Rosa Blanca (translation: White Rose) (1961) (released 1972)
Director: Roberto Gavaldón.
Starring: Ignacio López Tarso (Jacinto Yañez), Christiane Martel (Georgette, mistress of Kollenz), Reinhold Olszewski (Robert Kollenz), Rita Macedo (Carmen Lopez), Begoña Palacios (Guadalupe), Carlos Fernández, John Kelly, Luis Beristáin.
set in 1930s when powerful oil companies appropriate vast amounts of Mexican land; farmer resists and tragedy ensues (banned until 1972)
Spoiler Warning: below is a summary to the entire film.
Vera Cruz 1937. (This is two years before Mexico nationalized its oil production.) A fellow from the Condor Oil Company drives up in a car to ask a young man where he can find Sr. Jacinto Yañez? The young man shouts out for Jacinto, who comes over to the car. The man in the car introduces himself as a lawyer named Sr. Perez. He asks Sr. Yañez if he could speak with him about some important matters. Yes. They go up onto a porch of what looks like a storehouse. The lawyer says he represents the Condor Oil Company. The company owns most of the land around Sr. Yañez and the company wants to buy the land in order to unite their various holdings in the area. The company, he says, is ready to give the land owner a magnificent price for his land. Yañez tells the lawyer that he is sorry but he will not sell Rosa Blanca (the White Rose). He has great emotional ties to the land. This is where his father is buried and it will be the burial place of the Sr. Yañez when it's his turn to die. And, after him, his son will be buried here.
Perez tells the land owner that with the money he would get from the sale of the land he could buy a car like the marvelous car he has. Yañez laughs. He doesn't want to use a car on his land. He loves to get up early in the morning and walk in the sun and see the natural beauty of the area.
Perez says he should think of his family. Yañez asks why should Perez think that he doesn't consider his family? How will his family live without the land? Perez tells him that he can buy better properties elsewhere with the money he will receive from the sale of the land. Yañez is not interested in other lands.
Perez wants to give Yañez a drive in his car that is a convertible with the top down. He drives the land owner up to the hacienda.
Yañez shows Perez around. He takes him up to the hacienda and there Perez meets Carmen Lopez, wife of the farmer. After Carmen leaves, Perez pours out the money onto the table. It's a large heap of gold coins. Perez thinks the guy will cave in when he realizes just how much money he is looking at. Yañez picks up a gold coin on the floor, flips it onto the table and walks away from the money. He calls his son Domingo in to look at the heap of gold. He is impressed. Yañez asks him what would he do with so much money? The son says he would buy trucks.
When Yañez still refuses to sell, Perez tone becomes tough and nasty. He says Yañez is crazy. Perez says his boss is not going to take "no" as an answer. Now Yañez gets a bit angry. The lawyer changes his mask again and says he is sorry about this. He can understand why a man like Yañez would want to hang on to this land. But this is his job and it is not always easy to do. Perez leaves in his car. Carmen comes out and asks why did the two men become soangry at each other? Perez says his boss won't take no for an answer. His wife is worried about that answer. She tells her husband she is afraid.
Los Angeles, California. The Condor Oil Building. President Robert G. Kollenz comes into work early in the morning. All of his people saythe boss hello to Mr. Kollenz as he walks to his office. He asks his secretary about his day. She says he has a luncheon with Senator Carstairs to discuss a reduction in taxes. The President says he will not discuss the subject with the Senator, "I will damn well tell him." The secretary says his daughter is going to come in today. She must have missed the breakfast she wanted to have with her father. She needs to borrow $200 dollars. Kollenz tells his secretary just give his daughter the money she wants. He has to go to a director's meeting. The secretary now tells the boss that the parent corporation in London wants a report on the Venezuelan operation. Kollenz becomes angry, saying that London keeps hounding him about that operation.
The boss asks what's next? A letter from the lawyer in Jalapa and he called on the boss's private wire. Now Kollenz tells his secretary that she can go and he doesn't want to be disturbed.
Kollenz gets a call from a woman named Georgette. He wishes her a happy birthday. She says she awakened this morning, looked out the window and saw the brand new car Kollenz bought her for her birthday. She is very happy and says the car is a boudoir on wheels. She then says that such a fine car will need a nice garage to put it in. Kollenz says he was thinking about the house that would go along with the nice garage. Georgette says she saw a house for only $110,000 dollars, "a real bargain".
