Bandido Chronicles: Cristeros and Hitler's Camera
The other day I was reading Sunglasses' Amusing personal stories thread. Suddenly, a ton of different stories came rushing into my head. I hadn’t even remembered that I knew these stories, and I was looking forward to sharing them. But I realized I wasn’t directly involved in the stories, and that got me thinking. I wanted to share them with you, but I wasn’t involved in them and they were pretty long. So instead of highjacking Sunglasses’ thread, I’m writing this article for you. Just some family anecdotes.
The year was 1926. The Mexican Revolution had ended just a few years ago; the country still reeked of death and blood. Even though the Revolution had ended, the country was facing political struggles between different factions and ideologies. Revolutionary general Plutarco Elías Calles won the presidency and decided he was going to end all the faction wars and unite the country, no matter the cost. He was known as a cold, calculating man who planned everything out before making a move.
But in 1927, his convictions got the better of him. He hated the Catholic Church, seeing it as an institution that had always harmed Mexico. He was also an atheist, so that didn’t help either. Because of this, through a series of laws, political moves and loopholes, he outlawed religion. Sure, there was no law that literally said that, but he exploited a few laws and got his way.
The Federal Army started closing churches, arresting priests and even going so far as to arrest people wearing crosses. And that didn’t sit well with the population. They pleaded, but to no avail. The pressure increased as the government started executing people. The people were outraged, and to the call of “¡Viva Cristo Rey!” they rose up in arms to fight the government. These people were known as Cristeros. For three years they fought the federales until a peace treaty was established.
There's really no reason for this image, it's just a badass cristero.
What does this has to do with me? You see, my mom’s family is from a state in Mexico were the Cristero War was the most intense. My mom had two aunts, both of them married. The thing was that one of them was married to a cristero, and the other was married to a federale. My grand-uncle, let’s call him Rafael, enrolled in the Federal Army at seventeen, and the next year he was dispatched to that state to fight the cristeros. My other grand-uncle, “Rodolfo”, was eighteen when the cristeros rose up in arms, and he joined them.
Some years later, after the war had ended, Rafael started dating a pretty lady. He was invited to her home to meet her sister and her boyfriend. And when he arrived, he saw that Rodolfo – the cristero – was the sister’s boyfriend. Out of respect for the family, they didn't fight, but they hated each other’s guts. Then each of them got married to his respective girlfriend. Now they were family. Needless to say, family reunions were awkward from that day on. As long as they lived, they didn't speak to each other. It sounds like a premise from a weird romantic comedy, but it happened.
It must have been one hell of a wedding ceremony
Hitler, as in Adolph Hitler. How does he tie into this story? Well, remember that Plutarco guy who banned religion? After he finished his presidential term, he kept on going with his “ruler of Mexico” role. He set up a series of puppet presidents whom he controlled. This period was called El Maximato, because he was considered el Jefe Máximo (The Maximum Chief). Then along came Lázaro Cárdenas. Plutarco thought that Lázaro would obey him, so he opened up the path for him to reach the presidency. When Lázaro became president, Plutarco tried to use him as a puppet. Lázaro wouldn’t tolerate this, so he exiled him, ending the Maximato.
He ain't gonna take any of that shit
Lázaro was from Michoacán, where my mom’s family is from. And apparently back in the day my family was pretty affluent. We had politicians and businessmen, and even Rafael went on to become a respected colonel. So Lázaro was acquainted with my family. Now, here’s where Hitler comes in. At the time, Hitler was President of Germany. And for one reason or another, he gave a movie camera to Lázaro. I guess it was a symbol of the fraternity between Germany and Mexico, or something like that.
War criminal and movie aficionado
Lázaro thanked Hitler for the gift, but he had no real use for it, so he gave it to my mom’s uncle. Some time later, he built a movie theater, the only one in town (something like Cinema Paradiso). And guess which camera they used to project the movies? Yup, Hitler’s camera. My mom would go there after school and sneak up to the projection room. There she would stay with her uncle and do homework while the same three movies played over and over again. The theater was demolished and now there’s a small mall in its place. But right at the entrance, there’s a glass case with Hitler’s camera in it. You know, the usual.
As you can see, you only need to search a bit deeper to discover amusing stories in your family.
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