Juana Gallo

Media Type: Film

Year: 1960

Who wrote / made it : Miguel Zacarías

Plot summary: The protagonist, Ángela Ramos’ (María Félix) father and husband are killed by the Federal army. In revenge she changes her name to Juana Gallo, takes up arms and leads an army. In the first act, and nearly single-handedly, she defeats and rounds up the federal army and, in a rousing speech she convinces all but Captain Guillermo Velarde (Jorge Mistral) to join her in battle to fight for Mexico, concluding, “somos todos mexicanos” [we are all Mexicans], repeatedly, thereby making national identity co-terminous with the subsequent winning side. After several illegal moves by the federalists, and a key battle, Velarde decides to join Juana’s side. In a raid Juana is seriously wounded, and Velarde tends to her wounds, helping her to hide from the enemy. He tells her, “aguantarse como macho” [suck it up like a man], when he is removing the bullet, which she does by not shouting out when in pain. He nurses her back to health, which is, as I have previously mentioned, a role normally associated with soldaderas in the war. She changes from peasant to soldier, and he from soldier to the role of soldadera. Whilst they are in hiding it provides them with the opportunity to get romantically involved.  There are many moments of tension in their relationship, where jealousy and his feelings of inadequacy get in the way, leading ultimately to his demise on the battlefield. It is shot on an epic scale, like many of the films starring Félix, which involve dramatic battle and crowd scenes.  Unlike her more ‘serious’ roles,  such as Río escondido (Emilio Fernández, 1948), this film has been largely overlooked by critics.

It is a film that plays with the boundaries of gendered behaviour and never resolves them, thereby allowing for spaces to carry out queer and feminist readings of the gender performances. Gallo is a powerful woman capable of leading an army successfully into battle.  It is based on a true story, but takes many liberties with biographical facts.

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