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Living In The Midst Of An Incredible Historical Event


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My discovery started when coming across a tiny "Capilla" on Calle Morelos in Joco where an old photograph of who later I'd find out was Padre Toribio Romo Gonzalez hangs, a murdered priest of the Cristero War, beatified by the Catholic church.

Shortly after I saw the movie "For Greater Glory" with Andy Garcia which is loosely based on actual events. Being a student of history, I was shocked that I'd never heard or read of this religious war that took place between 1926 and 1929 in this region where we all reside.

For those of you unfamiliar with this incredible history, the Cristero War commenced when President Calles attempted to outlaw Catholicism here in Mexico! An insane prospect to begin with in a country almost exclusively Catholic. Churches were closed, priest expelled or murdered and all religious ceremonies outlawed with penalty of death attached. No more marriages, baptisms nor Masses. The people were denied their right to religious freedom and as common among these brave souls inhabiting this noble country, they rose up and took arms against the Calles government. The war was bloody, costing the lives of around 250,000 people. The war would not have been possible without the woman of Mexico that smuggled arms and ammunition to their men, nursed their injuries and kept them fed at great sacrifice and loss to themselves. The rebellion forced Calles to resign and the government to withdraw the "Calles Laws", restoring the right of religious freedom and worship to the populace.

Among the sacrificed were Padre Toribio Romo Gonzalez, priest of the Tequila church who's photo hangs in the chapel in Joco and a 13 year old captured Cristero fighter named Jose Sanchez del Rio. The latter occurred just across the lake from us in the town of Sahuayo. The boy was tortured and offered to have his life spared if he would only deny God and the Cristeros. This brave boy answered repeatedly: "Que vive Cristo Rey"! He would not deny his God in the face of unbelievable torture, having had the souls of his feet pealed off to try to encourage him to reject his beliefs. Having failed to convince him, they put a bullet in his young head. He is interred in the Parroquia de Santiago Apostol in Sahuayo just across our beautiful lake. Both these individuals along with another 35 or so have in recent times been canonized by the Catholic church, joining the ranks of their Saints.

I encourage anyone interested, to investigate this incredible history. It has moved me deeply even as a non-catholic and makes me proud to walk on the land they did. This land rich and vibrating with noble history!

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My discovery started when coming across a tiny "Capilla" on Calle Morelos in Joco where an old photograph of who later I'd find out was Padre Toribio Romo Gonzalez hangs, a murdered priest of the Cristero War, beatified by the Catholic church.

Shortly after I saw the movie "For Greater Glory" with Andy Garcia which is loosely based on actual events. Being a student of history, I was shocked that I'd never heard or read of this religious war that took place between 1926 and 1929 in this region where we all reside.

For those of you unfamiliar with this incredible history, the Cristero War commenced when President Calles attempted to outlaw Catholicism here in Mexico! An insane prospect to begin with in a country almost exclusively Catholic. Churches were closed, priest expelled or murdered and all religious ceremonies outlawed with penalty of death attached. No more marriages, baptisms nor Masses. The people were denied their right to religious freedom and as common among these brave souls inhabiting this noble country, they rose up and took arms against the Calles government. The war was bloody, costing the lives of around 250,000 people. The war would not have been possible without the woman of Mexico that smuggled arms and ammunition to their men, nursed their injuries and kept them fed at great sacrifice and loss to themselves. The rebellion forced Calles to resign and the government to withdraw the "Calles Laws", restoring the right of religious freedom and worship to the populace.

Among the sacrificed were Padre Toribio Romo Gonzalez, priest of the Tequila church who's photo hangs in the chapel in Joco and a 13 year old captured Cristero fighter named Jose Sanchez del Rio. The latter occurred just across the lake from us in the town of Sahuayo. The boy was tortured and offered to have his life spared if he would only deny God and the Cristeros. This brave boy answered repeatedly: "Que vive Cristo Rey"! He would not deny his God in the face of unbelievable torture, having had the souls of his feet pealed off to try to encourage him to reject his beliefs. Having failed to convince him, they put a bullet in his young head. He is interred in the Parroquia de Santiago Apostol in Sahuayo just across our beautiful lake. Both these individuals along with another 35 or so have in recent times been canonized by the Catholic church, joining the ranks of their Saints.

