Last modified on 6 September 2014, at 04:25

Emiliano Zapata

I want to die a slave to principles. Not to men.
Ignorance and obscurantism have never produced anything other than flocks of slaves for tyranny...

Emiliano Zapata Salazar (8 August 187910 April 1919) was a leading figure in the Mexican Revolution against the dictatorship of Porfirio Díaz that broke out in 1910.


  • I want to die a slave to principles. Not to men.
    • As quoted in Heroes of Mexico (1969) by Morris Rosenblum, p. 112
  • Prefiero morir de pie que vivir de rodillas.
    • I'd rather die on my feet, than live on my knees.
      • As quoted in Liberation Theologies in North America and Europe‎ (1979) by Gerald H. Anderson and Thomas F. Stransky, p. 281; this is sometimes misattributed to the more modern revolutionary, Che Guevara, and to "La Pasionaria" Dolores Ibárruri, especially in Spain, where she popularized it in her famous speeches during the Spanish Civil War, to José Martí, and to Aeschylus who is credited with a similar declaration in Prometheus Bound: "For it would be better to die once and for all than to suffer pain for all one's life." The phrase "better that we should die on our feet rather than live on our knees" was spoken by François-Noël Gracchus Babeuf in his defence of the Conspiracy of Equals in April 1797. In French it read, 'Ne vaut-il pas mieux emporter la glorie de n'avoir pas survecu a la servitude?' but transliterated this bears no resemblance whatever to the quote under discussion. see: The Defense of Gracchus Babeuf Before the High Court of Vendome (1967), edited and translated by John Anthony Scott, p. 88 and p. 90, n. 12.
    • Spanish variants:
    • ¡Prefiero morir de pie que vivir siempre arrodillado!
      • I'd prefer to die standing, than to live always on my knees.
        • As quoted in Operación Cobra : historia de una gesta romántica (1988) by Alvaro Pablo Ortiz and Oscar Lara, p. 29
    • Variant translations:
      • Men of the South! It is better to die on your feet than to live on your knees!
        • With an extension, as quoted in Timeless Mexico (1944) by Hudson Strode, p. 259
      • I would rather die standing than live on my knees!
      • It is better to die on your feet than to live on your knees!
      • I prefer to die standing than to live forever kneeling.
      • Prefer death on your feet to living on your knees.

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