Although their families hail from different parts of Mexico, both share very personal ties to that turbulent period when government persecution of Catholics touched off an armed uprising. Yet, it would take the release of the motion picture “For Greater Glory” for them to share that familial history with their children. The movie’s release would also prompt the couple’s return to a theater after a 30-year hiatus.
“Nobody knows about what happened,” Jovita Flores said, referring to Mexicans of her generation as well as latter ones. “Or they don’t want to talk about it.”
The Cristero War was precipitated by what many see as Mexican President Plutarco Elías Calles’ brutal attempt to carry out constitutional laws regarding separation of church and state. By war’s end, about 90,000 people would have been killed.
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While the movie centers much of its action in Sahuayo, Michoacan, protracted battles had also taken place in the nearby town of Chavinda, where Jesus Flores’ family lived.
His grandfather witnessed some of the fighting that erupted over a three-day span at a nearby railroad bridge, Jesus Flores said, adding that villagers afterward had to bury the casualties en masse.
“To this day the charred stumps of the burned bridge are still there,” the 73-year-old said in Spanish.
Jovita’s maternal grandfather perished when he was caught in the crossfire between Cristeros and federal soldiers in the town of Jala, in the state of Nayarit. Her mother would also relate how Cristeros could be found hung from trees as a warning to villagers, Jovita said.
Her father also had to convince local Cristeros to release his brother from being pressed into fighting the government, she said.
The movie, Jovita said in Spanish, is also useful in the sense that “youngsters here can learn about Mexican history.”
Something of a history buff himself, her grandson Carlos Flores also accompanied them to watch the movie.
He credits the movie with “opening my eyes to Mexican history” and will probably follow-up with more research into the subject as well, Carlos Flores said.
“I want to know about my past and where I came from and tell others about it,” the 18-year-old said.
The families’ ties to the Cristero saga came as a surprise to Jesus and Jovita’s son Jose, who said his parents never made any mention of how the war had impacted his ancestors.
A Brawley Union High School history teacher, Jose Flores said the movie and family history has prompted him to examine that chapter of Mexican history more closely.
Nor is it hard to imagine the subject matter interesting his students. Second-generation Mexican-American students in his history classes would probably appreciate exploring the subject, Jose Flores said. Especially those Mexicali students in his bilingual history class, he added.
“It would probably interest them more than those (Mexicans) born in the U.S.,” he said.
While the movie alone is nowhere nearly sufficient for a complete understanding of the Cristero War, Jose Flores said there still something of value to be learned from it.
“People need to be careful about being fanatical about religion or government,” he said.
Staff writer, copy editor Julio Morales can be reached at 760-335-4665 or at email@example.com
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