Condores no entierran todos los dias (A Man of Principle) (1984)

 

 

Director:     Francisco Norden.

Starring:     Frank Ramírez (Leon Maria Lozano),  Isabela Corona (Dona Gertrudis Potes),  Víctor Morant (Padre Amaya),  Santiago García (Rosendo Zapata),  Luis Chiape (Gustavo Gardeazabal),  Juan Gentile (Andres Santacoloma),   Vicky Hernández (Agripina),  Antonio Aparicio (Lamparilla),  Carlos Parada (Atehortua).

a man running a cheese business turns professional killer in the troubles plaguing Columbia in 1948

 

Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire film.

"Colombia, second half of the 19th century.  For 100 years, the Liberal and the Conservative parties have been fighting each other in a series of civil wars that bloodstained the country.  The last one, called the 'Violence', was triggered by the assassination of leader Gaitan on April 9th, 1948.  This event led to a 10 year era of darkness and became the Golden Age for political assassins known as "los Pajaros" (the birds).  Leon Maria Lozano, alias 'the Condor', was the most infamous. "

A car full of assassins come to a farm.  Someone gives the order to "kill them all".   A series of gun shots is heard and then the car drives away from the farm. 

A man is sleeping with his head of a desk.  He hears noises of hooves of a horse.  The horse is drawing the wagon down the street while the wagon is blazing away with fire and dead bodies in the back of the wagon burning up.   

The priest asks:  "And what about the massacre at Resolana?  The burning remains of the victims of this horrible crime were brought here, chilling testimony to the violence unleashed by Masons and atheists against our Christian families."  A woman named Madam Gertrudis remarks to Leon Maria Lorenzo in the church:  "Father Amaya blames the liberals.  He thinks you are innocent and we're the villains."

Gertrudis meets two men outside the church:  Alfonso and Alvarado.  They talk a bit about the comments of Father Amaya concerning the massacre.  Leon Maria and his wife and daughter come outside from the church.  Gertrudis excuses herself and turns around to say hello to the family.  The fellow says that Gustavo Gardeazabal told him that business at the shop is doing poorly.  He now asks Gertrudis if she might have a job for him?  She says she will see what she can do. 

The radio blares out:  "The regrettable fall of the Conservative government in 1930 marked the beginning of a painful era of disregard for human life with innocent Conservatives as the victims." 

Leon Maria goes to the market square.  A Liberal is selling raffle tickets.  He asks Leon Maria to buy one, but the vendor says that Leon Maria is not going to buy a Liberal ticket.  He is a Conservative.  The Liberal says that there is no such thing as a good Conservative!  He says the Conservatives are not going to be able to cheat on the elections because the Liberals have a majority.  He adds:  "If your lot wins, we can go to hell."  Leon Maria demands that the Liberal show some respect.   The man will not.  Instead he says:  " . . .  shit on your Conservative party".

Leon Maria goes to work at the book shop.  A man named Agobardo comes into the shop with a request from Father Amaya for a certain book.  The boss comes in.  He asks Leon Maria how are the sales today?  There have only been two sales.  One to the priest and another to Mr. Santacoloma.  The boss says:  "The shop is loosing money."  He won't be able to keep Leon Maria for much longer.  Leon Maria starts to develop an asthma attack.  He says he has suffered from these attacks since he was nine years old.  

The Mayor comes for a visit with Gertrudis.  She tells him that she wants the Mayor to give Leon Maria the job of selling cheese, even if he is a Conservative. 

Leon Maria works at the cheese shop.  On the radio is heard the voice of Gaitan.  Leon Maria shouts to say turn that radio off! 

:Leon Maria's wife is naked and patting herself down with hot water and herbs on a wash cloth over her body.  He tells his wife once again that he doesn't want her going out without Aunt Carmelita. 

The elections take place. Leon Maria sees Gertrudis and says that they won in the elections.  Gertrudis tells him he hasn't won anything and just keeps on walking.  The shoeshine fellow agrees with Leon Maria that they did win!

Leon Maria's daughter eats some cotton candy while she listens to a band playing on the public bandstand.  She walks over to be with her father and mother.  Father turns mother around and tells her that she is to never even talk with that Mason over there. 

A woman runs in the streets while shouting:  "They've killed Gaitan!"  A lot of people get off the streets and into their homes or places of business.  At night  there are a lot of protests in the city streets.  Leon Maria and two fellow conservatives pay a visit to a shop owner who hands over to them some pistols and some dynamite.  The group of Conservatives walks to a protest march by the Liberals and throws the lit dynamite into the crowd.  It explodes.  The people start running away as fast as they can. 

Gertrudis has a political meeting with some fellow Liberals.  She says that the Liberals didn't win because of liquor.  One man remarks that the country is in chaos.  In Bogota there are still snipers killing people.  They now speak of Leon Maria.  Gertrudis finds it hard to believe that now that man is a hero to the Conservatives.

