My sister had a viewing of the movie Herod’s Law at her university for extra credit. The movie makes fun of the PRI, the political party that held control in Mexico for almost 50 years. The party had no real opposition and was often referred to as the perfect dictatorship being as it was in power for around 50 years.

            The story follows a young man who becomes governor of a small, remote town in Mexico. He starts out being a simple attendant of a dump but gets called in by one of his friends to be a governor of a small town. He has high hopes for the village and since the old governor was run out of town because of corruption, he feels that he will bring peace back to the village and reconnect it with Mexico City. Immediately however, he runs into problems. The only person in the village with any power is the priest. The way that the priest runs is through bribes and is able to connect with anyone in the village, for a price of course. The only doctor in the town sides against Juan, the main character, saying that he will bring just as much corruption to the town as the previous governor did. The only person in the town that sides with Juan is his secretary—who is also in charge of the jail.

            Things go smoothly for Juan at first but he soon encounters a problem with a brothel that is being run in the town. He tries enforcing the law peacefully but the old lady running it simply tries to buy him off. Other attempts to close it down through other mediums (such as the priest) prove fruitless so he returns to Mexico City to ask his boss (the governor) advice on what to do. The governor tells Juan to “enforce the law with any means necessary” and gives him a revolver. Naturally, power quickly goes to his head. Juan realizes that he can manipulate people and raise taxes with his new found power. He begins to take more money for taxes, even though the people have no money as it is, close down stores, and threaten the citizens of the town. By the middle of the movie, he is stealing more and more money out of the village coffers and has gotten himself into more trouble with the village. His wife is happy she is getting a lot of nice new clothes but has no idea where all the money is coming from (money, mind you, that is there for building schools and connecting this small town to the outside world.)

            While traveling to Mexico City, Juan’s car breaks down and a gringo (literally the name he is credited with) stops and helps him fix his car. Juan tells the gringo to come to his town and he will repay him there. Since Juan is getting really corrupt, he decides not to pay the gringo and the gringo just ends up staying with Juan and gets comfortable with his wife. As the movie winds down, we see the face of corruption with Juan stealing so much money and taxing the villagers so much that they cannot afford even the simplest items. We see Juan coming home in a drunken rage one night with his revolver and his wife leaving a note saying she went with the gringo. We then see Juan being chased out of town by the villagers, chasing him with pitchforks while he clings a box of money. Juan ends up back at the dump but with no wife and no self dignity. The final scene of the movie sees a new governor coming to the town and promising he can do better (even though he is still from the same party).

            I thought that it was a really interesting movie. A lot of it shows that nothing really changes even after 50 or so years of rule. Every governor that has come into that small town (or many small towns) ultimately regressed to the same evils their predecessors did. No matter how noble the intentions, they fell to corruption and power. The villagers all saw this and were just waiting for a new way to be pushed around by a different governor promising the world and delivering nothing. The wife running away with the gringo showed American Imperialism in Mexico, as the American comes to the country and seemingly takes everything from the Mexican. The rest of the movie, however, was a stab at a political system that never really changed in its 50 years of power over Mexico—how they changed leaders, made their platforms seem different, but at the same time, they were vying for the same goals they had been for their entire time in office. Nothing really changes it seems, just a new face with the same politics.