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Films >> Otra Conquista, La (The Other Conquest) (1998) >>

The Other Conquest is based on an original screenplay by Salvador Carrasco begun August 13, 1991: "I remember the date so distinctly because it was the 470th anniversary of the fall of Mexico. I was living in New York, and I started writing a treatment about a young Aztec scribe who resists the Spanish conquest by appropriating a statue of the Virgin Mary" (DVD commentary). Though the specific context is the Spanish conquest of the Aztec nation in Mexico between the massacre at Templo Major in 1520 and the Virgin Mary appearing to Juan Diego at Guadalupe in 1531, the core story is pure fiction. "In all my research," says Carrasco, "I found quite a bit of literature until August 13th 1521, when Cuahutemoc surrendered. Then [suddenly] there's a black hole of ten years. There's very little written on what happened in the following ten years. . . . I thought . . . what happened the morning after? We all know how it ended when Cuahutemoc surrendered, but imagine the psychological and emotional scars" (qtd in Haddu 164).

So, while Cortes, of course, was a real person, as was Tecuichpo (though in real life she flourished in Spain instead of dying in Mexico), and Capitan Cristobal was based on a rebellious Conquistador (the DVD commentary) and Fray Diego may have been based on Fray Juan de Zumarraga or the Franciscan apostles (Chorba, "Trauma" 192), and while certain references like the disposition of Malinche are correct, the central character Topiltzin and the core plot events are Carrasco's creations. "The very first image that came to mind in the making of this film," says Carrasco, was "the idea of an Indian being flogged in front of a statue of the Virgin Mary" (DVD commentary). "I was interested in telling a story of resistance," he adds, "of counter-conquest, of the ingenious ways the human spirit can prevail against all odds" (DVD commentary), of showing the violence implicit in cultural processes thought of as peaceful (qtd in Chorba, "Trauma" 59). Thus, Carrasco's purpose in imagining the "reverse conquest . . . embodied in [the fictional] Topiltzin's melding of the Aztec Mother Goddess with the Catholic Virgin Mary and in his Christlike self-sacrifice" is to make him "transcend his enemies and become a symbolic figure" (Carrasco, "Invisible" 176).

Thus, though Carrasco lists more than a dozen historical and historiographical works that shaped his thinking (Chorba, "Trauma" 193), he very much employs and embellishes real history because of contemporary concerns: The Spanish conquest "seems all the more poignant today, as the Zapatistas have peacefully marched into the capital," he says, "It doesn't take much knowledge of Mexican or Latin American history to see the obvious parallels between [the fictional] Topiltzin's story and the contemporary plight of Indians" (Carrasco, "Invisible" 168-69).