Gertrudis (1992)




Director:     Ernesto Medina.

Starring:    Ofelia Medina (Getrudis Bocanegra),  Angélica Aragón (Pilar Molina),  Fernando Balzaretti (Miguel Alzate),  Monica Miguel (Nana),  Eduardo Palomo (Esteban Díaz),  César Évora (Pedro Advincula),  Jorge Russek (Sr. Bocanegra),  Sergio Acosta (Domingo),  Laura Beyer (María Ignacia),  Isabel Benet (María Antonia),  Roberto Medina (Toledo),  Ignacio Guadalupe (Capítán Muñiz),  Gilberto Pérez Gallardo (Padre Mier),  Abel Woolrich (Margaito), Juan Felipe Preciado (Oficial Ayala).

Gertrudis Bocanegra and the Mexican War of Independence


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


Gertrudis is in prison.  The interrogator Miguel Alzate asks Gertrudis to name one of the people in Guadalupe working with the rebels.  As narrator Gertrudis says her father is Spanish, like her interrogator but black as an Indian too, the two faces of New Spain. 

FlashbackPátzcuaro,1785.   [It is a large town and municipality located in the state of Michoacán. The town was founded sometime in the 1320s and at one time was the capital of the Tarascan area.]

Gertrudis and Nanita are in the village squared doing some shopping.  They hear a big commotion among the people. The Spanish soldiers are beating up a male civilian and really making his face and body bloody.  The people are shocked at this extreme violence.

A woman elegantly dressed sits in a chair that is attached to the back of a male servant.  The man walks into a general store bringing the woman straight to the counter.  There are peasants in line but she demands immediate service.  The clerk tells his boss, the boss tells his daughter Gertrudis Bocanegra about the impatient lady, but she tells dad to serve the lady.  Gertrudis scolds one of her male, bald servants for not working and slaps him lightly on the head.  Dad goes and asks the lady what does she want?  She wants some silk cloth.

Gertrudis sits with a man in a cathedral where a man and woman are getting married.  She is a little disruptive of the services because she keeps laughing with the man named Esteben next to her.  A woman sitting across the aisle tries to shush Gertrudis.  Behind Pilar are two soldiers, Pedro and Miguel. 

Three women, including Pilar and Gertrudis, are looking over three soldiers, while the soldiers (Pedro, Miguel and Esteben) are looking over them.  Miguel introduces the women to Pedro Advincula from Cuba originally.  Pedro kisses the hand of Miss Pilar Molina and then helps all the women into the carriage.   The women ride in the carriage and the soldiers ride their horses.  After awhile they stop and soldier Esteban Díaz challenges Pedro and the other man to a horse race.  Pilar asks Pedro if he is familiar with this type of racing?  Pedro says no, but he still accepts the gentleman's challenge.  Miguel is eager to compete because he says he has the finest horses in the region.   

Esteban Díaz wins the race.  The other men congratulate him. 

Esteben gives Gertrudis a package to deliver.  He says the package is very important.  She is very curious about what's in the package, but Esteben tells her not to ask him any questions about it.  She snoops around until he actually tells her that they are documents concerned with a conspiracy to overthrow the Spanish government in Mexico.  She figures he's just joking with her.  She still is curious as to why Esteben is so hush-hush about the contents of the package.  As narrator Gertrudis says they were documents that talked about such concepts as slavery, liberty and` justice.  It made her want to know more about Esteben. 

Esteben introduces Gertrudis to Father Hidalgo.  He is presently engaged in working on a theater performance with the actors and director.  In fact, they call him back from talking with Esteben and Gertrudis.  Later the three plus a friar talk together.  Gertrudis feels inspired by the father's words. 

Gertrudis attends a fancy ball at which she dances.  Pedro comes in and greets her.  She introduces him to her father and then Pedro gets her to dance with him.  After the dance father calls her over asking what she is going to do?  She says with his permission, she is going to have a drink with the gentleman.  Dad has no objections.

Gertrudis asks Pedro if he always dresses in his military uniform?  He asks if she doesn't like it, but she says it alright. 

Back at home, Gertrudis looks stricken by love sickness. 

Pedro and Miguel play chess.  Miguel tells Pedro that he wants to tell him something in confidence.  He is in love with Pilar.  And the next time he sees her, he's going to declare his love for her.  Miguel beats Pedro in chess and says it's because Pedro is just too distracted by Miss Bocanegra. 

