Reel American HistoryHistory on trial Main Page

AboutFilmsFor StudentsFor TeachersBibliographyResources

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

The Filmic Context is arranged by print, video/audio, and online resources.

Print Resources

Carrasco, Salvador. "The Invisible Sight." The Zapatista Reader. Ed. Tom Hayden. New York: Thunder's Mouth Press, 2002.
Carrasco talks in detail about his own work. His purpose is to "shed new light on old events," "to question the very roots of Mexican culture," to confront "official history," and, in a time in which "the Zapatistas have peacefully marched into the capital," to make us think about "the situation of Mexican Indians today." "The Conquest is not over," he says, "and it's not perfectly clear who is doing the conquering." The "other conquest" referenced here is a "reverse conquest": "it is the conquest carried out by the indigenous people, who appropriated European religious forms and made them their own." Along with Carrasco's DVD commentary, this is the place to start in thinking about the film.
Carrasco, Salvador. Director's Commentary. The Other Conquest. DVD. Englewood: Starz Home Entertainment, 2007.
Contrary to some such commentaries, this one is very useful and, along with Carrasco's "Invisible Sight" essay, the place to start in understanding the film. Carrasco's describes such things as the genesis of the story, the theme of sacrifice, the characterization of Cortes and Tecuichpo, the flogging scene, the relation with Octavio Paz, the casting of Topiltzin, and his goal: "I do hope that despite everything, the ending of the film feels uplifting, and obviously not in a naive way but in that there might be the possibility of understanding and peaceful co-existence if we learn to respect our differences."
Chorba, Carrie C. "Exploring Mexican National Identity in Salvador Carrasco's Film, La otra conquista." Review: Literature and Arts of the Americas 37.2 (2004): 221-31.
Earlier version of the essay that appeared in her book listed below in this bibliography.
Chorba, Carrie C. "The Trauma of Mexico's Mestizo Origins." Mexico, from Mestizo to Multicultural: National Identity and Recent Representations of the Conquest. Nashville: Vanderbilt UP, 2007.
Our film is analyzed alongside Ignacio Solares' novel Nen la inutil (1994), since "both portray the inception of the Mexican mestizaje." Carrasco "demonstrates the violent subtext behind religious conversion that continues to vex modern Mexican national identity five centuries later." "Instead of romanticizing a traumatized origin," Carrasco's film "traumatizes an idealized beginning. By doing so, the film works against the now untenable notions of mestizaje and syncretism as harmonious blends of different races and belief systems." The Other Conquest, then, is based more on theories of transculturalism than mestizaje. Transculturation combines the notions of acculturation, deculturation, and neoculturation, and includes cultural resistance and adaptation. So based, the film takes on the myth of harmony ("apparitions and spiritual conversions are replaced with violent culture clashes") and posits "evangelism and conversion as multidirectional pursuits." Carrasco refocuses Mexican religious beginnings on "violent culture shock."
Gordon, Richard A. "Reimagining Guadalupe in Nuevo mundo (1976) and La otra conquista (1998)." Cannibalizing the Colony: Cinematic Adaptations of Colonial Literature in Mexico and Brazil. West Lafayette: Purdue UP, 2009.