The fifth body in a week is found floating in a stream. 

A telegram arrives:  "Will arrive Friday to discuss serious party problems."  The message to Leon Maria is from the Regional Conservative Committee.  Talking to another Conservative, the pharmacist, Leon Maria is told that he too received the same telegram.  The pharmacist says he doesn't like it.  The Conservatives want to replace the Liberal police with the Conservative police.  Leon Maria says he will just simply follow orders. 

Leon Maria's courage and loyalty leads to his getting an assignment to "protect" various aspects of the Conservative cause. 

The body of a man shot in the neck is found dead laying on the sidewalk.  Newsman Alvarado starts asking around about the crime.  He talks to the pharmacist and says he thinks the murder is political.  The pharmacist insist that he doesn't know anything about the matter. 

Leon Maria tells his squad of killers to bring in some bodies to scare the Liberals.  But don't kill anyone who lives in town.  The squad gets in a car and heads out on their task. 

Two more dead bodies with bullets in their necks show up.  Someone asks why are they dropping the bodies in the town? 

Someone from the bank tells the barber that he should have seen the amount of money that Leon Maria just deposited and that ain't from selling cheese. 

Gustavo Gardeazabal comes with a woman to see the Mayor, who is busy packing his things.  Gustavo says that this woman informed him that they are going to attack her home.  The Mayor breaks the news to the two people that he is no longer the Mayor.  The Liberals have left the government.  They will have to talk to his successor. 

The next morning the woman under threat comes to get Gardeazabal.  She says their homes were attacked and people were killed.  A wagon with five caskets passes by them. 

Fellow Liberals come to see Gertrudis.  She says Los Pajaros are out every night now attacking the homes of Liberals and people are being killed.  She wants Alvarado to put that on the radio. 

Alvarado asks Leon Maria about the killings and the assassin says he knows nothing about the deaths. 

Leon Maria's daughter gets out of school.  She talks to a boy, but then sees her father coming toward her.  Dad jettisons the cotton candy he had for her and takes his daughter away from the young man she was talking to.  At night the young man returns with three other musicians and serenades at the daughter's bedroom window.  She looks out the window and sees them.  Also watching them is Leon Maria.  From the second floor window Leon Maria throws some dirty water down onto the musicians.  They take off running.  The daughter cries about her father chasing the guys away. 

Leon Maria speaks with a man high in the Conservative party.  He comes away with a scholarship for his daughter's education.  So now the young lady is driven away to go to school elsewhere. 

The new mayor takes office and Leon Maria is one of the few who ges to see him on his first day of work. 

Three men come into the bank.  A bank official named Zapata says that those thugs are Lozano's bodyguard.  Los Pajaros  --  the worst ones!  One of the thugs hears the banker, who now may be in real trouble.  The banker finishes work and starts his walk home.  He is shot in the bank and dies.  Gertrudis says:  "Now, we're all in danger."  A couple of Liberals say that this was the work of the Conservatives.  One man says they have to get organized for they can also shoot people.  Leon Maria overhears the conversation. 

One of Lozazno's bodyguards goes to the school where one of the Liberals works.  The assassin waits in his office.  When the Liberal enters his office, the assassin immediately shoots him down. 

Gertrudis sets up a meeting with Leon Maria.  Two other Liberal leaders are with her.  The maid comes in to tell Gertrudis that the mayor just ordered a curfew.  The two Liberals immediately start to walk home.  Gertrudis walks over to Leon Maria's house.  The maid says that Leon Maria is not at home.  He said he would be at the "Happy Bar". 

At the Happy Bar sits Leon Maria with his bodyguards.  He tells his men that they need more men to accomplish what they want to accomplish.  He says they should go to San Jeronimo.  Some of his men are locked up in that town. 

Leon Maria takes a small army in the back of a truck to the jailhouse in San Jeronimo.  His men shoot their way into the jail.  The mayor of the town sees what's going on and he comes to the car where Leon Mario sits.  He asks Leon Maria what does he want?  Leon Maria wants the Liberals out.  So the mayor says if Leon Maria will call off his paramilitary men, he will have the Liberals out of power in one week.  Leon Maria agrees to give him just one week. 

A farmer is told by the gang to accept the offer by the gang or he will get nothing at all.  Another farmer says that he will give his farm to Leon Maria. 

Alvarado goes to see Gertrudis and says the Conservatives are sending notes to the Liberals to leave town.  The newsman says that this is the work of "Los Pajaros".  Gertrudis says their leader is a "Condor". 

Leon Maria is bothered by the barking of dogs.  He tells an assassin to shut those dogs up.  So the assassin kills the dogs with his pistol.  The owner of one of the dogs comes into see Leon Maria and he says:  "Damn you all."  The next day Leon Maria sends the man a puppy to replace his dead dog. 

