Que Viva Mexico, as envisioned by Eisenstein and edited by Alexandrov, depicts the historical trajectory of Mexico’s revolutionary consciousness. Filmed as six parts meant to coalesce into a whole, Que Viva Mexico was Eisenstein’s attempt to “show how revolution depends upon the collective will of the people to join forces and transcend the patriarchal, capitalist ideologies of Mexico” (Robe 22). The film was never completed, of course, as Eisenstein intended, but the footage edited by Alexandrov nevertheless delivers a temporal perspective of the oppression which slowly impelled Mexico’s revolutionary movement.
The Prologue (part I) is meant to recall the grandeur of Mexico’s prehispanic past now almost fully extinguished by centuries of Spanish subjugation. The next section, Tehuantepec (part II), centers around Concepcion’s marriage to Abundio within a matriarchal culture. The Fiesta (part III) showcases the colonization of Mexico’s indigenous peoples at the hands of the Spanish. The Maguey Cactus (part IV) is a specific illustration of the oppression which provoked revolution, coming to fruition in Soldadera (part V), and reaching a new equilibrium in The Day of the Dead (part VI).
While opening with Mexico’s aboriginal and prehispanic past, the film slowly introduces with The Fiesta the extent of Spanish influence in the region, shown predominantly in regards to Catholicism and bull-fighting. Christianity was so readily adopted in the region because of the many structural thematic parallels between indigenous and Christian notions of a stratified universe, yet emerged as a tool of the invading Spanish culture. As Robe notes, with the supplication of the pilgrimage scene, “the symbolic imagery of the Trinity accentuates the literal oppression of the peons by Catholicism” (24). The deleterious effects of Spanish colonization and oppression become even more immediate as the film progresses into the next section.
In an appreciation of Mexico’s prehispanic past, “the extraction of the sap from the Maguey cactus…is to be related to the life-blood of the people” (Hart 24). This section of the film highlights the experiences of the rural population during the turn of the twentieth century, but most especially how “the abuses of the [hacienda] system were exacerbated markedly during the Diaz regime” (Meyer 398). Sebastian’s attempt to rescue Maria and exact vengeance for her rape and his humiliation fail miserably. The total control of the hacendados, and most significantly, Diaz, who “was the symbol of all Mexico’s ills” (Meyer 433) is exemplary of the oppression which birthed a revolutionary consciousness in the minds of the peones.
The associational montages of the film, the increasing weight of various oppressions as built through sectioning, leads to the inevitable crescendo: the Soldadero’s revolution. In the process, the film produces an historical trajectory of Mexico’s revolutionary consciousness. Ultimately, the information that the landowning class perishes is presented during The Day of the Dead (part VI), the joyous time when friends and family gather to revel in the lives of deceased loved ones, an association which pits the oppressive past against the bright, post-revolutionary future and signifies a contemporary connection to the aboriginal and colonial past.