A Mexican 10 Peso note, with a picture of Emiliano Zapata on it. Zapata, Emiliano (1877?-1919), Mexican revolutionary leader and agrarian reformer, born in San Miguel Anenecuilco in Morelos State. An illiterate tenant farmer of almost pure Indian blood, he recruited an army of Indians from villages and haciendas in Morelos and, under the rallying cry Land and Liberty, joined the Mexican revolutionist Francisco Madero in the 1910 revolt against the Mexican soldier-statesman Porfirio Díaz. Having lost faith in Madero, who assumed the presidency in 1911, Zapata formulated his agrarian reform plan; known as the Plan of Ayala, it called for the land to be redistributed among the Indians. During the provisional presidencies of the Mexican soldier-politician Victoriano Huerta and, later, the Mexican statesman Venustiano Carranza, Zapata continued his resistance to the government. By this time Zapata had extended his power throughout southern Mexico. With the Mexican revolutionary general Francisco Villa, Zapata marched on Mexico City, entering it the first of three times in 1914. The following year Zapata withdrew to Morelos where, still resisting, he later was murdered by an agent of Carranza.

Although regarded as merely a pillaging bandit by his enemies, Zapata was idolized by the Indians as the true revolutionary reformer and hero; his life has inspired countless legends and ballads. A Mexican 20 Peso note, with a picture of Benito Juarez on it. Juarez, Benito Pablo (1806-72), national hero and president of Mexico (1861-63 and 1867-72). Juarez was born of Indian parents on March 21, 1806, near the town of Oaxaca. Educated in law, Juarez became (1847) governor of the state of Oaxaca and was imprisoned when the Mexican general Antonio de Santa Anna seized (1853) the national government. He escaped to New Orleans, Louisiana, but returned to Mexico in 1855 to take part in the revolution that overthrew Santa Anna. Juarez became minister of justice in the new government and instituted a series of liberal reforms that were embodied in the constitution of 1857.

The following year Juarez became provisional president after the outbreak of a revolt led by conservative elements. Soon afterward he was forced to flee the national capital, Mexico City, and established a new seat of government at Veracruz. He initiated a number of sweeping reforms, including the reduction of the civil power of the Roman Catholic church by confiscating ecclesiastical property. He defeated the conservative forces in 1860 and 1861, when he established his government in Mexico City and was constitutionally elected president.

