Jean Meyer: The Cristiada, 50 years later

A taboo subject for 50 years, the Cristero War, which between 1926 and 1929, and on a lesser scale between 1934 and 1938, pitted thousands of Catholic peasants against the Mexican government, is currently such a well-known episode that it has reached the movies and is a topic recurrent of the tourist guides of states such as Guanajuato and Jalisco.

The social composition of those who fought in this battle and the hostility between the new Mexican State, emanating from the Revolution, and the Vatican meant that this bloody episode was little studied, almost on the sly, until the French historian and geographer Jean Meyer (1942 ) investigated it in depth for seven years and in 1973 published The Cristiadain three volumes.

I arrived at a time when the last Cristeros were still alive, the youngest. Ten or 15 years later I would not have been able to do this job”, Meyer admits in an interview with excelsior.

With a new introductory text, “In the distance, The Cristiada”, written by the author, the Siglo XXI Ediciones label has just launched the commemorative edition of the three volumes of this title, half a century after its publication.

Today the landscape is very different. Before nobody talked about this movement. Not only were the archives of the Mexican government and Church closed, but also those of the Vatican. That is why I looked for the surviving Cristeros so that they could tell me their testimony”, comments the specialist who was naturalized as a Mexican in 1979.

He adds that now there are even films about this movement, such as the last cristerosdirected by his son Matías Meyer, who filmed with peasant descendants of those fighters.

He details that several investigations have been carried out on the participation of women in this historical event and even the music that was heard, how this movement was captured in images or the cristeros in literature.

But I don’t know what the impact of the work of historians has been. The Church has already spoken more. The governments of Guanajuato and Jalisco, for example, have used it as a tourist theme: the Route of the Cristeros, the Route of the Martyrs. But I think that more is still needed to be taught in schools, where little is addressed ”, he adds.

Who completed a master’s degree at the Sorbonne University, and a doctorate at the University of Paris, Nanterre, clarifies that the most important thing about this commemorative edition is that it allowed him to rectify a mistake he made due to a lack of information.

I used to say that General Enrique Gorostieta was an anticlerical, a Freemason, like all northerners, which was not true. I met a great-granddaughter of his who showed me the letters that her great-grandfather wrote, from when he was young until his death, to his parents and his wife; and there you can see that he was Catholic on all four sides.

I sucked on an official version of who had been his secretary, a young surveyor student at the University of Guadalajara, who later became a Jesuit. And, as such, when he wrote his autobiography he presents Gorostieta as a Saint Paul, who first persecuted Christians and then transformed. That was the version that everyone repeated, ”he explains.

The author of The prophet of the New World. Louis Riel and Religious history of Russia and its empires He remembers that at the beginning of his investigation it was very difficult for him to have all the files closed. “I was even going to quit. But I found my first cristero and decided to collect testimonials.

At that time there was no oral history as a recognized practice. And I was inspired by the work of journalists. Many times I couldn’t record because there was no light or people felt intimidated. It was a memory exercise. Something new and exciting, ”she evokes.

Meyer points out that this year the research on religion in Russia will end, the first volume of which offers an x-ray of a thousand years of spirituality in these territories.

I will now turn to the last three decades, culminating in the war against Ukraine and the final separation of Ukrainian Orthodoxy from the Moscow Patriarchate. I will need a year, because I want to go to Rome and kyiv, if the war allows it, ”he concludes.

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Jean Meyer: The Cristiada, 50 years later