A Critical & Comparative Review of La Otra Conquista In history, there are two sides to every story – the side of the “victor” and that of the “loser. ” Often times, historical interpretations of past events and eras have an altered or biased view of the world that fails to rightfully acknowledge those who had been oppressed or conquered – those on the “losing” side. The film, La Otra Conquista, aims to dispel myths and hyperbolic interpretations of the Spanish conquest of the Americas that place the Spanish as the only winners.
Using emotionally driven cinematography (with a killer soundtrack to match) and an almost painfully accurate portrayal of historical events, the writer and director Salvador Carrasco enlightens his viewers to “the other conquest,” and opens their minds to the several underlying themes conscious during the conquest. By means of symbolism, the film explores an overarching sense duality, parallelism, and resistance found among the two cultures – a friction between two competing interests that fear, as the plot illustrates, that they are not too different after all.
Within this context of duality, the film occupies the role of historical revisionist seeking to reinterpret the conquest as one event with two distinctly separate outcomes. Furthermore, the film uses historical reference to comment on the role of women, bureaucracy, and interpretation/language in Colonial Latin America. The following analysis will explore the topics central not only to the film itself, but to the era. The Popl Vuh, or the “definitive Mayan bible,” outlines the story of a people’s creation.
This creation myth, much unlike that found in the Christian bible places a strong emphasis on aspects of duality that are so common among this Earth – notions of good and bad, light and dark, man and woman, etc. that suggest a common humanity. The film outlined several of these notions, highlighting the importance in the similarities and differences between Catholicism and native ritual, the Spanish and the Indian as well as between the physical versus the spiritual.
The title itself denotes a meaning of double understanding, proclaiming that there were not only one – but two conquests – quite possibly implying Aztec perseverance and faith standing up to Spanish influence. The protagonist, Topiltzin, is taken back the capital by his brother, who upon speaking with him again, states that “We must adapt to survive” to which Topiltzin responds, “I don’t adapt, I know who I am! ” This statement sets the context for the plot, where Topiltzin ultimately meets his demise under the Virgin Mother.
When Topiltzin arrives, he is given the name Tomas, a name that in the biblical sense means “twin” – Topiltzin’s destiny is then set. He serves as a dual protagonist, caught in between two conquests, serving as the image of one of his native deities (possibly Quetzalcoatl) as well as the the Catholic God. However, tension arises when Topiltzin only commits his body, and not his mind, to the Virgin, stating: “Holy Mother! Into your hands I commend my body! But my spirit, never. This describes the mission of the holy Spanish crown: to wage a war that sought not only to capture a people’s mind, heart, ritual, and soul; but to also acquire physical and economic success in terms of land, gold, and subjects (slaves/new taxable citizens). Another parallel, rather, a predicament found in the film is a deep resistance on both sides to assimilate and adjust. As Burkhart states in Holy Wednesday, “Despite the forces that obliged them to interact with one another, Nahuas and Spaniards inhabited separate realities. Nahuas imposed their own interpretations on the Hispanic world, as Spaniards did on the Nahua world” (40).
In the scene where Topiltzin is being publicly punished and the Virgin Mary begins to cry as well as the scene where the protagonist dies, it can be inferred that Topiltzin is acting “not as a firmly individualized personality, but rather [as an] unstable assemblage of parts” while wearing a “costume of a deity” making him the manifestation of both Jesus and a Nahua god (44). In both scenes, “the regalia represented the god via a metonymic substitution; the god’s identity added itself to the aggregate of components that compromised the person” while both personages were fully present (44).
Topiltzin’s subsequent ‘assimilation’ into Catholicism was simply a ploy, an effort by indigenous peoples to keep their deities alive, but masked through another culture’s icon’s and rituals. Furthermore, resistance and tension was seen between both parties when Tecuichupo translates for Cortes to Topiltzin, but does not translate word for word, instead giving a native version of the interpretation and therefore communicating the Nahua reality.
As Tecuichpo said to Friar Diego, “Some things can only be said in Mexican, Your Excellency” providing for, as Burkhart put it, the “predicament of culture” that was often purposefully played out in Nahua interpretation of customs, language and texts (40). In this aspect, the filmmaker highlighted the differences that were found on the surface and reinforced the intrinsic similarities found between Catholicism and Nahua ritual. The film also portrayed aspects of colonial Spanish bureaucracy that defined the era. Aspects of the film illustrated the men of the crown often at odds with those of the military and the cloth.
It is evident in the scene of public punishment where Friar Diego is left to interrupt the actions of Capitan Cristobal Quijano that were approved by Cortes that “the Church threw its considerable weight toward the protection of native rights while the law reflected something otherwise” (Phelan, 54). The law believed them to be inferior while the Church saw them as potential equals that needed to be converted and assimilated. The bureaucracy at the time “constituted multiple partly dependent and independent” agencies that created a tension between the ranks of government” (Phelan, 63).
The different parties involved sought different forms of conquest as well; the clergy sought spirituality and a Christian New World, while the central government sought legitimized power and new revenues conferred to them in The Requiremento, and the military establishment sought conquest and power – as Phelan stated, the Spanish bureaucracy had a set of different goals and standards and had “no single guiding goal or objective” except for “self-perpetration” (62) In the end, the protagonist – or, the oppressed – has recovered his mother goddess in a display that demonstrates a shared humanity and cultural tolerance that can be found in both the Popol Vuh and the Bible. It also raises the question “are we so different after all? ” The film itself provided a deep level of insight concerning a less popular view of history, paralleling much of the primary source material from that era. After viewing the film, one is left wondering, who really ended up as the victors and what implications does it have on society today?
Finally, the former scene where the mother whispers to her child, “this is my body, this is my blood. Even though your skin is white, I will never abandon you” acts as an indication that the subsequent mixed race will give birth to a new society – a society much like modern day Mexico. That impact is evident today; through modern day Catholic ritual that suggests polytheism, modern Latin American bureaucracy that is often at odds with itself, and the modern socio-political roles of indigenous peoples and women. As Topiltzin stated in the beginning, “All this happened to us. We saw it. It touched us. This was our fate. By putting it down on paper, our essence shall live on. ”
Cite this A Critical & Comparative Review of La Otra Conquista
A Critical & Comparative Review of La Otra Conquista. (2016, Sep 30). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/a-critical-comparative-review-of-la-otra-conquista/