HOLLYWOOD - Almost 90 years ago, a civil war erupted in Mexico over religious freedom. Tens of thousands died on both sides during what's known as the "Cristero Wars." But even in Mexico today, the history is not well-known. For Greater Glory
, a new film starring Andy Garcia, dramatizes those events.
In 1926, the newly-elected president of Mexico banned religious activities, with special focus on the country's most widespread faith: Roman Catholicism.
As soldiers shut churches and arrested priests, opposition to the government's policies grew into a nationwide revolt. The leaders turned to a retired war hero, General Ernesto Gorostieta, to make their ragtag band into an army.
Andy Garcia stars as General Gorostieta and, like the character, he says the cause went beyond individual beliefs.
"You don't have to be a man of faith or a Catholic, for that matter, to be in this movie," Garcia notes. "Nor do you have to be one to go see the movie. The character is a historical, heroic character in terms of the film and to be called upon to play him is a great privilege and you want to honor him. He deserves to be recognized for what he committed to."
Born in Cuba, Garcia was five years-old when his family immigrated to Florida to escape Castro's authoritarian government. He says that history gives him insight into what motivated the Cristeros rebels in Mexico.
"There are certain parallels in this movie to my own life, obviously, because I come from a country where religious freedom, for many years, was completely taken away," he explains. "I mean the Church is in Cuba now, and they have kind of peeked their head in there, but for many years it wasn't allowed at all. So it's an easy cause for me to champion because to me it is more about absolute freedom of the human being."
For Greater Glory
was filmed in Mexico at many of the locations where the actual events took place, but where, until recently, they were not included in history books or taught in schools. The international cast includes Oscar-winner Peter O'Toole along with a 'who's who' of Latino actors from Mexican Eduardo Verástegui and Chilean Santiago Cabrera to Panama's Rubén Blades and American Eva Longoria.