The film Que Viva Mexico (1931/1979) by film maker Sergei Eisenstein explores the changes that Mexico and it’s people went through with the influence of Spanish culture on their native society. The conquest left a lasting impression on the people and culture of Mexico but the film examines how and what actually changed as well as how it fused into a uniqueness that combined two cultures.
During the film, a lot of imagery is used to depict the religious impact that the Spanish conquest had on the Mexican population. As mentioned Chris Robé’s “Enstein in America: The Que Viva Mexico! Debates and the Emergent Popular Front in US Film Theory and Criticism” there are a lot of biblical pictures represented throughout the film. Not only was there the climb by the men with symbolic crosses on their backs but there was also a moment in the film where the three men being buried in the desert appear to look like Jesus and the two other men on Calvary. The reading by Robé suggests that the religious depiction of the film is referring to how Eisenstein felt religion could be “harnessed for revolutionary purposes.” He goes on to suggest that Catholicism is the reason that the people were able to unite over their oppression and ban together for their revolutionary struggle.
The importance of religion is so powerful at this point in the countries history because it was able to unite the country during a time of social strife. In Sherman, Meyer’s The Course of Mexican History Myer’s discusses the social classes and their dissociation with one another. The middle class now distanced themselves from the working and poor classes. It was even stated that children during this time were taught at a young age to judge other members of society based on their outward appearances. With religion as a common ground between most members of this rapidly changing society, it made uniting easier as well as being able to feel a sense of community. Catholic idealism in Mexico also was able to gain attention for spreading education about the alcoholism of the lower class and it’s poor influence on society with it relation to crime etc. Catholic religion was grasped onto by the ever growing middle class and aided in further unity and realization of the oppression the native people were feeling as well as the pressure to accept unwelcome changes.
The film as a whole going from pre-revolutionary Mexico to revolution has the reoccurring theme of religion in each segment. Although there are numerous political themes, the religious aspects were most interesting not only because they were reoccurring, but it represented how no matter what region, time period, or situation was shown there was always a sense of unity in the background of their religion. As the readings suggest as well, without the importance of religion in Mexico, a revolution such as the one that took place could have never happened.