The board meeting. Kollenz says it's 4 to 2 against the motion. He asks the others around the table and the result is a tie. So Kollenz says he will cast the deciding vote and he approves the motion. One of the board members gets up and asks what's the progress report on the agreement to buy certain lands in Mexico known as the Rosa Blanca? Kollenz says the matter has not been settled. What he fears is that an oil company like the Royal Dutch may purchase the land and drain the oil out of the area. Tens of millions of dollars are involved in this matter. The board demands to know why hasn't the purchase gone through? After all, they offered any expenditure that would allow Condor Oil to purchase the land. One of the directors says: "It's quite clear. He must be eliminated." Kollenz rejects that idea saying it would end in scandal and would possibly prevent Condor Oil from buying the land. And there are other ways and cheaper ones that are available. Kollenz assures the directors that when he wants something, he gets it, period. The directors clap at this remark. Kollenz tells his secretary to get him in touch with lawyer Perez. He is going to get Perez moving faster or this deal or else.
Jalapa (capital of the state of Veracruz). Lawyer Perez goes to see the governor of Vera Cruz. He explains how a farmer has refused to sell Condor Oil his piece of property that is in the middle of Condor Oil owned land. The company offered him twice the value of his property. It is important to the development of the natural resources in Mexico that Condor Oil gets this property. The Governor says he supports the development of Mexico's natural resources, but the question is by what means will this development take place? He goes on to say that in this case he does not think that intervention by the Governor is justified. This is just a case of a failed business deal. Perez insists that this is a very important piece of land. Condor Oil does not want to see the land purchased by an competing oil companies. The Governor says that they will need time to investigate this situation Perez speaks about. Perez leaves.
Carmen and her daughter-in-law Guadalupe sit together at night on the porch and talk. Yañez comes riding up. His clothes are covered with oil spots. Carmen asks her husband what happened? He says she can see what happened to him. A jeep comes driving up to the hacienda. Out steps the son Domingo. His father wants to know who is the fellow that's with him? He is a geologist working for the Governor. The geologist is interviewing different people involved with the oil business here and its impact on the land. Yañez is suspicious of this geologist, but Domingo says the fellow showed him his official papers and he does work for the Governor.
With a tray of food Carmen comes back out on the porch and asks her husband to please go inside and change his clothes. Yañez says he isn't hungry.
The Governor calls in Perez and tells him that the investigation concluded that Condor Oil doesn't need any more land in the area. Perez again brings up the question of what will happen if another foreign company buys the land of Yañez? The Governor tells him that Yañez is not going to sell his land to anyone. Perez leaves.
President Kollenz brings Georgette back home from a night out. She complains that her car is getting dented by the boys in the neighborhood who like to play baseball in the street. When is she going to get her garage? The President says he's been looking for the right one for her. Georgette says he hasn't been that charming like he usually is. He tells her that he has business problems. He reads a note that says that Rosa Blanca cannot be had at any price.
Kollenz puts in a call saying that he wants to see a tough guy named Abner first thing in the morning. Georgette demands to know who this Rosa is? Kollenz laughs. That makes Georgette mad and she slaps him. So now Kollenz gets serious and explains what he has been dealing with in trying to obtain a piece of land called Rosa Blanca. He tells her that the land is filled with lots of oil. Now Georgette understands. But the "Indian" won't sell. "He doesn't know what money is good for." Georgette says she would like to meet this Indian. Kollenz tells her: "I will wring his neck." Georgette asks aren't there laws against wringing people's necks? Kollenz says he is going to invite the Indian up to Los Angeles. Away from his natural environment and in the big city, Kollenz will talk directly to the Indian, man to man.
Kollenz talks with Abner. He tells him he wants Abner to bring the Indian here to Los Angeles alive. Abner must get the Indian to come up to L.A. willingly. The henchman says it will be costly. About $25,000 dollars. Kollenz agrees and says he will give Abner another $25,000 dollars once the Indian signs the land sale document.
Dressed in a light suit, Abner comes to town. He sees workers paying a fee to the man who gives them a sort of permission slip to work today. Abner goes in later to see the man and asks him if he is the patron? The man smiles and says no. The Mexican asks if the stranger has come to down to handle land sales? More or less. Abner tells the man named Pedro that his name is Abner. Pedro introduces himself and puts out his hand to shake hands. Abner ignores his hand. So Pedro instead asks him to play a round of pool with him. Abner mentions the name of the land, la Rosa Roja. Pedro laughs and says it's the white rose, not the red rose. Pedro says he knows the land Abner is interested in very well. He also mentions the prostitutes that are available over at the hotel.
