Day of the Revolution: 20 November

We have the day off work today, an important national holiday, Monday instead of Wednesday, 20 November. On this date in 1910, the Mexican Revolution started, in an attempt to get rid of the President of the time, Porfirio Diaz. The two best known characters who came to the fore in the revolution are Emiliano Zapata, who came from the state of Morelos, not far from Cuernavaca, and Pancho Villa, who came from Chihuahua up north. The revolution went on for some time and there was a lot of fighting, and things did eventually change. A constitution was drawn up and is used to this day (with lots of changes, inevitably) and the issue of land ownership is still a massively contentious subject. 
There is a very interesting book about the Revolution (one of many), written by an Englishwoman called Rosa King. The book is called Tempest over Mexico; she was living in Cuernavaca at the time and had a hair raising experience escaping from the revolutionaries. She had to run away literally just a few steps ahead of Zapata and his zapatista army. The book is not particularly well written but it is truly fascinating to read her account. It is especially interesting reading about life in Cuernavaca at the time. One of our book club members managed to get hold of the book some years ago, and so that's why I have read it, in its original English. As far as we know, the book is out of print but L managed to get it through a family member of the author and so it was leant to us for a short time. Rosa King returned to Cuernavaca after the revolution and lived until the 1950s, she was known as someone interesting to visit and take afternoon tea with her. 

I have just found an article written about her in the literary magazine Letras Libres, back in 2010, and here is a bit more information about her. 

She was widowed at the age of 42 and came to live in Cuernavaca in 1907. She opened a tea salon at that time and then opened a hotel, the Bella Vista. She used to visit the village of San Anton, now a colonia of Cuernavaca, and buy ceramics which she used to sell in her hotel. She managed to support herself successfully through her entrepreneurial activities since she catered to British and American tourists principally. However, in 1914 when Cuernavaca was under siege by Zapata, during which time there was no access to food and people began to suffer from terrible hunger, she eventually abandoned the city in August of that year, with the Zapatista army biting at her heels. 

Rosa King was not particularly interested in the plight of the mexican people at first; she was, after all, a colonial through and through, having been born in India, and she only catered to the moneyed classes in Mexico. However, she grew to care for the people, she was very concerned about them when the Revolution started, she treated them very fairly by all account and was worried about their wellbeing. She was unwittingly involved in the revolution as Francisco Madero, the president at the time, came to her hotel in the hope of initiating dialogue with Zapata. The Governor was her friend, she knew all the top politicians, the president was always available to listen to her. There is a quote from John Womack in this article:"By ancient custom the weary powerful of the national capital always resorted there to enjoy the deference of the natives".

She did indeed meet Zapata and his army and she described them as drunkards and trigger happy, as humble peasants, uneducated, etc., as many others described them. She managed to live as she chose without speaking Spanish at all. As the revolution continued the Governor changed, the Generals were replaced and things began to get more complicated. She eventually was forced to leave and run for her life. This was now 1914, and she travelled a very long way round to get to Mexico City, since the shortest route was held by the Zapatistas. Many thousands of people were killed and she was lucky to escape with her life. Despite all of this she remained in Mexico and in fact returned to Cuernavaca in 1928, even though she had lost everything and her property taken from her. But she was able to live in a couple of rooms in the old Hotel Bella Vista, where she lived out her days, entertaining tourists with tea and stories. She was viewed as a fascinating person and forms an integral part of the long and complicated history of the Mexican Revolution. She adopted Mexico as her home, despite her terrifying experiences during the revolution. She was a tough and extraordinary person, by all accounts.

The source for most of this information is :,2

I have just found this information online:

So the book can be found, should anyone want to look for it.

There are so many stories about the Mexican Revolution, and Zapata lives on in the spirit of many people from the state of Morelos, but sometimes it's interesting to share other not so obvious information, which is why I have written about Rosa King today. 


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