26 October 2017 | mwillyk-00336
This movie shows us how bigotry hasn't changed
While slavery and Japanese internment has its proper place in the U.S. history books, what does not is the forced deportation of any person who had the misfortune of having a Spanish name (or looked "Mexican) during the Great Depression, when these people were rounded-up by local and federal agents and simply thrown across the border with little more than what they could carry, with no due process rights. It is estimated that 60 percent of these people were U.S. citizens.
During the 1950s, several films--Giant, Trial and Man From Del Rio--provided commentary on anti-Hispanic prejudice in this country, and obviously nothing has changed since then. Today the media and Hollywood fear to tread into the topic of this ongoing prejudice (usually disguised under the guise of "immigration" and "crime"), so it is fortunate that films like this still exist to tell us the ugly truth. David Robles (Anthony Quinn) is seen as just a "thug" who is good with a gun after he arrives to find a man who helped shoot-up his town of Del Rio. Even the only other Hispanic in town, Estella (Katy Jurado) is so desperate to "fit-in" with the Anglos that she also wants him gone. The townspeople offer him a job as sheriff, not to enforce the law, but to be a ready gun when needed. They will not socialize with him, they just want him to do their "dirty work." Sound familiar? There are several ugly scenes that manifest this racism, especially ones involving white women.
To Estella's credit, she witnesses one of these debasing incidents and changes her tune. As the film progresses we discover that Robles is not the ignorant "Mexican" the townspeople think he is; he is not just good with a gun, but he displays a cunning level of intelligence that even if the townspeople probably still won't socialize with him, they cannot underestimate him, and he wins the only things he wanted since coming to the town, his self-respect and the love of the only person in town capable of giving it to him.