Derived from the Mexican revolutionary leader Emiliano Zapata (1879–1919), zapatismo has been an influential political tradition whose emphasis has been on the restoration of rights of the dispossessed and social justice. Zapata's basic ideas, spelt out in the Plan de Ayala (1911), were summed up in the mottoes ‘Land and Freedom’ and ‘Land belongs to those who plough it’. The Mexican Constitution of 1917 incorporated the idea of land reform through the prohibition of large estates and the creation of the ejido system, or communal land‐holding, which regulated land tenure in Mexico without substantial reforms between 1917 and 1992.
Hundreds of organizations which campaigned and fought for social justice and participatory democracy in Mexico throughout the twentieth century included the name Zapata in their names. The EZLN, or Zapatista army, became the best known after its dramatic public appearance in the state of Chiapas on 1 January 1994, the same day that NAFTA sealed the commercial integration of Mexico with the United States and Canada. Since then zapatismo has become an international social movement with strong support from progressive groups in the United States and in Europe. The new zapatismo has embraced indigenous' rights and cultural diversity as well as anti‐globalization and anti‐capitalist protests around the world. Rather than emphasizing class struggle they stress the need for broad coalitions and grassroots movements (globalization ‘from below’) to oppose the neoliberal world order. Likewise, rather than furthering their objectives through armed conflict they have concentrated their strategy and discourse on the international media (being dubbed the first ‘virtual guerrilla’ movement in the world).