Leon Maria comes home and tells his maid to bar the door behind him.   He is having one of his asthma attacks.  There's a knock at the door and the maid accepts a basket of buns from the Ayalas.  Soon after eating the buns, Leon Maria and his wife get very sick.  They have the maid get a doctor for them.  Both Leon Maria and his wife are now unconscious.  The doctor arrives and starts checking them out.  A large crowd starts gathering outside of Lozano's house.  The priest comes to the house.  The boy that liked Leon Maria's daughter and his group of musicians show up at the house to serenade the people inside and the crowd outside. 

The priest leaves the house.  Outside people start dancing to the music.  Fire cracker rockets are set off and explode in the sky.  The poisoned couple now awakens.  Leon Maria vomits into a large container.  In the morning the doctor goes home.  Leon Maria and his wife have survived. 

The murders start up again.  Two young men are killed and abandoned by the side of the road.  A funeral is held for the dead.  Accompanied by music the mourners head to the cemetery. 

Gertrudis goes to see the mayor.  On behalf of many others, she lodges a formal protest against the crimes committed against the lives and property of the people of the town.  She mentions that many say that the authorities are doing nothing to stop the murders.  The mayor says that's a Liberal lie and he and the other authorities are here to protect the people. 

The news is that the Conservative government has conferred the order of San Carlos on Leon Maria Lozano.  On the radio it is said of Leon Maria that he is the "author of many civic deeds whom assassins tried to murder thus hoping to rob his town of an eminent son."

Leon Maria is in church again.   His hypocrisy doesn't seem to bother him at all. 

One of Leon Maria's men gives a note to the farmer Arango.  The note says leave in seven days or "abide by the consequences".  Arango confronts the messenger saying who's going to make him move out, the messenger?  

Leon Maria is taking a shower using a hose.  Some of his henchmen come to him saying that Arango is in town shooting off his mouth about how macho he is.  Lozano says:  "Finish him off, now!"

Alvarado is informed that Arango got a note and now he is in town talking about how tough he is and insulting Leon Maria.  The bets on this are two to one that Arango doesn't make it back home.  Alvarado says he's got to see this.

An assassin waits at the corner of a building for Arango.  When Arango is very close the assassin jumps out at him and fires his weapon.  Arango, however, successfully jumped into an open door.  The bullet hits the assassin's henchman.  Arango catches a real break.  We also see that Arango is carrying a pistol himself. 

The assassins tell Leon Maria of their failure.  Leon Maria tells them they have 24 hours in which to kill Arango.  "Now, move!" 

The mayor comes in to see Leon Maria.  He stopped by the funeral for still another dead Liberal.  He tells the king of assassins:  "Gertrudis Potes was the only one to speak up."  And she even mentioned Leon Maria's name as the leader of Los Pajaros:  the Condor.  Leon Maria says he will send a note to her just to scare her. 

In church with Leon Maria and his wife present, Gertrudis steps up and has the priest read the note she received.  The priest won't read the note because they are in church.  Gertrudis leaves the church.   At home Gertrudis gets her Liberal circle around her.  She asks them all to sign a letter she has written.  The letter will be sent to every major newspaper in Colombia.  All four of the men are afraid that the letter is too strongly worded and even mentions the Condor.  They are obviously afraid.  Gertrudis says even if they don't send the letter, they will probably be killed anyway. 

The story of the letter appears in the newspapers.  The assassins are really mad about the article.  While they discuss it, a big man in the Conservative party comes in to say it's time they taught these people a lesson. 

Two of the letter signers are shot along with a third man, who is now in the hospital.  Gertrudis is at his bedside.  The priest looks in on the patient, sees Gertrudis, turns and leaves. 

Under orders from the cardinal, the priest forms a Peace Committee.  At the announcement of the formation of the Peace Committee, Gertrudis says:  "Yes.  This violence must stop.  Half those who signed are dead."  Some 27 people were murdered in Bolivar and 14 in Anserma.  A man rushes in saying:  "Everyone is dead at Recreo!"  And that includes 11 children.  The women were raped and then killed with machetes.  The people at the meeting get scared and leave the meeting.

Leon Maria is mad and wants to know who ordered the killings at Recreo?  And who raped and killed the women?  No answers are forthcoming.  He goes around in his chauffer driven car asking his men who did the killings?  One of the assassins says everyone thought that Leon Maria is the one who ordered the killings. 

Leon Maria is at home.  His wife comes to him saying that there is a huge crowd outside.  Just then someone knocks hard on the door.  Leon Maria tells his wife to open the door, since the maid is not working today.  Leon Maria puts his hat and coat on.  A messenger tells Leon Maria:  "They've overthrown the government."  The big party man comes around and says they are giving Leon Maria a pension and money to move out of town.  Their belongings are packed into the back of an old truck and the driver and the Lozanos drive away in the night

Leon Maria goes into a church and prays.  He is disturbed by the sounds of horses arriving at the church.  He starts to get one of his asthma attacks.  Now he's scared.  He leaves the church.   On the street he is shot in the back and goes down.  He's still alive.  Horses approach.  Leon Maria dies in the street and deservedly so. 

