorded in Francesco Taboada and Sarah Perrig’s documentary film: Los últimos zapatistas. Héroes olvidados.

In the memory of the revolutionary Ramirez Cerón there has always been the image of Emiliano Zapata – “a good man, a benevolent man, a whole man. He was not a bandit. Since there were shortages, he bought clothes and he gave them away; he gave beans and rice”.

But when he died, “many that were Zapatistas turned Carrancistas for the every 15 day payment. I informed, they said. I was a Zapatista and had to go. An uncle told me ‘ get lost, you’re making life dangerous for us all’. I went to Jojutla, Tlalpuyeca, Xochitepec. Then walked back”.

Asked about the recent rise of another Zapatista movement, the Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional (EZLN), the old Revolutionary said: “I am in agreement with them: they are men of our own race, defending their own. They have a rough life, those compatriots of ours, getting pushed around by the caciques (political bosses) in Chiapas.

‘”Those men are absolutely right. Like Zapata. Today, seated in this wheelchair, I am still responsible for the name of Zapata, because whoever defends the undefended poor man is a hero.”

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