La Rosa Blanca. It is pouring rain today. Yañez and Domingo come out of the rain and into the hacienda. Just then a jeep is seen pulling up to the hacienda. Yañez prepares to greet his guests: Abner and Pedro. Pedro introduces Abner to Yañez. The pretext of the visit is that Abner needs to buy some of the fine horses that Yañez raises on his farm. Yañez offers the man a bedroom to stay in while they wait for better weather to go see the horses. Pedro and Abner have dinner with Yañez and his family. Abner says the food is caliente (physically hot) and Yañez tells him that the food is picante (spicy), not caliente.
Since Yañez is still very committed to his land, Abner starts working on Carmen and Guadalupe to win them over to his side. He gives her a religious picture that he says has been in his family for generations and is responsible for the occurrence of many miracles for them. Carmen is very touched by this gesture. Abner is putting on a great acting job of being so gentlemanly. Now his attention turns to Yañez himself. He shows him beautiful pictures of Los Angeles and where Abner resides there. Abner says even the mules are bigger in Los Angeles than in Mexico.
They go out to see the horses. Abner butters up Yañez saying that the horses are spectacular and Yañez indeed should be proud of what he has accomplished with his horses. As a way of showing the sincerity of his friendship, Yañez tells Abner to pick one horse out of the bunch that he likes. It is a gift to Abner. Abner says that's quite an expensive gift. He adds that he will only accept the offer if Yañez, in turn, will accept a sincere offering to Yañez. Yañez is agreeable to this and so now Abner accepts the gift. And what Abner is offering is a trip up to Los Angeles to see his ranch. He can come up and stay for a couple of weeks.
Yañez is taken aback by the offer. But he feels he must accept it.
It's time for Yañez to leave for Los Angeles. His wife cries at his departure. He says goodbye to Guadalupe who is also sad. Domingo carries his satchel to the local train. Dad tells him that he will take his place at the ranch while he is up visiting in California. Yañez himself is a bit upset at leaving his land.
In Los Angeles Abner takes Yañez to a fancy hotel. Yañez is impressed at all the lavishness of the hotel. Abner says they will have dinner together at the hotel. They will go to his ranch in the morning. He then excuses himself saying he must make a telephone call. He calls the boss who tells Abner that he must bring Yañez up to meet him within 15 minutes or he will have Abner thrown into shark infested waters.
When Yañez sees that they are going to the office of Condor Oil he becomes very suspicious of what is going on. He asks why is a model of an oil rig owned by Condor doing here in the hotel? Abner says it's just a coincidence. Yañez tells him that it's Condor Oil that has been trying to buy his land. Abner says he had no idea of that.
Now Abner takes Yañez into meet Kollenz and Georgette. Georgette was thinking that the Indian Yañez would be wearing a native costume (she uses the term g-string). She is disappointed to meet the real Yañez. Since Yañez does not speak English, the boss can speak in English with Abner without fear that Yañez will catch wise. Kollenz tells Abner to tell the Indian that he is not interested in buying his land. They want to maintain Rosa Blanca the way it is: beautiful. And they want Yañez to continue as patron.
And now they will toast to la Rosa Blanca. They down their drinks. Now Abner tells Yañez that the will pay him if he will sign an agreement on paper that he will not sell his land to any foreign oil companies. Yañez says they don't need to sign a legal document. He gives his word that he will not sell the land. Abner replies that they know that Yañez is a man of honor and will keep his word, but, unfortunately, the company has many directors on its board and they don't know Yañez as the two of them know him and will want a signed legal document. For this the company will give Yañez $100,000 dollars. The amount of money staggers Yañez and he seems very confused. He sits down. He reasons that Los Angeles is indeed a very different place than Jalapa where he lives. He finally says he accepts the offer. This way Domingo can get the trucks he wanted to buy.
Kollenz immediately gets the contract and immediately has Yañez sign the document. But the Indian is not quite as dumb as they thought. He gathers up the document and says he will take it home to examine it. Now Kollenz yanks the document from Yañez and virtually yells: "No, sir!!!" Yañez does not like the man's attitude. He says his word is as good as any signed piece of paper. And his ranch is part of his country. It is life for him and his people. "It's our land." He says he will not sign and adds that he is no fool. He leaves.