When Miguel bumps into Pilar he says he wants to visit her mother formally.  Pilar tells him that she's getting married and invites him to the ceremony.  He says he will come to the wedding.  And he wishes the best for her. 

Pedro proposes to Gertrudis.  They are on their knees, hugging and kissing each other. 

Gertrudis narrates that their children grew up so fast.  Their names were Maria Ignacia and Jose Manuel and notes how happy the family was.  Pedro still has his two good military buddies with him. 

The nuclear family meets Miguel Alzate in the street and they exchange pleasantries.

Pilar notices that her daughter Javiera and the son of Gertrudis are growing every more fond of each other.  Jose helps Javiera down from her horse and holds onto her waist a little too long to suit mother.  When Javiera comes inside, mother says she is not to be letting Jose Manuel put his hands on her.  This is a matter of saving her soul.  Furthermore, Javiera is not to see Jose ever again.  Javiera gives out a loud moan:  "For God's sake, mother!"   Mother shushes her daughter. 

A man with the priest seems to be in such desperation that Gertrudis comes over to the gentlemen to ask why such desperation?  He doesn't have money to bury his loved one in the church cemetery.  Gertrudis thinks about it for awhile and decides to give the poor man the money to pay the priest.  Later she tells her husband about it and he seems more on the side of the priest than the poor man.  She prays to God about the situation. 

Husband and wife are eating breakfast with a guest.  Father comes down to breakfast and doesn't seem to approve of their guest.  The guest gets up without finishing his breakfast and says he has to leave.  Pedro tells the man to at least finish the food, but the fellow says he just can't.  He hurriedly leaves the house.  Dad now asks about the man and Pedro says he's a guest of the house.  Dad says he's an employee.  Pedro replies that he's a friend of the house.   Dad doesn't like employees treated as equals.  Pedro asls in the eyes of God aren't all men equal?  Pedro gets tired of arguing and asks to be excused.   He leaves.

Dad tells him that he thinks they should have a talk.  He tells his daughter and son-in-law that he wants to go back to Spain to see the land where he was born.  And he wants to take their two children with him.  He wants them to see their original home land.  Pedro says he and Gertrudis think the same.  They won't decide what to do for their two children.  The granddaughter is going to go with grandfather.  Gertrudis narrates that it was hard for her to see her father and her daughter go.  But shortly afterwards the populace grew more dissatisfied with the Spanish government and started to follow Father Hidalgo.  Trouble is coming.

The priest in the church gives a long speech condemning those going with Hidalgo.  Gertrudis goes to confession to ask about the right course to follow.

At home in bed with her husband she tells him not to go.  He has to go.  She asks him then to take her with him.  He says he can't.  She tells him to be careful and take care of himself. 

In the morning, her husband and young son leave to join with the forces of independence.  They join the group of Father Hidalgo under the banner of  Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe.  

Fighting begins.  Both father and son are killed in battle.  Hidalgo himself was later executed by a firing squad on July 30, 1811.  The friend of the house that father did not care for comes to see Gertrudis.  She can tell from the look on the man's face that something terrible has happened.  The friend has to tell her that both her husband and son died in battle.  He gives Pedro's ring to Gertrudis who faints and is caught by the man and Nanita. 

Don Miguel as a soldier has to direct a search for papers in the home of Gertrudis.  The searchers make a mess of things in the house. 

Later Pilar pays a visit to Gertrudis. She keeps asking where is it?   Where is it?  Gertrudis tells her to cry with her, but Pilar just abruptly leaves.  Later Pilar goes into her bedroom and starts crying.  The husband demands that she explain the reasons for her conduct. 

Esteben goes to talk with Gertrudis.  She tells him that she's going to Spain.  In that case, he says, they will go together. 

With three men Gertrudis goes to speak with the commander of the local group of rebels.  The commander tells her he is very sorry for what happened to her husband and son.  Esteben says the both of them are at the service of the commander.  The commander hugs Esteben. 

Esteben comes back from battle with a bad wound in his left leg.  He yells for Gertrudis, but she is listening to the last words of a dying soldier.  The man dies and she cries over his body.  Esteben pulls her away from the dead man and she helps him walk.  The enemy starts bombarding the camp of the rebels.  After the action is over, Gertrudis starts to collect the rifles of the dead men. 

At camp that night, Esteben walks with the help of a cane.  He tells Gertrudis that he talked with Gonzalez and they will move tomorrow and Gertrudis is coming with them.  Gertrudis tells him that she's not going.  He walks away from her. 

