Born on August 8, 1879, Emiliano Zapata was orphaned at the age of 17. A revolutionary from an early age, in 1897 he was arrested because he took part in a protest by the peasants of his village against the hacienda (plantation) that had appropriated their lands. After he was pardoned, he continued to agitate among the peasants, and because of his rabble-rousing, he was subsequently drafted into the Mexican army.
After serving for only six months, Zapata was discharged to a landowner to train his horses in Mexico City. In 1909 his leadership skills were already well known, and he was summoned to his village of birth, Anenecuilco, where he was elected as the village’s council board president.