Que Viva Mexico

Sergei Eisenstein’s Film, “Que Viva Mexico”, which was originally shot in 1930’s in Mexico, but edited in 1979 by his co-director Grigory Alexandrov, gives quite an artistic portrait of the Mexican way of life before the Mexican Revolution. The film begins with shots of ancient stone ruins, showing them side by side with the indigenous people whose ancestors created them, and who even bear a resemblance to these ancient carvings. Eisenstein’s is showing that the ancient remnants of past are still present in the descendants of the indigenous people who once ruled Mexico before colonization. Though the ancient pagan practices have been repressed by the Spanish Conquerors, there still remain traces of a society not ruled by Europeans.

            Later in the film, we see a depiction of ritual supervise by Catholic priests, in which men are carrying the stalks of cacti up a rocky path to the top of a hill, where a large white church stands. This is a prime example of Eisenstein’s use of symbolism, which is present throughout the film. The men are under the oppression of the Cacti they carry as they are under the oppression of the institution of the Church and those few wealthy elites who control it. (Robe 25) The Film then shows a very Spanish custom, which has been brought to Mexico, the bullfight. Eisenstein may do this show the prominence and importance of Spanish culture in Mexican civilization.

            Though these first scenes give us insight into Mexican culture before the revolution, the main plot of Que Viva Mexico come to the forefront in the vignette entitled the Maguey Cactus. Here, Eisenstein clearly portrays the injustice and oppression that the landed nobility of European heritage place on the shoulders of the peasants whom work their films. The scene takes place on an early 20th century Maguey Cactus plantation. At the plantation we see a large drinking party with owner of the plantation and his friends. Eisenburg juxtaposes scenes of the drunken partyers with pulque running down their lips with scenes of pigs eating of off the floor and flies buzzing around the pulque, “showing the piggish brutishness of the people at the fiesta.” (Hart, 21) After the fiancé of the plantation worker Sebastian is raped, he and his friends decide to take revenge on the plantation owner and his friends. The initial sparks of revolution against injustice are first beginning to develop. Though Sebastian and his comrades are brutally killed, his little brother witnesses the ordeal and one can suppose that a deep resentment is present in the young man against the land owners who took his brother life. Finally, in the epilogue, a new Mexico is visible behind the day of the dead masks. The old aristocracy is dead and the children of the revolutionaries are left to inherit Mexico.