For Greater Glory: The True Story of Cristiada (2012)





Director:     Dean Wright.

Starring:     Eva Longoria (Tulita), Oscar Isaac (Victoriano 'El Catorce' Ramirez), Peter O'Toole (Father Christopher), Bruce Greenwood (Ambassador Morrow), Andy Garcia (Enrique Gorostieta Velarde), Bruce McGill (President Calvin Coolidge), Nestor Carbonell (Mayor Picazo), Santiago Cabrera (Father Vega), Catalina Sandino Moreno (Adriana), Rubén Blades (President Plutarco Elias Calles), Eduardo Verástegui (Anacleto Gonzalez Flores), Adrian Alonso (Lalo), Tenoch Huerta, Karyme Lozano (Doña María del Río de Sánchez), Luis Rosales (Federal Soldier).

 Cristero War (1926–29) (aka La Cristiada), a mass popular uprising against anti-Catholicism of the ruling Mexican government


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

"Mexico 1926 -- a few years after the Revolution.  The precarious relationship between the Mexican government and the Catholic Church deteriorates as President Plutarco Elias Calles begins strictly enforcing the anti-clerical laws written into the Mexican Constitution of 1917."

"In response to these measures, civil organizations protest the new laws by peaceful means.  The LNDR (League for Religious Liberty) is preeminent among these organizations.  Taking up arms throughout the country, brave men and women, called Cristeros, also join the fight for freedom.  This is their story . . . "

President Plutarco Elias Calles says to a large indoor audience:  "Compatriots, Mexico is under siege."   He says foreigners are coming into Mexico at the behest of foreign governments and are trying to undermine the Mexican government in its commitment to the ideals of the Mexican Revolution.  Therefore, every foreign bishop, priest or minister will be immediately deported.  Any priest criticizing the government will serve five years in prison.  It is forbidden to wear the religious vestments in public. 

Father Christopher takes a walk outside and a small boy throws something that lands on his head.  Father Christopher shouts at the boys not to waste God's food throwing it at him.   The father of the food thrower slaps his boy about the head.  He then takes José into the church saying that his boy will work for the church for the coming two weeks.  He also cautions Father Christopher not to wear his religious clothing outside the church.   The boy's father adds:  "God save us from these pagans."

At lunch the talk is of soldiers being brought in to enforce the new laws.  A resistance to the new laws is being formed.  Father Christopher hopes that this resistance won't come to violence.  That's the problem.  It may well indeed come to violence.  Father Christopher says he will not fight.  That's fine because Father can feed and provide refuges for people passing through here. 

Pope Pius XI condemns the laws of Calles.  Starting August 1, all religious services will be halted in Mexico. 

Long lines of people form up to get married or get baptized before August 1.  Men and women march in the streets declaring war against the infamous hypocrites. 

Enrique Gorostieta Velarde with his wife Tulita and two daughters walk on the city streets.  They hear an announcement that the church is closed by the government for "inventory".   They turn around for as of now their girls can't be confirmed.  Tulita is very upset because the church means everything to her, but Enrique is not all that religious.  She starts walking with her girls in front of her husband.  He catches up and tells her, as a military man, he can assure her that Calles will be overthrown. 

Adriana gets people to sign a petition against the new laws.  One signer says that an economic boycott would be a more effective way of battling against the new laws.  Later Adriana speaks of the boycott to Anacleto Gonzalez Flores.  Anacleto loves the idea. 

Father Christopher tells Jose that instead of a sweeper, he should be an altar boy.  So now Jose gives the watch to Father that he found while sweeping and denied that he had found it.   

There are more demonstrations.  Calles is angry because the believers just became more resistant than ever to his government.  This idea of an economic boycott is a good illustration of this.  Calles overstates the threat to the government.  The people, for instance, are not trying to overthrow all government in Mexico, rather just Calles' government.

A man comes in to say that the Congress rejected their petition. And Calles is going to use force against the uprisings now. Soldiers break down the doors of the church and start shooting those inside. Adriana tries to tell the soldiers to stops firing, but she gets knocked out by a rifle butt blow to the back of her head.

When Adriana awakens she is in bed. Doña María del Río de Sánchez is so very happy to see that she is alive because they all thought she would die.

Among the pro-church people there is talk that the armed conflict has already begun. There is a definite willingness to support the coming armed struggle.