Kollenz tells Abner that it's all up to him now. Get that man's signature on the legal document.
Abner and Yañez return to the hotel room. It's Abner's job to cool Yañez down so he can manipulated further. He says that Yañez is right in what he says and Mr. Kollenz acted very badly. Abner is not having much success. So he says, since Yañez says he is a man of his word, then he will continue the trip by coming out with Abner to his farm. Yañez doesn't want to. So Abner tells him that his family and friends are going to laugh at him for refusing to sign the document and receive the $100,000 dollars. Now Yañez simmers down and says he will go out to the ranch and see Abner's mules.
In the car with Abner, Yañez gets so tired that he goes to sleep. Abner picks up something behind Yañez's seat to hit him with, but he decides not to.
So now the parties involved are meeting with an arbitrator. Two witnesses have been brought to witness the signing of the agreement between Condor Oil and Yañez. The Condor people sign first. Then the two witnesses sign the document. And finally it's Yañez's turn to sign. Yañez signs.
And now the vultures go in to move the Yañez family off the land. The family is shown the document Yañez signed in Los Angeles. Carmen and her son maintain that they don't believe their piece of paper because Yañez would never sell his land. Perez the lawyer explains that this is all legal and all taken care of. Domingo doesn't believe it. He runs over to the bell and rings it repeatedly to call the workers to the hacienda. The workers start coming in.
Perez tells the Condor Oil man to start the work process. The Condor workers start bringing out materials, but Domingo is right there to throw them back onto the back of the trucks. Domingo now says they will use violence to stop Condor Oil's work on their land. The lawyer announces to everyone that Domingo threatened them with the use of force. He says they are all witnesses to this fact. Perez gets back into his fancy convertible. They are leaving. Guadalupe cries and says she is frightened.
Mother and son go into see the governor. They tell him that Yañez would never sign over his land to strangers. The Governor says that Yañez did sign the Condor Oil document. He has a copy of it and shows it to mother and son. Carmen is stunned and starts to cry. The Governor asks Carmen when will Yañez return home? Carmen tells him that he doesn't understand. Her husband has been killed. The Governor asks how does she know this? Because Yañez is way overdue at home and they have never once received a postcard, a letter or a telephone call.
The Governor says that they will investigate the fate of her husband. In the meantime, however, the family must surrender the land to Condor Oil. He goes on to say that Carmen and Domingo must examine every word of the document to find a mistake, an error, something than can overturn the legal rule by the signed document.
Before Domingo and Carmen reach home, the heavy equipment is brought onto the ranch. An oil truck knocks down the sign for "Rosa Blanca" stretched over the entrance to the ranch. With the convoy are armed men so as not to have a repeat of what happened last time. The boss says to the farm/ranch hands that they can work for Condor Oil or they can get out!
Domingo and Carmen arrive as everything is being taken out of the hacienda. Some of the ranch hands stand in front of the land moving vehicles to stop them. Another huge vehicle looks like it is going to run over two children playing in the dirt. They are saved just in the knick of time.
Domingo climbs up on one of the earth movers and tells his men that he feels like they do, but he cannot permit the workers to fight against bullets.
A fire is started that burns the crops and bull dozers crush the huts of the workers.
Guadalupe gives birth to a child. Domingo comes running when he hears the baby cry.
The next morning Domingo watches as more of the farm buildings are destroyed. And he watches as Pedro begins his old work here on Rosa Blanca. He writes permission slips for men to work. The workers start lining up to get permission. And now Domingo himself has to get in line. Domingo has his armed stamped indicating he has permission to work. And he pays his money for getting that permission to work.
Kollenz puts up on his giant map a Condor Oil flag marker indicating another land purchase for Condor Oil. He says: "Gentlemen, our problems in the state of Vera Cruza have been conquered." Drilling is being performed on the land of Rosa Blanca. There is strong applause for this statement.
Over Rosa Blanca the first oil rig is built.
Kollenz buys Georgette a rose-shaped diamond and emerald broach symbolizing la Rosa Blanca. He tells her the minute they strike oil on Rosa Blanca, Georgette will also get her new house and garage.
Domingo operates the drill.
