I’ve seen a lot of talk about the Cristeros War lately, for all the wrong reasons. On Twitter, Traditionalist Catholics who approve of the vandalism of the statues called “Our Lady of the Amazon” are all praising the vandal, using the hashtag “#WeAreCristeros,” which seems ridiculous to me for a number of reasons. I’ve chosen a few tweets nearly at random, but there’s a whole host of them out there.
For those of you who don’t know, the Cristeros War, also called La Cristada, was a Mexican rebellion in the 1920s against the imposition of state atheism in Mexico’s 1917 constitution. President Plutarco Elias Calles was trying to eliminate Catholicism and its public festivals from Mexico, which was about as popular as you’d imagine. The resulting uprising of peaceful and not-so-peaceful Catholic resistance was punished by the government in the most draconian fashion available with torture and public execution, mass hangings, priests put against the wall and shot, you name it. Catholicism eventually prevailed and was allowed to be practiced legally again, under some restrictions, in 1929, but even that wasn’t the end of the fighting.
It was a terrible conflict, and the ethics of individual battles were not always as black-and-white as you’d think. Some of the Cristeros were what you’d euphemistically call “problematic”– the Cristero general Father José Reyes Vega, for example, was a womanizing drunk who once murdered 51 civilians in cold blood by setting a train car on fire. But of course, there were many, many beautiful saints and martyrs in this struggle. I’ve always been a particular fan of Blessed Miguel Pro, myself. That’s his photo I’ve used at the top of my blog post. At the moment of his execution by firing squad, he threw out his arms and exclaimed “Viva Cristo Rey!”
It’s impossible to summarize this entire war in a blog post, and I’m not an expert in the subject anyway. But when we speak of the Cristeros, we’re talking about people who were 1) Mexican; 2) Catholics, faithful to Rome, fighting for their right to practice Catholicism against a brutal atheist regime; and 3) facing actual consequences for their uprising. If you meet those three criteria, I think you can probably call yourself a Cristero in good conscience.
The as yet unidentified man who threw the statues called “Our Lady of the Amazon” into the tiber was not a Cristero, and the people applauding and cheering him on Twitter are even less Cristero-ish than he is.
First of all, most of the people I’ve seen using that hashtag don’t seem to be Mexican. And I know that not all Mexicans have noticeably Latin surnames or “look Mexican,” but I think I can be forgiven for pointing out a trend of white people with Anglo-sounding names from the United States adopting the hashtag for themselves. Some people who sound awfully racist against non-whites and non-Europeans have used it as well. Take “Robin Poe – Nationalist” for example:
Poe – Nationalist opines: “We need more Male-centric, European theology. What’s wrong with St. Thomas Aquinas? Or St. Augustine?” And she’s 0 for 3 there: St. Thomas Aquinas was heavily influenced by Arabic scholars, St. Augustine was not European at all but African, and the Cristeros weren’t European either. They were from Mexico, operated in Mexico, and their beef was with the Mexican government. They also weren’t ‘male-centric;” many notable Cristeros forces were female-led, and many of the martyrs were female– I guess you’d call them “Cristeras,” but I don’t speak Spanish.
Secondly, the Cristeros were Catholics fighting against the persecution of Catholics by a secular, atheist government. And quite a few if not most of them were indegenous Mexicans fighting for what they considered part of their own indigenous Mexican Catholic religious practice. But the man who vandalized the statue, and those cheering for him, are Catholics not facing a persecution; and they are fighting against, and rejoicing in the persecution of, Catholics who are indigenous to the Americas. You can believe what you like about those statues. You can argue about whether they belonged in a Catholic church in the first place. You can argue whether they represented the Virgin Mary or the goddess Pachamana or both, and yes, there have been many artistic syntheses of Pachamana and Marian imagery by the Catholic Church on purpose in the past. But the people who brought the statues there were Catholics invited to the Vatican by the Pope for a synod, and believed they were holding a Catholic ceremony when they did it. Vandalizing the statues was a slap in the face from one Catholic faction to another. It was meant to insult anybody who found meaning in that statue and to antagonize the Pope as well. That has nothing to do with the Cristeros.
One Peter Five’s Stefanie Nicholas, who once famously declared it was counter-cultural for a woman to wear a dress, was particularly gleeful about the slap in the face to her fellow Catholics. She opined:
“It’s honestly amusing to watch all these pearl-clutching liberal Catholics trying to get us to feel somehow ashamed of the great Pachamama dunking. Realize: we’re not sorry. We’re not backing down. We’re not letting you destroy our Church. #WeAreCristeros.”
Maybe she should find some bloodthirsty militant atheists to fight against, if she wants a taste of what it’s really like to be a Cristera. But she might get her dresses dirty.
Third, no one I’ve seen using the hashtag faces real persecution, let alone the loss of life.
The man who actually stole and vandalized the statues is probably looking at some theft and vandalism charges when he gets caught, because that’s what he did– he took things that were not his and destroyed them. That’s not a persecution, that’s justice. He is not going to be hanged as a warning to fellow statue thieves, nor is he going to be shot by a firing squad without trial like Blessed Miguel Pro. No one’s going to skin the soles of his feet and push him into an open grave. And the people cheering him and hashtagging “We Are Cristeros” are going to get even less than whatever the Vatican does to people who steal art. All that’s going to happen to them, is that sensible people are going to roll their eyes at the drama queen posturing. Yet they keep acting like they’re facing terrible consequences for their actions. Take “Mrs. Blackburn,” who is apparently quoting Taylor Marshall, but Marshall blocked me so I can’t double check:
“Even if no one supports you- even if there is NO security net, we have to do the right thing.- Taylor R Marshall. This is fire and truth. #WeAreCristeros ”
I’m seeing an awful lot of support and a huge safety net, actually. You’re far away from the scene of the crime high-fiving each other. I have seen no one receive any consequences whatsoever for this. Yet to hear the Twitter Cristeros talk, you’d think they were being rounded up and tortured.
One more question arises. After the government backed off the persecution of Catholics in the late 20s and early 30s, a huge number of these Cristeros fighters felt themselves abandoned– so they rushed the border and came to live in the United States. Now that they identify with the struggles of the Cristeros, are traditionalist Catholics going to abandon the Republican party line and start fighting for humane treatment of immigrants at the Southern border?
Okay, I admit that idea was a little bit over the top.
Still, one can dream.
May Blessed Miguel Pro and the martyrs of La Cristada intercede for us. Viva Cristo Rey.
(image of Miguel Pro-‘s execution via wikimedia commons, in the public domain in the United States)
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