Father Christopher teaches Jose the duties of an altar boy. His friend Lalo tells Jose that he thought Jose was being punished by the Father.

The news of the day is that Charles Lindbergh has flown over the Atlantic Ocean from New York to Paris. Enrique says Lindbergh is doing great deeds and he is stuck here producing pink soap.

Jose is up in the church tower and yells out to the people below that the federales are coming. People start taking cover. Jose runs to tell Father Christopher that he must hide. The priest says he's too old to start hiding now. He is going to stay in the church and stand up for what he believes. He tells Jose to run and hide.

Jose runs back up into the church tower. He sees the troops taking Father Christopher to be executed publicly by firing squad. Jose is stunned by the act . He tells his mother and father that the troops killed Father Christopher.

Anacleto is arrested. He is taken to a place where Adriana is being held. But both people are greatly relieved when the military man shows him the military supplies that he got for them. The women will smuggle the weapons and bullets out amongst the rebels.

A priest is hanged by the federales. The inside of the church is trashed.

The rebels attack the federales in revenge for the murder of the priest. Many soldiers are killed. The captain is taken back to the church. He is hanged right next to the priest. The body of the priest is taken down.

The defenders or populists now number up to 20,000 men. The time has come to set up a commander-in-chief and a central command. The name of Enrigue Gorostieta naturally comes to mind. He is the man who defeated Zapata.

Early in the morning the federales surround a ranch house where lives the man who led the attack on the federales and hanged the captain. The man in the house is ready for them. A group breaks open the front door and go into the house only to be shot down by the home owner. The owner now takes up a position where he can shoot through an opening in the thick walls of the home. He downs a number of federales.

The federales lose so many men that fear spreads among those that are left. One of the guys goes into the house looking for their target, but the fellow is now on horseback and starts mowing down the federales outside. The man inside the house comes out with his hands up. The victor motions for the the man to start running. He takes off running, but is shot down by the marksman.

Other ranch hands arrive very late. They are amazed to see that their leader has killed 14 soldiers. The man is now called Victoriano 'El Catorce' Ramirez.

Miguel Gomez Loza goes in to talk with Enrique. The man says he represents the National League for the Defense of Religious Liberty. Enrique knows the League as the Cristeros. Miguel tells him that the League wants to hire him to take their 20,000 men and turn them into a good army. Enrique knows that this will be a huge undertaking, but he is also intrigued by it too.

El Catorce arrives at a Cristeros camp. He goes in and asks where is the general? A young priest introduces himself as General Vega. He wants El Catorce to join forces with him who will be overall commander. El Catorce doesn't want to join forces.

Enrique tells his wife that he is going to take command of the Cristeros army. They will pay him twice what any general gets in Mexico plus $50,000 in insurance for her and the girls. His wife, however, is still upset. She says basically how can he be a Cristero when he's an atheist?

At night in bed the general says maybe it would too hypocritical to assume command of the army, so he will decline their offer. Now Tulita decides that he should take the job and maybe he will come to believe in something.

The USA is concerned about their citizens in Mexico and want protection for each and every one of them. Callas says he won't let any foreign power interfere with the Mexican government.

President Calvin Coolidge (in office 1923 to 1929) speaks to Ambassador Morrow. He says the American Ambassador to Mexico dropped the ball down there and he wants Morrow to go and fix it.

In Mexico Cristeros are hanging from telephone poles. El Catorce is going to rob a train of its gold. Cristeros are already on the train. They capture the engineer who turns out to be a Cristero. Then the men in one of the train cars gets up suddenly and starts killing the federale guards.

The train slowly comes into the station where Gen. Vega and his men are waiting for it. The general congratulates Pablo on a job well done, but a federale shoots Pablo in the back numerous times. In turn, the federale is hit with many bullets from the Cristeros.

The safe is dynamited and the gold recovered. The general specifically asks if all the passengers are off the train? Yes. So they set fire to the train. A little while later the general hears the screams of the passengers burning to death.

This gives the government a lot of propaganda ammunition as the claim is that the Catholics deliberately committed this atrocity. The Catholic bishops are now thrown out of Mexico.

Enrique has a talk with some of the Cristeros. El Catorce asks how they can trust Enrique? "Because I know how to lead an army." They will fight using lightning attacks on the wings and will quickly disappear in the night. El Catorce says he will not follow the orders of the new general. So Enrique tells him he can leave right now. El Catorce decides to stay.