The Mexican Consul now pays a visit to Mr. Kollenz. He has come in an investigation of the disappearance of Jacinto Yañez, He presents photos of a body run over on the highway on the way to the Mexican border. He wants to know if this man is Jacinto Yañez? Kollenz says oh, how terrible. He also confirms that the body is that of Yañez. In fact, according to the records, this happened the day after the signing of an oil deal between Condor Oil and Yañez.
The Consul says that the autopsy concluded that Yañez was drunk at the time and had no documentation or money on him. The Mexican Consul now says that Mr. Kollenz was the last person to see Yañez alive. But Kollenz says actually Yañez left here with Abner, so he was the man who last saw Yañez alive. The boss's secretary says that Abner went abroad on business. The Consul leaves.
Oil has been struck on Rosa Blanca!! The oil splatters all over the white roses of the hacienda. The oil catches fire and in the fire the entire oil rig falls down.
In the pouring rain, the workers and their families hold a funeral procession for three dead workers. They carry protest banners that demand damages be paid to the families of those who died. The Yañez family walks in the rain. Domingo says a few words for the dead at the funeral. He promises the dead that the workers will unite together like never before and they will defend their rights. A man comes over to Domingo to tell him that the Secretary from the government is here. The Secretary says that Condor Oil will have to pay indemnification to the families for what happened at Rosa Blanca. He says this will be the start of a grand campaign that goes national.
In Los Angeles Georgette has an open house to celebrate her new home. It's a huge place. Meanwhile, Kollenz talks to some other businessmen. A fellow tells Kollenz that those oil workers are out for their scalps.
A huge rally is held to consolidate a new movement against imperialist domination of the Mexican oil business.
Kollenz and his company directors say the protests have been inspired by outside agitators and, therefore, they do not have to pay any attention to the worker demands. When the company is forced to show up at the labor négociations, they show up, but they immediately leave.
The case is taken all the way to the Supreme Court. The Court backs the workers. The oil companies deny that they have to comply with the decision of the Supreme Court. The oil companies are given 24 hours to comply with the judgment.
The President of Mexico goes on the radio to announce the expropriation of the businesses of foreign oil companies in Mexico. They nationalize the oil business.
The people of Mexico are thrilled at the news. And that news is especially thrilling to the members of the Yañez family.
Kollenz says that Mexico had to pay them for their expropriated businesses. Mexican children have been gathering money to pay the bill. Kollenz says they can never get enough money to pay them back. But the others think the Mexicans have already won the battle. Virtually all the politicians around the world have refused to support the oil companies. The lawyer and a director walk out on Kollenz.
Georgette comes in and Kollenz asks her how would she like living in a warm climate like that in Saudi Arabia. She can live with a sheik named Kollenz.
This film is an important one for it deals with the struggles of the workers to get better pay and conditions for themselves. The particular industry here is the oil and gas industry. The workers' strike of 1936 not only led to better pay and conditions, but it led to the nationalization of the industry. President Lázaro Cárdenas (1934–40) is the one who nationalized the industry. Partly, he was reacting to the intransigence of the foreign oil companies to deal fairly with the oil workers in Mexico.
This would be a good film for students to watch. They would see the damning portrayal of the American oil leader, who only cares about acquiring more land and getting more profits out of the business. It's not a pretty picture the film paints. The guy is a rich, selfish, arrogant bastard and an adulterer too. Let the students see how others see American business and they might realize why there is so much anti-American feeling in the world.
Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.
1910-1920 -- Mexican Revolution. Mexico's social and economic problems erupt.
1917 -- the Mexican Constitution of 1917 is drafted.
1929 -- the formation of the Institutional Revolutionary Party ends Mexico's social struggles and Mexican politics proceed peacefully. H
1929 --start of Great Depression, which brought Mexico a sharp drop in national income and internal demand.
1929 & 1930 -- the railroads are nationalized.
1934-1940 -- years of service of President Lázaro Cárdenas (1934–40).
1936 -- Mexican oil workers go on strike against low pay and better working conditions against the foreign oil companies. The matter was sent to an arbitration board, which ruled that the oil companies should increase wages by one third and improve working conditions.
The foreign oil companies refused to comply with the ruling. So Cardenas charges them with being in contempt.
1938 (March 18) -- Cárdenas nationalizes Mexico's petroleum reserves and expropriated the equipment of the foreign oil companies in Mexico. This move was extremely popular with the Mexican people and huge celebrations were held.
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