 

Even a travel book on Colombia says it's not advisable for Americans to go to Colombia.   This is related to the violence involving the drug trade with the United States.  But judging from this film, violence has long been a tradition in Colombia.  The division in the country led to a civil war in Colombia between two political parties:  the Liberals and the conservatives.  The period of the late 1940s and 1950s is called "La Violencia" (The Violence) in which up to 300,000 people were killed. 

The film is mainly about a man, who probably is a psychopath, who becomes a Conservative hero and leader because of his innate cruelty.  The man is good at killing people.  He is so good at it that he is paid very well be a kind of enforcer for the Conservatives.  The psychopath is so talented that he soon has a small army of murderers working for him.  Ah, what a success story!  A very brave and very influential rich woman named Gertrudis, a Liberal, recognizes that all the Liberals in town are being killed or chased away at gunpoint.  This woman tries and tries to get support to stop this violence, but most people in the town are too afraid of the murderous gang,  Los Pajaros (the birds), to do anything about it.

Then things start to change as some prominent Liberals are shot down and killed for just signing a letter advocating the stopping of the violence.  Gertrudis decides this time they have gone too far. 

Good film.  Both Frank Ramírez (as Leon Maria Lozano) and Isabela Corona (as Dona Gertrudis Potes) did terrific gave great performances as the bad man and the woman for peace.

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.

 


Historical Background:

The long independence struggle from Spain was led mainly by Bolívar and Francisco de Paula Santander in neighboring Venezuela.

1811 (March)  --   the province of Bogotá transforms itself into a state called Cundinamarca.

1811 (November 27)  --  the establishment of a confederation called the United Provinces of New Granada.  But Cundinamarca did not recognize the new federation.

1812  --  civil war begins at the end of the year.

1814  -  civil war again breaks out. 

1815 (mid-year)  --  a large Spanish expeditionary force under Pablo Morillo arrives in New Granada.

1815 (December)  --  Cartagena falls.

1816 May)  --  the royalists gain control of all of New Granada.

1819  --  Bolívar returns to New Granada after establishing himself as leader of the pro-independence forces in the Venezuelan llanos. From there he led an army over the Andes and captures New Granada after a quick campaign.

1819 (August 7)  --the quick campaign ends at the Battle of Boyacá.

1819  --  the Congress of Angostura establishes the Republic of Gran Colombia.  Bolívar gets elected as the first president of the country.  Santander is elected as vice president.

1830  --  the Federation of Gran Colombia is dissolved.  The Department of Cundinamarca (as established in Angostura) becomes a new country, the Republic of New Granada.

1830  --  the military has seized power three times in Colombia's history.  This first time it occurred after the dissolution of Great Colombia.

1854  --  the military led by General José María Melo takes over the government for the second time.

1863  --  the name of the Republic changes officially to "United States of Colombia".

1886  --  country adopts its present name: "Republic of Colombia".

Two political parties, the Conservatives and the Liberals, grew out of conflicts between the followers of Bolívar (the Conservatives) and Santander (the Liberals).

19th century and early 20th century  --  each party held the presidency for roughly equal periods of time. Colombia maintained a tradition of civilian government and regular, free elections.

1899–1902  --  the Thousand Days War cost an estimated 100,000 lives.

1903  --  the United States wants Colombian land for the Panama Canal, so they support a military uprising in the province of Panama (which led to the formation of the country by that name).

late 1940s and 1950s  --  in the "La Violencia" (The Violence) up to 300,000 people died. 

1948 (April 9)  --  A bipartisan confrontation erupted after the assassination of Liberal popular candidate Jorge Eliécer Gaitán El Bogotazo (from "Bogotá" and the -azo suffix of violent augmentation) refers to the massive riots that followed the assassination.

1950-1951  --  Conservative President Laureano Gómez takes power.

1951-1953  --  Conservative President Roberto Urdaneta Arbeláez

1953-1957 --  for the third time the military (under General Gustavo Rojas Pinilla) takes over the government. A military coup toppled the right-wing government of Conservative Laureano Gómez.  General Gustavo Rojas takes over.  He initially has considerable popular support, due largely to his success in reducing "La Violencia".   But then he wouldn't restore democratic rule and occasionally engaged in open repression. 

1957  --  Gen. Gustavo Rojas is overthrown by the military.  This is done with the backing of both political parties. A provisional government is installed.

1958-1974  --   The National Front regime.

1958-1962  --  Liberal President Alberto Lleras Camargo.

 

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