I encourage anyone interested, to investigate this incredible history. It has moved me deeply even as a non-catholic and makes me proud to walk on the land they did. This land rich and vibrating with noble history!

I saw the movie and am reading the book...another sad time in Mexico's history.

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I fear that's a bit romanticized view . There were many heros on both sides - dying for their beliefs .

But Study deeper & you will find there was much , much more to this story than religious persecution. As always the real issue was money and power . And the control & manipulatation of the poor and uneducated masses . The Church at the time was no friend to the native Mexican people - it limited their human rights, taxed them unmercifully , outlawed their indigenous beliefs, stole their land etc .

Over time Native spirituality 'grafted ' onto Catholocism - making the them ripe for being whipped into a religious war in the name of God.

Sound familiar?

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The film For Greater Glory presents a distorted version of the Cristero [Christ’s Army] War (1926-1929), a civil war between peasant guerrillas defending the Catholic Church and the Mexican state. It is currently being shown in theaters across the US.


The film, directed by Dean Wright, hijacks a complex social conflict and turns it into a David and Goliath story of good guys versus bad. In so doing, it whitewashes the historically reactionary role of the Catholic Church in Mexico. One cannot imagine how such an approach would convince or educate any viewer, including those not at all familiar with the history of this conflict.


https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2012/06/cris-j11.html

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Prior to the Mexican revolution, the vast majority of the land of Mexico was owned by the powerful elite and the Catholic Church. The campesinos had no land to farm and lived in abject poverty on the edge of starvation. Following the revolution, much of this land was confiscated and redistributed as communal farmlands, what came to be known as "ejidos." The Cristero War was a counter-revolt, led by the elitists, in an attempt to regain their lands and power over the common folk. Some of the provisions of the Calles Laws lasted for 70 years, until they were rescinded following the election of Vicente Fox in 2000. Fox's political party, PAN, was founded by the Cristeros following their defeat. While religious freedom is widely accepted in Mexico, the Catholic church as an institution is still hated and reviled by many Mexicans.

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Some good points made.

On delving deeper I found that the movie sugar coats and distorts actual events. No doubt the Calles Laws were a response to Church abuses but then Calles went about things totally wrong. How could he not expect the people to rise up, denying them the practice of their faith? The Cristero's were also responsible for their share of criminal conduct and had some psychopaths in leadership roles like the priest General Vega. The movie is much too kind on him.

Sandrita is right, "another sad time in Mexico's history", albeit, a fascinating one.

There are some very good Mexican documentaries on YouTube for those that understand Spanish, including interviews with many of the men and women that participated. Just type in "Cristiada". Much less romantic and much more heart wrenching. I also have some books on order.

Thanks for your input!

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Jesus Lopez Vega, local artist extraordinaire, tells a fascinating story of his grandfather's actions right here in ajijic during that time....is in one of Judy King's old articles. Google Cristeros War and see some incredible photos of the fighters, the fighting mujeres, the hangings, the execution of the priest, etc. I seem to remember a couple good YouTube short productions as well..

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This movie played here a few years ago under the title "Cristiada". I found it fascinating and beautifully shot, but, certainly there are many sides to this story. Mexico has a very rich, if traumatic. history that everyone living here should become aware of - especially to get a perspective on the culture today.

I've also chatted with Jesus Lopez Vega about his relatives and others who fought in the war here. I think a few people were killed right here in Ajijic. I also know a woman who is almost 100 years old who remembers some of these things!

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President Calles founded a political party (PNR that later became the PRI--great liberators of Mexico I'm sure). He agreed to a truce to end the Cristero War but in fact broke the truce and had 5,500 Cristero's shot often in front of their wives and children. This was in addition to the 90,000 who died on both sides to either assist or oppose his failed attempt to eradicate the Catholic religion in Mexico. His anti-clericalism stemmed from his youth with his atheist uncle and the fact that his parents were never married.

