Andy Garcia, Catalina S. Moreno, Cristeros War, Dean Wright, Dr. Rudy Acuna, Eva Longoria, Faith, For Greater Glory, Jean Meyer, Mauricio Kuri, Mexican History, Religious freedom, Ruben Blades, Strong Women

What Price Would You Pay for Freedom?

For Greater Glory-photo filmofilia

As a Latina and an American of Mexican descent, I often anticipate the release of films that highlight the history of Mexico or the Latino experience in the United States. That was the case with For Greater Glory with it’s thought provoking tagline:

                                                  What price would you pay for freedom?

From the movie’s website: FOR GREATER GLORY:  General Gorostieta (Garcia), the retired military man who at first thinks he has nothing personal at stake as he and his wife (Longoria) watch Mexico fall into a violent civil war. As an atheist he hesitates joining the cause but soon becomes the resistance’s most inspiring and self-sacrificing leader, as he begins to see the cost of religious persecution on his countrymen… he transforms a rag-tag band of rebels into a heroic force. Yet it is those he meets on the journey – youthful idealists, feisty renegades and, most of all, one remarkable teenager named Jose – who reveal to him how courage and belief are forged even when justice seems lost.

The movie is the true story of the Cristeros War (1926-1929) which manages to blend personal, religious, political and historical events. 

The faith of the Cristero martyrs and the ruthless violence of war make this a heart and gut wrenching movie to watch.

The Cristeros War was touched off by a rebellion against the Mexican government’s attempt to secularize the country, which had a four-century-old Roman Catholic history. President Calles attempted to enforce the 1917 Constitution, which called for secularization including his own ‘amendments’ that clerics could not wear vestments in public, celebrate Catholic Mass, or give Catholic sacraments. Soon President Calles used violence to enforce the law.

There is an interesting article  written by Dr. Rudy Acuña, Professor Emeritus and historian. He states, “In my view, “For Greater Glory” must be put into historical context. The Cristeros… were not calling for religious freedom for Protestants or Jews. It was inspired by the Catholic hierarchy that eventually sold out the peasants.” 

The Vatican stayed mostly aloof from the bloodshed although President Calles ordered the execution of many priests and targeted any Catholics. It was said that Pope Pius XI was sympathetic to the Cristeros, but was reluctant to break altogether with the Mexican government. Other Catholic groups, including the Knights of Columbus in the US, actively supported the Cristeros and pressured for US diplomatic intervention. The US government, having intervened militarily in Mexico in the previous decade (Mexican Revolution), was eager to see the conflict settled so that Mexico could continue selling oil to the US.

Over the three years, approximately 90,000 Mexicans died in the fighting, at a time when the total population was about 15 million. To put those numbers in perspective, the same level of violence in the US today would mean nearly 2 million American deaths

The roots of For Greater Glory are deep. A young French graduate student named Jean Meyer arrived in Mexico in 1965 to write his doctoral thesis on the religious war known as the Cristiada. After five years of research and hundreds of interviews with Cristiano’s his thesis was completed and published by a Mexican publishing house in 1972. The book is in its 20th printing. The work done by Meyer ultimately helped to provide the general framework for the movie. Pablo Barroso, the movie’s executive producer, is a Mexican-Catholic who wanted the full story told.

As a viewer I felt this movie was well acted, especially by Ruben Blades and newcomer Mauricio Kuri, who gave a very moving performance in the film, as 14 year old José, a mischievous schoolboy who witnesses the atrocities of Calles’ law first hand and makes a pilgrimage to join the Cristeros and fight alongside General Gorostieta. I like the inclusion of the women’s role in this movie, illustrated by actor Catalina S. Moreno (of Maria Full of Grace movie). She and many of the other women are depicted as strong, intelligent, clever, loyal, and an integral part of the Cristeros movement. 

Dean Wright, (Lord of the Rings, Titanic), directed. The incredible cinematography of the movie lends to an authentic feel. Notwithstanding the accuracy of the historical facts and motivations regarding the movie’s theme, but  for ‘entertainment’ value this is a movie I’d recommend and see again.  

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