La Guerra Santa (1979)




Director:     Carlos Enrique Taboada. 

Starring:     Jorge Luke (Coronel Ursino Valdez),   José Carlos Ruiz (Celso Dominguez),   Víctor Junco (Padre Miguel),   Enrique Lucero (Rutilo Sandoval),   Claudio Obregón (Maestro ateo),  Carlos Cámara (Padre Soler),   José Luis AvendaZo (Cristero),   Roberto Ruy (Jacinto),   Rafael Baledón,   Antonio Zubiaga (Coronel Miranda),   Fernando Pinkus (Cristero),   José Dupeyrón (Capitan Cristero),   Jorge Fegán (Presidente Municipal),    Martha Rios (Felisa), Jim Habif (Padre Millan).

No English subtitles. 

a poor pottery maker is coerced into fighting with the Christian army in the Cristero Rebellion (1926-1929)


Spoiler Warning:



Historical Background:


1910-1920  ---  the Mexican Revolution. 

1913  --  the Mexican Association of Catholic Youth (ACJM) is founded.

1917  --  the Constitution of 1917 put a lot of restrictions on what the Catholic Church could do. 

1920-1924  --  terms as president of Mexico, Alvaro Obregón.  He selectively applied the anti-clerical laws --  harshly in areas of weak Catholicism and not at all in areas of strong Catholicism. 

1924-1928  --  reign as president, Plutarco Elías Calles.  He applied the anti-clerical laws harshly. 

1924  --  the National League for the Defense of Religious Liberty (LNDLR) is founded to resist the government.

1925  --  political party Popular Union (UP) is founded in fervently Catholic west-central Mexico

1926 (June)  --  Calles signs "The Law for Reforming the Penal Code" (a.k.a. the "Calles Law").  These law made the general anti-clerical laws of the 1917 Constitution very specific.  Priests wearing clerical garb had to pay a fine of  500 pesos.  And the priests could be imprisoned five years for criticizing the government.

1926 (July 11)  --  the Mexican Episcopate votes to suspend all public worship starting August 1.

1926 (July 14)  --   the Catholic bishops endorse the LNDLR's plan for an economic boycott in the areas of recreation, commerce, transportation and schools.

1926 (August 3)  --  400 barricade themselves in Guadalajara's Guadalupe Sanctuary and fight against federal troops.  They eventually surrender leaving 18 dead and 40 wounded.

1926 (August 4)  --  240 soldiers storm the parish church in Sahuayo, Michoacán.  Even the parish priest and his vicar are killed. 

1926 (August 14)  --  government agents purge the local ACJM chapter in Chalchihuites, Zacatecas.  They execute Father Luis Bátiz, the chapter's spiritual adviser.

Former colonel Pedro Quintanar leads ranchers to seize the Chalchihuites municipal treasury.  They then declare they are in rebellion against the government.  For a while they held all of north Jalisco.  They are eventually chased out by federal forces.

1926 (September 28)  --   the mayor of Pénjamo, Guanajuato, Luis Navarro Origel, rebels, but is defeated by federals forces.  The rebels head to the mountains to be guerrillas. 

1926 (September 29)  --  rebellion led by Trinidad Mora in Durango. (Go to the mountains to be guerrillas.)

1926 (October 4)  --   a former federal general named Rodolfo Gallegos leads a rebellion in southern Guanajuato. (Go to the mountains to be guerillas.)

1926 (October)  --  the boycott fails due to a lack of support from wealthy Catholics (who were hurt by the boycotts). 

Selected by the LNDLR, a 27-year old lawyer named René Capistran Garza becomes the official leader of the Catholic rebellion. 

1927 (January 1)  --  the date chosen by LNDLR as the official date for the outbreak of hostilities. On the date the Cristero Rebellion officially begins with a manifesto issued by Garza.

In Jalisco rebel ranchers capture a great many villages in Los Altos region.  The government is very certain that the rebellion will be put down quickly.  The Jalisco federal commander is General Jesús Ferreira.  But a number of natural military leaders rise within the rebellion:  Jesús Degollado (a druggist), Aristeo Pedroza and José Reyes Vega (priests) and Victoriano Ramírez (an illiterate ranch hand).

1927 (February 23)  --  the Cristeros defeat an Army-agrarista force at San Francisco del Rincón, Guanajuato.

Cristeros victory over an elite cavalry unit at San Julián.  This is followed by a third Cristeros victory.

1927  April 1) --  Catholic leader Anacleto González Flores is captured by federal agents, brutally tortured and executed.

1927 (April 19)  --  Father José Reyes Vega and his men raid a train.  In the fight with the Army escort, Vega's brother is killed.  For revenge Vega burns the entire train, burning alive 51 civilian passengers.

This massacre leads the government to concentrate the civilian population into cities and declare the countryside a war zone.  Now the government could stop the country ranchers from feeding the rebels. 

1927 (by summer)  --  the Cristero rebellion is virtually at an end

But Victoriano Ramírez brings it back to life.  (He was also known as El Catorce ("the 14") because it is said he escaped jail and killed all 14 members of the posse sent to bring him in.) 

1927 (October)  --  Dwight Whitney Morrow, whose daughter married famed aviator Charles Lindbergh, arrives as US ambassador to Mexico.

LNDLR hires a former Army general, Enrique Gorostieta, to be the rebellion military leader.  He proves to be a complete mercenary with little sympathy for Catholicism. He was, however, effective and the Cristeros began to gain the upper hand. 

1928  -- the Cristeros dominate the military action. 

1928 (July 1)  --  Alvaro Obregón elected president.  Two weeks later he is assassinated by a young Catholic sidewalk artist. (At a Mexico City café, the assassin calmly sketched a profile of Obregón and then shot the newly elected president in the head.)  Emilio Portes Gil, a former governor of Tamaulipas, is appointed interim president.

1929 (early)  --  outbreak of a rebellion in the army but it is quickly suppressed. 

1929 (late March)  --  a Cristero attack on Guadalajara fails. 

1929 (April 19)  -  Cristeros under Father Vega win at Tepatitlán, Los Altos, but Vega is killed. 

1929 (May 2)  --  the Catholic upper hierarchy decides to no longer ask for the repeal of the laws applied to religion, but to apply them more leniently.

1929 (June 2)  --   Gorostieta is killed in a federal patrol ambush. 

The rebellion could have continued because the rebels had around 50,000 men.

The war is ended diplomatically.  Dwight Whitney Morrow became a key player in the peace negotiations.   Other key players were Interim President Emilio Portes Gil, the Mexican hierarchy, the Vatican and the U.S. State Department.

1929 (June 21)  --  a peace agreement reached.

1929 (June 27)  --  for the first time in almost three years, Catholic church bells ring in Mexico.


source:   Jim Tuck,


Return To Main Page

Return to Home Page (Vernon Johns Society)