Gabriela contains several underlying themes that are not easily picked up without further investigation of the time period in Latin America. The western world was on the verge of tremendous progress economically, politically, and culturally. The rest of the world was forced to follow or be left behind. The economic and political changes appeared easier to implement as their impacts were easier to recognize. The overall treatment of certain people within the society was not as easy to change. Traditional customs that held certain groups back, such as women, can be seen through Gabriela. 
As Chasteen notes in chapter five of, “Born in Blood and Fire,” reforms were focused on groups such as slaves but women were constantly left out of these reforms. Chasteen illustrates how most of the emphasis on reform in Brazil was placed on ending slavery. By the mid 19th century, the Brazilian elites fought over these reforms. Eventually the liberal minded elites won out on this issue of slavery, but as the film Gabriela points out things only appeared to get worse for women. Susan Beese explains how the “Law of Cain” affected tons of women during this time in Brazil. As in Gabriela, a husband was allowed to murder their spouse and someone they were having an affair with. Even though laws had begun to change , society continued to turn a blind eye to these acts of passion. Beese uses a report in the magazine, “Revista Feminina,” to show just how out of control these crimes had become. It reported that a woman was murdered by a man every half hour in 1924 Brazil. This is a shocking revelation at just how backward the views against women were a this time. However, this is not completely surprising when one considers that even the United States Congress did not pass the 19th amendment which allowed women the right to vote until 1919. The focus of reform for women’s rights is something that is relatively new in our world, with the largest impacts occurring just over the last century.
The voice from the women of Brazil did not come much later. Beese writes on page 654 that earliest voices for reform came from middle class women in women’s magazines. This is not surprising either, as lower class women were in no position to voice their concerns and most upper class women would not have voiced views that would have affected their husbands. What is surprising is who Beese contributes for allowing the reform movement to gain considerable ground. She explains that four men and several other members of the legal community led this cause. By the 1940’s, the fight against crimes of passion appear to have disappeared as most these crimes ended.
Beese also goes on to explain on page 656 that the estimate by “Revista Feminina” of a 2400% increase in the number of crimes of passions over a 6 short six year period was likely an over exaggeration. Even so, one can not underestimate just how problematic these crimes were. It is unfortunate that reforms for women took so long throughout the world. Even in the developed western world, women were the last class of people to have reforms advanced for their causes. Gabriela showed just how even more problematic these problems were for women in the less economically developed areas of Latin America.