Facing financial chaos caused by five years of civil war, Juarez suspended payments to foreign creditors in 1861. France, Spain, and Great Britain intervened, however, and landed troops at Veracruz. Juarez reached a settlement with Great Britain and Spain; those countries withdrew from Mexico, but the French remained and captured Mexico City. Maximilian, archduke of Austria, the puppet of Emperor Napoleon III of France, was crowned emperor of Mexico in 1864. Juarez moved his capital to the north and continued military resistance. When Maximilian's government fell in 1867, Juarez returned to Mexico City and was reelected president. In 1871 the statesman Porfirio Díaz, an unsuccessful political candidate against Juarez, began a revolt that eventually was quelled, but Juarez died of apoplexy on July 18, 1872, in Mexico City, before the end of the uprising. He is regarded as one of the greatest heroes in Mexican history. A Mexican 50 Peso note, with a picture of José María Morelos, on it. Morelos y Pavón, José María (1765-1815), Mexican priest, who led the independence movement after the execution of Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla. He was born in present-day Morelia, Michoacán, and educated there. Ordained in 1797, he was a parish priest until he joined Hidalgo's rebellion in 1810. Given a military commission, he soon gained control of a wide territory in central Mexico; by late 1811 he was generally recognized as the leader of the rebellion. He captured Acapulco in 1813 and later that year sponsored the Congress of Chilpancingo, which issued a declaration of independence, promulgated a constitution, and appointed Morelos generalissimo of the insurgent government. After a defeat of his army in December 1813, however, Morelos fought a defensive war. He was captured by royalist forces in November 1815, while protecting the Congress on a march to safety. Convicted of heresy and defrocked by the Inquisition, he was then turned over to secular authorities and executed. A Mexican 100 Peso note, with a picture of Nezahualcoyote on it. Nezahualcoyote was the son of Ixtlilxóchitl, the ruler of Texcoco from 1409 until 1418. Defeated in battle by Tezozómoc, Ixtlilxóchitl retreated to a remote spot where he faced his pursuers alone. After a valiant struggle, he was impaled on the spears of his enemies in full view of his young son, Nezahualcoyote (Fasting Coyote), who was concealed in a tree. This heir to the throne of Texcoco managed to escape the henchmen of Tezozómoc and finally found sanctuary across the mountains to the east. "In order to wipe out the memory of Ixtlilxóchitl," writes Frederick Peterson, "Tezozómoc had his soldiers ask every child in Texcoco under the age of seven, 'Who is your king?' When the little children answered either 'Ixtlilxóchitl' or 'Nezahualcoyote,' they were immediately struck down with obsidian-edged clubs. In this way several thousand children were put to death before parents taught their children the name of Tezozómoc. Two years later, in 1420, at the age of one hundred, Tezozómoc finally relinquished his rule. Nezahualcoyote came to rule the city of Texcoco from 1418 until 1472. To a considerable extent Texcoco's strength was owing to the brilliance of Nezahualcoyote. While so many are remembered for their military exploits, the illustrious Nezahualcoyote is recalled for his cultural refinement. He was too much a man of his times to be a pacifist, and he steadily increased his influence through military force, but he had more positive redeeming qualities. Renowned for his philosophical verse, this "Poet King of Texcoco" was also a wise legislator and an impartial judge; he did not hesitate to condemn to death, for example, members of his own family who broke laws. In addition he was an engineer who was instrumental in the construction of a great aqueduct, which brought water to Tenochititlán from the mainland, and of a long dike across the lake. A scholar and bibliophile, his Texcoco, "the Athens of Anáhuac," had libraries housing thousands of manuscripts, which were, tragically, later destroyed. The city, with its gardens, royal baths, and beautiful temples, was the finest expression of civilization in an age otherwise marred by cruelty, intrigue, and almost constant warfare. When Nezahualcoyote died in 1472, his son Nezahualpilli, who had many of his father's qualities, became ruler of Texcoco, but the city came increasingly under the influence of Tenochititlán." A Mexican 200 Peso note, with a picture of Juana Inès de La Cruz on it. Juana Inès de La Cruz (1651-95), Mexican poet and scholar, whose ingenious, eloquent, and expressive verse has earned her a place as the outstanding 17th-century poet of Spanish America. She was born in San Miguel and largely self-educated. A prodigy in her childhood, she learned to read at the age of three. In her teens, she served as a lady-in-waiting at the court of the viceroy of New Spain and was renowned for her beauty, wit, intelligence, and learning. After several years, she retired from court life to become a nun. Some biographers have attributed her retirement to an unhappy love affair, but she declared that only the monastic life permitted her sufficient opportunity to carry on her intellectual pursuits.

As a nun, Juana de la Cruz studied theology, literature, history, music, and science. She corresponded with many leading poets and scholars of her day and wrote poetry that earned her the sobriquet the Tenth Muse. In response to a reprimand from a superior, she wrote a letter defending her secular interests and pleading for equal educational opportunities for women. Two years before her death, she gave up her studies and turned almost wholly to religious contemplation. Her writings, comprising lyric and allegorical poems and religious and secular drama, were published in Spain between 1689 and 1700. A Mexican 500 Peso note, with a picture of Ignacio Zaragoza on it. Ignacio Zaragoza was the Mexican general commanding the Mexican troops in the battle against the French at the town of Puebla. Shortly after the Spanish and British troops withdrew their armies from Mexico, the French army, reinforced with an additional forth-five hundred troops, began to march inland on its war of occupation. the French minister in Mexico City informed the invading commander that the French would be welcomed with open arms in Puebla, and that the local clergy would not only shower them with magnolia blooms but would offer a special Te Deum in their honor. But Puebla, although conservative and pro clerical, was not to be such an easy prize. Encountering unexpected opposition on the morning of May 5, 1862, the French attacked recklessly, and with two hours the French had expended half of their ammunition. The French troops, many weakened by the affliction that sometimes smites the foreign visitor to the Mexican countryside, did not acquit themselves well. General Zaragoza, on the other hand, managed his troops with rare aplomb. The decisive maneuver of the day was carried out by young Brigadier General Porfirio Díaz, commanding the Second Brigade. Late in the afternoon Díaz repelled a determined French assault on Zaragoza's right flank. The dejected invaders, many veterans from more glorious days in Crimea, retreated to lick their wounds in Orizaba. May 5 - Cinco de Mayo- would be added to the national calendar of holidays in honor of the Mexican victory.

Strangely enough, Cinco de Mayo is a much bigger holiday in the United States than it is in Mexico. Here it passes largely unnoticed, other than that little work gets done. Also while the Mexicans won the battle of Puebla that day, the French returned a year later with thirty thousand fresh troops, and after encircling Puebla and reducing the city to rubble with heavy bombardment, finally captured Puebla after the population was reduced to nourishing themselves on rodents, pets, and leaves.

Quote of the day:
Men, like peaches and pears, grow sweet a little while before they begin to decay.
Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.

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