Enrique now scolds the priest Vega for burning alive the train passengers. This act has cost them a lot of support. Vega justifies it by saying that the federales do much worse. Enrique asks if Vega is just out for vengeance, because it that is true, Vega can leave right now. He says they will fight, but fight with honor and by the grace of God.

Jose the altar boy see his girlfriend's father being knocked around and another man hanged by the federales. He runs up to the fellow in charge and tells him to stop this. His godfather is el Mayor Picazo. The fellow remarks that the Mayor know they are here. Now he tells Jose to get out of here!

Jose goes to see his godfather saying that they are going to kill Miguel. Godfather says he knows. He knows that the man is a well-known Cristero. And he killed a federal sergeant. Now godfather warns Jose that although he can save his live this time, the next time he won't be able to save him. "Now get out!"

Jose tells Lalo that they are going to join the Cristeros. Lalo says they're too young.

Adriana is traveling on a train. The train stops at a station and there are lots of federales there. She is traveling with three other women carrying ammunition. The federales come on the train and one of the bullets falls on the floor and starts rolling around. A little boy picks up the bullet and the women decide to get off the train. The boys shows the bullet to the federales.

Adriana separates from the other women. She drops more bullets on the ground. Scared as hell, she hides behind a wall.

When she gets back to the offices of the League she is through with being a carrier. So Miguel asks her to carry a letter to Enrique Gorostieta. Again she says no. Miguel talks her into carrying the message.

Jose is heading out to join the Cristeros. His mother asks him if he is leaving without saying good-bye? He says he has to go. Dad comes out and says Jose will need a horse. Jose and Lalo head out to join the Cisteros.

Enrique and his men ride into a town where most of the people have been killed by the federales. Enrique tells Vega that this was done in vengeance for the killing of the train passengers. Enrique's army now becomes an army of grave diggers.

A group of armed men dressed in business suits come to pay a visit to a house of a known Cristero. They knock on the door and the woman of the house goes to the door and opens a little opening to speak to a man who says he needs to get some medicine for his sick child. The hostess asks him to wait so she can get the keys. She then warns her guests that the police are here.

They send Adriana out a side door. Anacleto opens the door opening and a policeman holds a pistols in his face and demands that he open the door. Anacleto complies with the demand. They take Anacleto outside and knife him in the mid-section.

Jose and Lalo camp out by a stream at night. The next day the boys reach the main encampment. But when they try to see the general, an aide pushes them away telling them to to back home. Enrique happens to be watching this and he asks that the boys be sent over to him.

Enrique asks the boys why they want to join the Cristeros. He is satisfied by the answers he gets and lets them stay. The next morning Enrique tells the boys that he knows they can fight, but they would be of much greater assistance if they could assist with the tasks around the encampment. The boys learn how to take rifles apart and clean them thoroughly. They also run errands for the nurses.

The US ambassador to Mexico is greeted by President Calles. The ambassador refers to the war against the Catholic church. The president says he would hardly call it a war.

Enrique tells El Catorce not to go through a certain pass because they will be ambushed. El Catrorce says his men have already checked it out and it's clear. So how does the general know that the pass is now not clear? The general tells him that it's a gut feeling he has. El Catorce says that they are going through the pass. The general says: "Of course, you will."

And sure enough the federales are waiting for El Catorce and his men. When they get close enough, the army opens fire and men start dropping from their horses. And then, Enrique comes to the rescue. He and his men went across the mountains to get behind the ambushers and now it's they who are dropping dead.

The job done, El Catorce rides up to tell Enrique thanks for the help.

Back at camp Enrique tells Jose that if he had a son he would want him to be like Jose.

Bad news arrives for Calles. There was a counter-ambush and General Ortiz and almost 500 of his men were killed. And there's more bad news. General Gorostieta is the commander of all the Cristero forces. So, he dismisses the officers who brought the bad news. He now tells an aide that he knows Gorostieta personally and his heart can't be in this fight. So the aide is to go find Gorostieta and find out what is his price?

Enrique asks Jose if he would like to carry the flag in tomorrow's battle? "It would be an honor, sir." They will leave at first light.

The men attack a fortified place. It became their biggest victory yet. And now the Cristeros have come to believe that they can win this war. Now the sense of fear strikes the camps of the federales.

