¡Que Viva Mexico! was a movie directed by Sergei Eisenstein and funded by the American, Socialist writer Upton Sinclair. It was supposed to consist of 6 parts: Prologue, Tehuantepec, The Fiesta, The Maguey Cactus, Soladera, and the Day of the Dead. However the movie was never finished. The movie was made to depict how Mexican life before the 1910 Mexican Revolution. After independence in Latin America, the common belief was that countries should develop like the United States and Western Europe. Chris Robé says that, “¡Que Viva Mexico! was to show how revolution depends upon the collective will of the people to join forces and transcend the constraining patriarchal, capitalistic ideologies of Modern Mexico. The individual, although an important factor of the revolution, must unite himself or herself with collective action for any significant structural change to take place.”
Before the Mexican Revolution, Meixco was under the dictatorship of Porfitio Diaz, who Chasteen describes as the “epitome of neocolonial dictatorships in Latin America.” Although under his regime, there was significant economic progress, only the elite and the middle class benefited. Sherman explains that, “Mexico entered a period of sustained economic grown the likes of which it has never before experienced.” The poor rural farmers were left on the margins of society, receiving none of the wealth that urban dwellers did. Chasteen explains that during this time, peasants lost much of their land to greedy hacienda owners that essentially treated them as slaves. They were forced to work on these haciendas for little money. However, these were the people that were contributing the most to the agricultural production of México, and facilitating most of the growth. The revolution itself was led by a wider variety of different groups, many of them wanted the indigenous to have more rights and all of them wanted to the see Diaz ousted.
The movie ¡Que Viva Mexico! falls short of providing an actual historical depiction of Mexico pre-revolution. However, this may be in part that there was a lot of disagreement on writing and producing the movie. Stephen Hart explains that “the most important point to mention about ¡Que Viva Mexico! is that it was not completed by Eisenstein, and therefore we can only speculate about what form it might finally have taken had Eisenstein been given the opportunity to edit the film.” Since Eisenstein was making the movie to have different sections with disjointed symbolism, it was hard to truly understand what direction the film was taking since it was unfinished. Leftist film critics argue that the film failed to have a truly radical, leftist stance.
The film mainly focuses on the episode “Maguey.” During this section, a peasant, Sebastian takes his new wife, Maria to meet the hacienda owner. During the visit, she was raped by an elite and then incarcerated on the hacienda. Sebastian and his friends attempt to take revenge and save Maria. However, they fail at doing this and end up being buried up to their heads a trampled on by horses. It seems as though this part of the movie was made just for entertainment. This section of the film is more about a jaded love story than about the true injustice that happened on haciendas. Although it does show the plight of women on haciendas, it fails to highlight the real struggles of the peasants. However, there are scenes in the movie that show the dynamic issues of Mexico. There are scenes that depict colonial legacies, such as the bullfighting, which definitely show the role colonialism and neocolonialism played in the historical progression politics and culture in Mexico. Perhaps if the film had been finished by Eisenstein, it would have a more radical leftist stance and shown a real depiction of Mexican culture and the political atmosphere before the 1910 revolution.