Emi was born in the small, dusty village (comunidad) of San Juan Quiahaja, located in Oaxaca state about four hours towards the coast from Oaxaca City.
Her father, Tomas Cruz, was an intellectual, published writer, community leader, and advocate of Indigenous rights, and he named his third daughter after one of his heroes, Emiliano Zapata. Like Zapata and many other great men who have promulgated a more fair and just society in Mexico, he was assassinated for his beliefs, murdered one night on his way to an Indigenous rights forum in Mexico City.
Almost unable to comprehend the enormity of her tragedy, Emiliana (who was 18 at the time), her mom, and her 5 siblings (Papio, Raquel, Thomas, Yolanda, and Hilaria) had nothing to fall back on except a few chickens in the yard and their fathers teachings: do what is right, fight for justice, live with passion, and always try to break new barriors.
Today, Yolanda is an accomplished film maker with an MFA from the UCLA film school (see her website at www.petate.com), Emiliana has a doctorate from the University of Texas and is a professor at UMass Amherst, Hilaria and Tomas are getting their master's degrees at the U of T, and Raquel is an undergraduate student at UC Santa Cruz.