The little-known 1920s persecution of Mexican Catholics that reached a fever pitch 87 years ago this month—and the civil war that followed – are the subjects of the newly-released book La Cristiada: The Mexican People’s War for Religious Liberty by Jean Meyer, PhD (Square One Publishers: 2013).
Long-forgotten in the United States and little-known even in Mexico, the history of the Cristiada movement is well-documented and preserved within this book with an authoritative text amply illustrated by more than 300 photos and illustrations, many of which are from that forgotten time period.
The book follows the release of a major motion picture on the time period; “For Greater Glory,” starring Andy Garcia and Eva Longoria, was released in theaters last summer.
Popularly known as the “Cristero rebellion” or La Cristiada, the uprising and civil war that engulfed Mexico lasted for three years and reignited occasionally for decades thereafter. The situation escalated quickly in 1926, when in July of that year all Catholic religious services in the country were suspended.
The suspensions were in reaction to a severe government crackdown that curtailed the freedom of the Catholic Church, as well as that of members of the clergy and religious communities in Mexico. Public displays of religion were banned and foreign priests were expelled. Under Mexican President Plutarco Elías Calles, the government repression in the 1920s turned increasingly vicious as many clergy and lay Mexican Catholics were summarily murdered for their faith.
In the United States, the increasingly brutal persecution of Catholics by the Mexican government was opposed by American Catholics and the Knights of Columbus. By contrast, it was endorsed by the then-powerful Ku Klux Klan.
The violent nature of the crackdown quickly resulted in a popular uprising chronicled in this new book, portions of which were first released by Meyer in Spanish.
Based in the United States but with members in Mexico since 1905, the Knights of Columbus worked hard to bring a peaceful end to the Mexican persecution in the 1920s by waging a public information campaign to inform Americans of the atrocities occurring just across the border. The organization also lobbied President Calvin Coolidge, seeking his help to end the violent persecution. Several members of the Knights of Columbus were martyred at the hands of the Mexican government, including six priests who were declared as saints by Blessed Pope John Paul II in 2000.
“While we in the United States are blessed to be in a country ruled by law where our differences are decided in courtrooms and voting booths, we should not forget that not all are so fortunate,” said Supreme Knight Carl Anderson. “It is heartening that this forgotten chapter in North American history is finally getting the attention it deserves.”
The Knights of Columbus commissioned the book’s English edition, and the supreme knight also penned its Foreword.
La Cristiada: The Mexican People’s War for Religious Liberty can be purchased nationwide at bookstores and online.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Originally from France, Professor Jean Meyer has lived in Mexico for decades and is considered one of the world’s leading experts on the period, with previous books published by Cambridge University and the University of Guadalajara. He has taught at major universities in France and Mexico, including the Sorbonne and the Colegio de México.