"By engaging Guadalupe," both filmmakers address "one of the primary symbolic sources of mestizo identity." The literary inter-text for Gordon's analysis is the mid-17th century Nican mopohua by Luis Laso de la Vega. Both films "illustrate a revisionist approach to colonial writing and identity that might be termed anti-adaptation." Their reinventions differ in these ways: "Nuevo mundo seeks to expose the [Guadalupe] figure as a subjugating influence over indigenous people consciously devised by Spaniards, while La otra conquista underscores, through the invention of an entirely different story, the continuing value of a Guadalupe-like character as a conciliatory symbol of mestizo identity in Mexico." Carrasco "attributes the conception of the syncretic Guadalupe to indigenous rather than European authorship." Topiltzin "is neither praying to Tonantzin through the Virgin Mary, nor has he replaced wholesale his god with another. He imagines a fusion, a perfect overlap. Mexico can be proud, in other words, of its indigenous heritage even while maintaining the status quo of European-dominated social and religious practices. The film, in this sense, attempts to come to terms with a social reality rather than proposing a substantive change."
Haddu, Miriam. "The Power of Looking: Politics and the Gaze in Salvador Carrasco's La otra conquista." Contemporary Latin American Cinema: Breaking into the Global Market. Ed. Deborah Shaw. Lanham: Rowman and Littlefield, 2007.
"The journey from despair, abandonment by the gods, and acceptance of a new way of life and belief system is the central theme of the film, whereby Topiltzin serves as the vehicle both for questioning the new religion being forced on him and as a mouthpiece for a past way of life at risk of becoming destroyed. . . . An acknowledgment that the current spiritually hybrid state of Mexico would have been impossible without the presence of parallel ideas linked to religious icons constitutes the driving force behind Carrasco's exploration of the meaning of the spiritual conquest. . . . This ideological cross-fertilization, which led to eventual mass conversion, is the topic for Carrasco's psychological exploration of the 'conquered' nation, ventured through Topiltzin's mind." Carrasco reverses the "negative paradigm" about women in his treatment of a strong Techuichpo.
O'Leary, Devin D. "The Other Conquest Conquers America: An interview with writer/director Salvador Carrasco." Alibi. com 16.18 (May 3-9, 2007). http://alibi.com/index.php?story=18933&scn=film
Short interview but several very relevant points, tho nothing not covered in more detail in Carrasco's "Invisible Sight" essay and DVD commentary.
Tanner, Travis J. "Reading From Sand Creek." Kenyon Review 32.1 (2010): 142-64.
"Whenever I teach Simon J. Ortiz's from Sand Creek (1981), I like to pair it with Bartolomé de las Casas's A Brief Account of the Destruction of the Indies (1542). The two texts are strikingly similar in their objective to account for the atrocities committed against the indigenous peoples of the Americas. Both bear witness to the historical silence that seals over the death and inequality that is the origin story of the New World. Yet despite being separated by more than four hundred years and diverse geographic locations and cultural traditions, they reflect one another; the same crimes in one are observable in the other, reminding us that the horrors of the past persist unabated in the present. This is what I point out to my students. But I also try to make clear their significant differences."
Urrieta, Luis, Jr., and Oliva Martinez. "La Otra Conquista." Journal of Latinos and Education 1.1 (2002): 69-72.
The Other Conquest focuses on "the tragic and intricate process of religious, cultural, and violent mutations in the context of forceful co-existence." The film is a "must-see" to present alternatives to the notion that syncretism is without pain, without struggle. "The film illustrates the contradictions, brutality, and barbarism of the conquest while highlighting the subsequent confusion and pain embodied not just by the natives, but also by the priests who often merely functioned as the justification for Spanish soldier's brutality and avarice." "The movie does a fantastic job of illustrating the agency of human action and, most important, the integrity of the soul in the postcolonial process." A "double conversion" takes place between Topiltzin and Fray Diego. The film does "an extraordinary job of depicting the complexity of cultural genocide as well as the power of cultural resistance. Colonization and conquest is thus, truly, a never-ending process."

