Professor Rudy Acuña Breaks Down The Cristeros & How Conservatives Continue to Rewrite History With ‘For Greater Glory’
Since the trailers appeared “For Greater Glory” – a movie about the Mexican Cristero Movement of the 1920s – I have been receiving emails urging me to take a stand because one of the actors is my student. I have not seen the film and I don’t intend to see it because I don’t like the Cristeros. Also Andy García is not my favorite actor especially since he fanned the hysteria surrounding Elián González in 2000.
With that said I respect for Eva Longoria who wants to do something with her celebrity status and has done more for social justice than most professionals I know. Ruben Blades also appears in the movie, and I have long been a fan of his music and respect his politics.
But the real reason I don’t go see the movie is because it is ahistorical. I heard García’s interview on Univision’s “Al Punto” with Jorge Ramos where he tried to inject his Anti-Castro politics into the discussion portraying the Cristeros as martyrs in the struggle for religious freedom.
My father was a staunch Catholic from Jalisco. He never liked the Cristeros considering them fanatics. He hated Plutarco Elías Calles for other reasons. My mother’s family was split: my grandfather had a falling out with his cousin Plutarco but at the same time considered the Cristeros fanatics. During the 1930s many Cristeros were sinarquistas who throughout World War II supported Spain’s Francisco Franco.
Some promoters of the film have called Calles a Stalin and worse a Hitler. This is extreme. Calles was enforcing the Mexican Constitution of 1917 that called for a separation of Church and State. It was a struggle that had been raging in Mexico since the Mexican Independence of 1821.
Roots can be found in the Protestant Revolt and later in 1767 with the expulsion of the Jesuits from the Americas and most European countries. It was a struggle between those supporting the Enlightenment, a “philosophical movement of the 18th century that emphasized the use of reason to scrutinize previously accepted doctrines and traditions and that brought about many humanitarian reforms” and the inquisitors who supported orthodoxy and were backed by the Jesuits. Another apparent motive was the confiscation of Jesuit’s vast landholdings.
The traditions of the Enlightenment formed the ideology of Mexican liberalism after Independence; Liberals opposed the Church Party that wanted to retain special privileges for the Catholic Church and clergy. For example, priests were not subject to state jurisdiction and could not be tried for sexual abuse, murder or lawlessness in civil courts.
The Church Party fought the secularization of Church property and actively recruited Indians to fight their wars. But to set the record straight, many of Liberals betrayed their principles and used the secularization to dispossess Indians.
The struggle culminated in Constitutional changes in 1858 separating Church and State and taking away the fueros (privileges) of the Church and clergy. They demanded that citizens give unto Caesar what belonged to Caesar and said that marriages and the registration of newborn babies should be the function of the state. Within this context, Liberals granted Protestants and Jews de jure religious freedom.
Conservatives resisted, leading to the War of Reform, 1858-1861, that led to a Liberal victory.
Not content with the outcome, the Church Party invited the French to intervene and supported the ascension of Emperor Maximilian and another Civil war raged from 1861-65. Juárez was excommunicated and accused of suppressing religious freedom.
Read More From Prof. Acuña
Read: Twisting History: ‘For Greater Glory’ Movie Is ‘Persecuted Catholics’ Propaganda