September 20, 2012

The Cristero War


Mackenzie: Hispanic Heritage Month has arrived. When For Greater Glory hit the box office in June, many wondered why they didn’t know more about the setting of the film, the Mexican Cristero War.

“You must remember that men will fire bullets, but God decides where they land!”

Mackenzie: Hollywood A-listers Andy Garcia and Eva Longoria fight for religious freedom in this movie about a war that many people have never even heard of.

“What’s important for me is that the story was told, because it was sort of a bit taboo and sort of a bit swept under the rug for many years.”

Mackenzie: The war broke out in Mexico in the 1920′s. Civilians and Catholic priests joined together to fight against the Mexican government. They called themselves the Cristeros, after Jesus Christ. And they wanted to be able to practice their religion openly, and not be harassed or abused by police.

I’m here at Rutgers University to ask Professor Mark Wassermann about this unfamiliar slice of Mexican history.

What was Mexico like during the time of the Cristero War?

Professor Mark Wassermann: In the 1920s, Mexico was, in short, a mess.

Mackenzie: Mexico was still recovering from a revolution, when peasants rose up against wealthy landowners. The Catholic Church was very powerful and sided with the landowners.

“This threat will not be tolerated.”

Mackenzie: The new government tried to limit the church’s power and all but outlawed religion in Mexico, so that even innocent people who wanted to worship became victims, and were targeted by the government.

How far did that crackdown go?

Professor Wassermann: Pretty far. You couldn’t practice your religion in public, because priests were not allowed to appear in public or in public garb. So, the movement against the clergy was quite, quite drastic.

Mackenzie: The war lasted three years. And it is reported that between 50 and 90 thousand people lost their lives. When the battle was over, the Cristeros won, and the people of Mexico were allowed to practice religion. And today, Roman Catholics represent more than 90% of the Mexican population.

But the story of the Cristero War hasn’t made it into most history books. Some experts say that is because the conflict is something the Mexican government doesn’t want to remember.

At the red carpet premiere in Beverly Hills over the summer, co-star Eva Longoria and director Dean Wright talked about the importance of bringing this forgotten piece of history to the big screen.

“When you have something like this, that dealt with a real event in history with real people, it’s a huge responsibility to get it right.”

“I love historical fiction, so I’m glad that this movie was able to reflect accurately what had passed in the 1930s.”

“You can’t fight for something you don’t believe in.”

“I believe in freedom.”

“Do you think it is important for American to know about this time in Mexico’s history?”

“The more we know about Mexican history, the more easily we can get along and work out whatever differences we have… because at a time when religious fervor is so important in the world, you have a rebellion in Mexico that was fought over issues that are very similar: religious persecution, religious fervor, so, it’s timely.”

Mackenzie: Mackenzie Haehl, for Channel One News


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