Raymundo Gleyzer’s documentary savaging the corrupt failure of the Mexican Revolution to fulfill its promises to the rural poor is something of a landmark of leftist Latin American film making, although I feel it falls closer to important than good. Gleyzer, an Argentine disappeared in 1976 after the coup in his home country, committed himself to showing the devastating poverty of the region’s campesinos and how government and the wealthy constantly failed him. Here he focuses primarily on indigenous peoples in the Yucatan and Chiapas, some of Mexico’s poorest people, to demonstrate how the PRI, despite its rhetoric about the legacy of the revolution, had completely failed them. While the PRI may have created at least some ejidos and engaged in some land distribution, not only did the pre-revolutionary rich remain pretty rich, but the PRI itself became so invested in the economic status quo that the poor continued to suffer. The PRI shows up in these communities at election time but otherwise does nothing. Gleyzer includes much footage from Luis Echeverria’s presidential campaign in 1970, a campaign and candidate with truly no soul or commitment to the original principles of the revolution. But as the director points out in a history of the Mexican Revolution early in the film, the various revolutionary groups lacked a common ideology to begin with, so there was little to unite the country after it ended.
This story is not exactly revelatory in 2014, but this was made shortly after the 1968 student massacre by the PRI before the Mexico City Olympics. Where Gleyzer falls somewhat short is connecting the treatment of the peasantry to the student massacre. We know the PRI is corrupt and awful, but according to Gleyzer it’s the rural landed poor it is failing. The jump to the students is abrupt. Horrifying, yes, but at least some background on the student movement would have made a more cohesive film.