See Also

Arias, Santa, and Eyda M.Merediz. Approaches to Teaching the Writings of Bartolomé de Las Casas. New York: Modern Language Association of America, 2008.

Boyer, Patricio. "Framing the Visual Tableaux in the Brevísima relación de la destruición de las Indias." Colonial Latin American Review 18.3 (2009): 365-82.

Cypess, Sandra Messinger. La Malinche in Mexican Literature from History to Myth. Austin: U of Texas P, 1991.

Damrosch, David. "The Aesthetics of Conquest: Aztec Poetry before and after Cortés." Representations 33 (1991): 101-20.

Garcia, Guy. "A Story of Tolerance Across the Ages; Movies: Director Salvador Carrasco strives to tell of Mexico's past through a universal prism in his 'The Other Conquest' at the AFI fest." Los Angeles Times 23 October 1998.

Gruzinski, Serge. Painting the Conquest: The Mexican Indians and the European Renaissance. Paris: Flammarion, 1992.

Haddu. Miriam. Contemporary Mexican Cinema: History, Space and Identity (1989-1999). Lewiston: Edwin Mellen Press, 2007.

Harris, Marilyn. Prince of Eden: The Whole Story of Juan Diego. New York: Ballantine, 1985.

King, John. Magical Reels: A History of Cinema in Latin America. New York: Verso, 1990.

Merediz, Eyda M. "All about Las Casas: The Productive Dialogue between Literature and Film." Approaches to Teaching the Writings of Bartolomé de Las Casas. Ed. Santa Arias and Eyda M.Merediz. New York: Modern Language Association of America, 2008.

Rollins, Peter C. The Columbia Companion to American History on Film: How the Movies Have Portrayed the American Past. New York: Columbia UP, 2003.

Rothman, Jack. Hollywood in Wide Angle: How Directors View Filmmaking. Lanham: Scarecrow Press, 2004. 113-65.

Velazco, Salvador. "La guerra de imágenes en La otra conquista de Salvador Carrasco." Cuadernos Americanos 15.3 (2001): 128-32.

Video/Audio Resources

Captain from Castile. Dir. Henry King, with Tyrone Power and Jean Peters. 1947
A Tyrone Power swashbuckler about a nobleman who joins Cortes. The last ten minutes or so contain two pompous speeches about the goals of invading Mexico as well as a resoundingly triumphant march scene. Makes wonderful background for this film as well as an example of a completely different kind of representation of the invasion/conquest.

Online Resources

Aztec Sacrifice. Post-Conquest Nahua Painting, c. 1560 http://www.csub.edu/~gsantos/img0012.html
Priests hold excavated heart to sun atop teocall.
Detail from Massacre of the Rain Dancers by Alvarado's Soldiers http://www.csub.edu/~gsantos/img0017.html
This is the massacre at which La Otra Conquista begins.
Emmanuel Leutze, The Storming of the Teocalli by Cortez and His Troops http://www.csub.edu/~gsantos/img0014.html
This battle was the Aztec response to the massacre led by Pedro Alvarado at Templo Major, a painting based on William Prescott's history, a battle about which Prescott said, "The final struggle of the two races -- the decisive death grapple of the savage and the civilized man . . . with all its immense results.
González Camarena, Jorge. La fusión de las culturas. http://ic2.pbase.com/o6/78/599778/1/51810292.izuoQF8r.51810292.IMG_8710.jpg
Powerful painting of cultural clash by prominent 20th century Mexican artist symbolizing what, in the minds of some, Columbus wrought. Some of González Camarena's works, like this one, depict soldiers in violent combat -- a metaphor for Mexico's historic clash of cultures.
Juan-Navarro, Santiago. "Between El Dorado and Armageddon: Utopia and Apocalypse in the Films of the Encounter." Delaware Review of Latin American Studies 6.2 (2006). http://www.udel.edu/LASP/Vol6-2Juan-Navarro.htm
"At the close of the second millennium, the Quincentennial celebrations played an important role in rethinking the Discovery and Conquest in light of utopia and apocalypse. Many of the colonialist clichés of previous celebrations were reversed, giving rise to a radically different vision. . . . The world of cinema has not escaped from this revisionism. Films such as Orinoko: Nuevo Mundo (1984), Amérika: Terra Incógnita (1988), Jericó (1991), Cabeza de Vaca (1991), Retorno a Aztlán (1991) and La otra conquista (1998), explore the theme of the Encounter between two worlds from an ideological stance that questions the versions inherited from the past. These films react not only against the official history, but also against the neocolonialist discourse of earlier films."
New Spain http://digital.lib.lehigh.edu/trial/justification/newspain/
The Literature of Justification project, considering how Spain justified taking Native American land and making war.
The Other Conquest: The Official Movie Site http://web.archive.org/web/20060202004612/http://www.theotherconquest.com/ [Archived]
Not all the links work since this site is now "dead," but there are some interesting things as you click around -- for instance, a poem and a rather personal essay both inspired by the film that are contained among the reviews.