Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Modern Foreign Languages

Major Professor

Michael Handelsman

Committee Members

Luis Cano, Jacqueline A. Avila, Tore Olsson


My research examines how the image of General Zapata, the southern leader of the Mexican Revolution (1910-1920), has been utilized in diverse representations of Mexican cultural production of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. According to my analysis, the different versions that Zapata has been given correspond to a diverse set of ideologies and local and state values that varied across the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. From the construction of the post-revolutionary state in the 1920s to contemporary literature, the figure of the southern hero has embodied the traits that constitute a national hero, in spite of the fact that he was criminalized and regarded from the highest spheres of power as the “Attila of the South.” Nevertheless, he has been represented as the epitome of Mexicanness in the creation of modern Mexico despite his manifestos that illustrate a foundational ethos based on ancestral knowledge as opposed to modern theories of capitalist development.

The primary sources utilized in this dissertation vary from Zapata’s political manifestos to folk-songs and theater, culminating with today’s Zapatista revolution in Chiapas, Mexico, and its anti-establishment representations of a plurinational Mexico. The textual analysis of these diverse narratives will demonstrate that each one belongs to a specific ideology and historical context. These representations, when taken together, constitute the cyclical nature of a cultural and historical process that returns Zapata’s representation to his Pre-Columbian epistemological roots as interpreted by the contemporary indigenous Zapatista army. The circularity of the analysis serves to exemplify a process of mental emancipation from colonial legacies that marginalized sectors of Mexican society have championed but who have been largely ignored by Mexico through exclusion. Moreover, this analysis, when understood from its particular territorialisation, exemplifies the inherent tensions between indigenous communities and an ongoing modernity promoted by neo-liberal states which appropriate and resignify their symbols, territories and folklore.

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