Don Miguel marries Javiera, the daughter of Pilar. 

The revolutionary officers talk with Gertrudis about being a messenger for them.  They say she is their only alternative.  Gertrudis can speak the language of the Indians and that will be a great help to them.  A man says that he and Maria Antonio as man and wife will go with Gertrudis. 

Gertrudis starts to blend in with the enemy.  She attends a singing concert with lots of military men present.  She warmly greets Don Miguel and Javiera.  The rebel couple is there with Gertrudis. 

Napoleon and his minions are dominating Spain at this time. 

The local priest gives Gertrudis a message to take. 

The rebel couple come in to talk with Gertrudis.  They agree to deliver the message that Gertrudis received.  She also gets Nanita to deliver a message for her.  The message goes to Sgt. Sancho Polo.   

Nanita is extremely nervous about delivering the message to Sancho Polo, but she does it.

An officer stops to help the rebel couple whose carriage has broken down.  He asks them what they are transporting:  books and personal things.  The officer says he will take the wife to the little estate and the husband can fix the wheel and then join the wife at the estate.

Nanita comes back with a message from the sergeant to Gertrudis.  Gertrudis thanks Nanita for delivering the message and then or taking back with her a return message.

Gertrudis puts the message in the bottom of a little box.  The bald, male servant starts to come into her room and sees her with the box.  She scold him for entering without knocking.  The guy seems to be taking too many opportunities to be around Gertrudis.  His actions are a bit suspicious. 

Gertrudis plays chess with Miguel.  She asks him how is Pilar doing?  He says she's good. 

Nanita does not like the bald male servant and watches him closely.  The servant is completely taken by Gertrudis.   He goes into her room and there he starts sniffing all over her bed like s blood hound taking in her smell.  Gertrudis comes into her room and finds him in this rabid state.  She tells him to get out and never return.  Next we find the man heavily drinking outside in the open.  At night he steals the note from Gertrudis' little box.  He then goes to inform the military of what he stole. 

The woman of the house brings Maria Antonio and her husband some coffee to drink while they still are in  bed. 

In the morning Gertrudis looks in the chess box and finds her message missing.  Now she becomes very alarmed.  Gertrudis starts panicking and running around looking for the message.

Maria Antonio and her husband go out riding.  They run into some Spanish troops.  Their wagon is searched and pistols are discovered..  Husband and wife are shot dead by the side of the road. 

Now troops come for Gertrudis. 

Back to the present.  Miguel comes into her cell and asks her for the names of the conspirators.  She won't give him any names. 

Her daughter comes to see her. 

Miguel talks wilt Pilar. 

Mother and daughter talk. Daughter begs her to give up the names of the conspirators.  She also tells her mother not to leave her all alone.  Mother gives her father's ring that was returned to her by Esteben.  Then the daughter says she will beg the King of Spain for mercy.  Gertrudis tells her no.  The jailer comes in and grabs Maria to take her out of the cell.  Mother tells him to keep his hands off her.  Maria gets up and goes with the jailer. 

The priest comes to see Gertrudis.  She just screams at him when he tries to enter her cell to see her. 

Miguel comes again to see Gertrudis.  He asks for a name from her and she spits in his face.  He leaves.

The soldiers slowly move forward holding the 52 year old Gertrudis Bocanegra between them.  She pulls off her blindfold.  She is tied to a large tree.  She says something in the native language.  She exposes her left breast and is shot dead. 

Pilar walks out into the lake. 

The daughter meets with Esteben.  She asks him to tell her about the ring that her mother gave her in the prison cell. 


Everything is in Spanish and with no subtitles of any kind.  My Spanish is not all that great, but I got the gist of the story.  (If a Spanish speaker sees a problem, please let me know and I'll make the changes.)  Gertrudis was a patriot and a brave woman who fought for Mexico's independence from Spain.  Her son and husband fought under the command of the famous patriot Father Hidalgo.  Gertrudis  helped to form a communications network between the principal locations of the rebellion She was arrested and tortured.   On October 17, 1817 she was shot before a firing squad.  Wikipedia says:  "Facing the firing squad, she harangued her executioners before she was shot. She is known in Mexico as La Heroína de Pátzcuaro. A plaza was named in her honor in that city, and a bronze statue was erected of her."

Ofelia Medina (as Getrudis Bocanegra) did a great acting job.

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.



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