The American ambassador asks Calles if he could come to some sort of compromise with the Cristeros to end this war? Calles says no. The ambassador says they may be able to give the government American machines guns and planes. But the USA wants some concessions from Calles in the area of Mexican petroleum.

The Cristeros troops are leisurely riding their horses in formation when artillery opens up on them. El Catorce is knocked off his horse and wounded slightly due to the explosion of a nearby artillery shell. Jose gives the man his horse and goes to hide from the federales.

After the battle El Catorce tries to find Jose, but cannot. When he tells Enrique, the commander is furious with him. To take a horse from a boy? Is he dead? El Catorce doesn't think the boy's dead. He either escaped or was captured, but he was not among the dead.

Enrique asks to speak to El Catorce alone. He starts crying and saying that's his boy and they all let the boy down. El Catorce gives Enrique a medallion he found where he left Jose behind.

Enrique goes out looking for the boy. He has no luck.

General Rodriguez is heading to Tepatitlan. He will set up headquarters there and Enrique is going to the attack. He tells Vega to take Gen. Pedrozo and Gen. Victoriano and head to the town. Get their first and pick out the best firing positions. He also warns that there must not be even one Cristero that can be seen by the federales.

Gen. Vega fires the first shot that opens the ambush of the federales, but after El Catorce starts racing his men forward. El Catorce is shot dead in the battle. The Cisteros take Tepatitlan.

Jose is in a federale prison. His fellow prisoner is a young boy named Lorenzo. The federales take the two boys out to a field. Lorenzo is hanged. Jose's godfather comes out to save Jose from hanging. He grabs the boy and tells him he is taking him home. But he must say the words: "Long live the federal government!" Jose says he can't do that. So godfather leaves. The leader tells Jose that his luck has run out.

Lola comes along and sees just one boy hanging from the tree.

The ambassador talks peace with two of the bishops. He says this whole thing has been a national nightmare for Mexico and all sides involved in the struggle. He says that Calles understands that now and wants to find a compromise with the church.

Jose is tied to a chair. Lalo sees him there. The boy has been slapped around. Jose tells Lalo to get out of here before the federales see him. Lalo hurries off.

The ambassador tells Calles that he should give a pardon to every member of the Cristeros army. Of course, Calles doesn't like that idea.

Calles arranges a meeting with Enrique in a secluded spot. He tells Enrique that Mexico and Rome are going to make peace. Enrique says an agreement that doesn't guarantee absolute freedom is not an agreement. Calles says the agreement is all but sealed. Enrique responds that the agreement is Calles' agreement not the Cristero agreement.

Enrique doesn't want to accept the agreement. He wants to keep fighting until Calles is overthrown.

The torture begins. Jose keeps shouting Long live Christ the King.

Lalo arrives to tell Enrique that the federales have Jose and they are going to kill him. Enrique takes ten men and rides out for Sahuayo.

The federales are getting ready to shoot Jose. The boy can hardly walk as the torturer cut his heels. A grave is ready to receive Jose's dead body. His mother and father and godfather are all there. The torturer stabs the boy in the back. He is then shot and pushed into the grave.

Enrique and his men arrive just a little too late and start killing the federales. He gets off his horse and goes to take a look at Jose. He picks him up and kisses him. Then his mother holds him.

Enrique speaks to priest Vega to try to make sense out of Jose's death. Enrique is mad at God and wants to hear a good reason why Jose died. The priest says God can make use of even the most brutal deeds that human beings do to each other. He says that Jose is a martyr for the cause.

The federales are descending on Enrique and his men. Enrique wants the priest to hear his confession right at this point. This gives the federales time to get into good firing positions.

Enrique and Vega try to get out a back way. Vega is shot through the forehead. Now Enrique tries a mass escape through the front entrance to the place. He gets a good distance away before a soldier shoots his horse right out from under him. He goes down but gets back up and runs some more.

He comes up against a stream and has to stop. He has visions flash through his head of key parts of his life. He is shot down by two shots from two federales.

A funeral is held for Enrique.

"On the 21st of June, 1929, agreements were finalized and church bells rang freely once again throughout Mexico. In 2005, Jose Sanchez del Rio was beatified by Pope Benedict XVI, along with Anacleto Gonzales Flores and 11 other Cristero martyrs. Brave bishops and priests, many of them martyrs, also risked their lives by spiritually supporting the faithful Cristeros."


Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.



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