Rhodakanaty was born on October 14, 1828 in Athens, Greece to a member of Greek nobility and his Austrian wife. Rhodakanaty’s father died during the Greek war for independence against the Turks, and his mother took him to Vienna. In 1848, Rhodakanaty traveled to Budapest to assist in the failed Hungarian uprising of that year. He traveled next to Berlin where he was exposed to the ideas of Hegel, Fourier, and Proudhon. In 1850, he visited Paris specifically to meet Proudhon after reading the latter’s What Is Property? While in Paris, he learned of Mexico’s rural system of relatively self-governing agricultural communities and of the threat to them presented by capitalism and privatization. He supported the effort to save them and went to Barcelona where he lived for at least two years in the large anarchist community there. Rhodakanaty planned to help save that way of life in Mexico.
In 1861, the same year he arrived in Mexico, he wrote Cartilla Socialista and began propagating the ideas of contemporary European thinkers, particularly Fourier, Proudhon, and Bakunin. He published other radical essays, characterized by his famous quote “Down with all governments” (abajo con todos los gobiernos). including Neopanteísmo, founded journals, and in 1870 helped establish an “escuela libre” at Chalco. The term “escuela libre” was used by anarchists to distinguish themselves from government- and church-influenced education. The school was run by his disciple Francisco Zalacosta who went on to lead peasant insurrections involving as many as 1,500 fighters at a time in central Mexico. To support himself, he taught at the Colegio de San Ildefonso in downtown Mexico City, where he organized like-minded students. A circle of followers emerged, including Santiago Villanueva, Francisco Zalacosta, Julio Chávez López, and José María Gonzales. These people and others would later form an important nucleus in the early Mexican labor and peasant movements.
In his older age he moved to Ajusco in the mountains southwest of Mexico City. He taught in that small school throughout the time that Otilio Montaño, the author of Emiliano Zapata’s famous Plan De Ayala, attended as a young student. The Plan de Ayala closely related Rhodakanaty’s goal of a democratic and self-governing society in rural Mexico.