He continued trying to eliminate the Church even after his presidency was over during what was called the Maximato (Calles was referred to as the Jefe Máximo of the Revolution) or the period when he maintained great control over politics in Mexico during the presidencies of Gil, Rubio and Rodríguez whom he kept subordinate to himself until he was finally exiled by President Cárdenas del Río to the U.S. in 1936 to free Mexico from his grip. He was, by the way, opposed to all religions--Protestant, Catholic and others. He was opposed to religious liberty of any sort.

He became a wealthy dictator who suppressed the very reforms he originally claimed to support for the Mexican people. Though he did do good things, especially in his first years as president from 1924 to 1926, it would be hard to paint him as a "saint" and indeed it seems that some would like to paint him as a "liberator of the masses". He was a shrewd politician but an ideologue who had no problem murdering his political and religious opposition. The Church also has to take responsibility for the evils it caused and allowed but the government of Plutarco Elías Calles has much to answer for in the history of Mexico as well.

I guess that I'm just trying to point out that the history of the times is more complicated and, at least to me, defies the attempt to simplify it. We live in Jalisco and there are even memorial tablets in towns near us that track the passage of the Cristero Wars and they have left a mark on the Mexican people here. St. Turibio's picture as well as a lot more folks who died in that series of wars is everywhere and I still hear the cry of that war--Viva Cristo Rey or Hail Christ the King--at processions and ceremonies. They are building a huge church in Guadalajara to the martyrs--many just lay people who gave up their lives for their beliefs--and you might miss the many shrines in towns everywhere in Jalisco that commemorate them or hold their tombs. It is Jalisco history. It is part of the Mexican heritage. Many proud families who fought and died on either side have relatives living here right now. I find it fascinating and it is part of a battle over religious liberty among the Mexican people. You can't just dismiss either side because you might hold biases one way or the other.

I, too, am now part of Jalisco history and someone will one day write the history of the influx of gringos into the State of Jalisco. Some may read it and say it was a bad thing and some may read it and say that it was a good thing. One way or another--we gringos are making our own way into the history of Mexico!

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The film For Greater Glory presents a distorted version of the Cristero [Christ’s Army] War (1926-1929), a civil war between peasant guerrillas defending the Catholic Church and the Mexican state. It is currently being shown in theaters across the US.

The film, directed by Dean Wright, hijacks a complex social conflict and turns it into a David and Goliath story of good guys versus bad. In so doing, it whitewashes the historically reactionary role of the Catholic Church in Mexico. One cannot imagine how such an approach would convince or educate any viewer, including those not at all familiar with the history of this conflict.

https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2012/06/cris-j11.html

What is the Communist view of Roman Catholicism?

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. They are building a huge church in Guadalajara to the martyrs-

The last governor of Jalisco (Panista) tried to donate 60,000,000 pesos of the peoples money for the construction of that church.

He got raked over the coals for that asinine idea and rightfully so.

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And rightfully so.

Still, it is being built and is now roofed and seats are being installed. It will be used by the Mexican faithful even though it will be years before it is completely finished. It is said to be the second largest church in Mexico after the shrine of Guadalupe in Mexico City. It is being funded through collections in the parishes of the Archdiocese--there is an envelope every month or so passed out at the end of Mass for those who want to help build it.

It has been providing a lot of jobs in the Guadalajara area and I've met and spoken with several business owners who think that their restaurants, B&Bs, religious article stores and cabs / busses will enjoy extra income from the many tourists and pilgrims the shrine will bring.

Sometimes these places can be positive for the community and can bring increased income for the little guy as well.

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  • 2 years later...

Down in Tonila, Jalisco which is just before the state line with Colima...there is the former Hacienda Esperanza, now owned by the son of the first female governor in Mexico, Griselda Alvarez Ponce de Leon...a remarkable woman.  This Hacienda still has tunnels that you can see where people would escape this terrible war.  The history of this place is most interesting....now a boutique hotel and restaurant...worth a visit when down that way.

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