¡Que viva México!

Stephen Hart wrote in his article that Eisenstein referred to ¡Que viva México! as a Mexican sarape, and how each strip of the blanket illustrates an experience that Mexico has had to endure. Eisenstein begins with images that depict Mexico as it was before Spanish colonization. We see the simplicity of the Mayan ruins and its people, the relationship they had with their gods and the land.  We also get a glimpse of the matriarchal society and the young girl that works hard to obtain her “golden necklace” that will be her dowry.  She will choose her husband and then the mothers and matchmakers will negotiate, and inspect the coins that make her dowry necklace. This is a simple life that has not changed for centuries.

 The next scene is the Fiesta for the Holy Virgin of Guadalupe. In the 16th century Cortez uses fire and sword to conquer Mexico.  The colonization of Mexico by Spain brings Catholicism, culture, and suffering.   The images of the sufferings of Jesus reenacted by the penitents symbolizes the sufferings that the indigenous people incurred by Spain. The Great Export Boom in Mexico would bring great advantages for the elite and middle classes.  Large landowner’s property values would soar with the introduction of the railroad, cultural spheres would be opened, and the desire for material wealth would grow.   These advantages would be gained on the sweat and tears of the indigenous population.  Chasteen states that “thanks to Progress, their lot was actually getting worse.”  Peasants would be driven off of their land, and forced to be peons on large haciendas in order to survive. They would be worked so much that they would not have time to plant crops for themselves, and their wages would be so low it could not support the family.  Family members such as women and children who under normal circumstances would stay and care for the home would now be forced to get jobs themselves. During the 1860’s and 1870’s democracy would begin to take a back seat to material progress. To have material progress you needed law and order.  This law and order was administered by the elite and whites of society, consequently the lower and indigenous populations were left out.

 The story of the Maguey Cactus brings the viewer to a ranch of one of Mexico’s elites.  Images of Porifio Diaz, ruler of Mexico for thirty five years adorn the walls.  Under Diaz the image of poor Mexico would change.  Mexico’s future would lie with the elite and not the indigenous population. Maguey Cactus tells the story of a young peon couple that wishes to be married.  The law says that brides to be must be introduced to the landowner.  During the presentation the girl is raped.  Her fiancé tries to defend her honor but is thrown out of the hacienda, and his bride to be is put in a cell.  Vowing to avenge her honor he enlists others to help him attack the hacienda.  During the attack the landowner’s daughter is killed.  Outnumbered, they are eventually captured and killed.  The young girl is released from her cell and goes to her love who she finds brutally killed.  The image seems somewhat similar to the image of Christ after he has been taken from the cross.  The suffering that the indigenous people had to endure has taken its toll and now they must all unite to avenge those who have lost their lives for freedom and equality.

 The final novella shows Mexico celebrating Día de los Muertos.  The imagery used shows that the elite depicted as skeletons and dead. Those behind the skeleton masks are the once peons who have overcome their oppression and are alive. Under the Presidency of Lazaro Cardenas almost 45 million acres of land was distributed, support was given to labor organizations and their right to strike, and Mexico was on the road to economical independence. Mexico’s palace would now display the murals of Diego Rivera which told the story of indigenous Mexico and the horrors of Spanish colonization. This was the beginning of their future- a rebirth.  The end of the film leaves viewer seeing a mask being pulled away only to reveal a young boy who is free- and the future of Mexico. ¡Viva México!

History of Mexico: From Conquest to the future