Thursday, June 28, 2018

Three Swords of Zorro

Zorromania comes in many different forms. On this blog alone, we are introduced to the about ten of them. Among them, there is the original Spanish-Californian aristocrat Zorro, the Son of Zorro, a gay Zorro, a female Zorro, an animated Zorro. Yet, the list continues with more and more incarnations of McCulley's hero. Now we are presented with not one but three legendary Zorros in this Spanish-Italian film. They are not only driven by the pursuit of justice for the poor and Indians, but they also look for individual justice, desires for revenge that have become stronger over the years.

Ricardo Blasco's Three Swords of Zorro (1963) opens in 1830 shortly after Mexico gained its independence, then it jumps to 1840 and finishes in 1855 with the Reformation period. At the beginning of the movie, the popular hero Zorro fights against the local governor who has imposed tyranny over just freed people. Taking advantage of the distance between the newly established federal government and the district, the governor Don Manuel Paredes (Antonio Prieto) and the military force the poor to pay high taxes, burns their houses and kills anyone who dares to oppose the regime like Zorro's family. Ten years later, the identity behind Zorro (Guy Stockwell) angrily faces the general for having killed his wife and son. Zorro is sent to prison, but he continues to be a legend among the people. We discover that Zorro's son was saved by an indigenous and named Diego Guadalupe (in tribute to the Virgen of Guadalupe) who grew up with an adoptive family. Coincidentally he keeps the Zorro legend alive by becoming the new Zorro. There it is the second sword.

The timeline of the plot shows a transition from colonial to post-colonial Mexico. The construction of the Mexican latinidad (influenced by the coloniality from its Spanish-past) is shown through culture and traditions. The church does not have political power anymore like in the old Zorro, but Catholicism has taken roots in society with the adoration of saints of Mexican origin such as the Virgin of Guadalupe. Romance, music and dance remain as part of the plot but this time more Mexican, more Latino: Maria (Mikaela Wood) act as mariachi singing rancheras about the old Mexican California for her customers at a pub. On the other hand, the colonial power and influence of the aristocrats did not disappear totally like the church's power did. The powerful and rich families from the old Spanish Mexico still occupy the highest positions in government and gather for the fanciest parties of European style.

Some scenes of the movie are obviously a replication of Fairbanks' The Mark of Zorro. In both movies soldiers joke about Zorro and say that they will destroy him without complication, then there is a knock on the door with the expectation of finding Zorro at the other side. Don Diego (young Diego Guadalupe in Blasco's film) gets in the pub calming the soldiers' fears, but soon Don Diego manages to wear Zorro's clothes to battle and ridicule his enemies. The difference is that Fairbanks tell us from the beginning that Don Diego and Zorro are the same people, while Blasco does not, but he does not need to neither. The remake of this scene is enough to know that the young Diego is indeed Zorro. In the movie as in reality, the general story of Zorro is well known and thus it generates expectations. Attractive and strong Maria (Diego's half-sister) is our best guess for the third sword of Zorro, and once again we are right. She is the third sword. But though our expectations are meet, they are also broken when Zorro's multiplicity is exposed and exploited in Blasco's plot.

Why create a second or third Zorro? What happened with the imprisoned Zorro? Is this new Zorro an impostor of the real one? This movie is a visible example of Zorro's plurality. Blasco puts the three Zorros together in a masked ball (the old, the son, and the woman) as a plan to destroy the corrupt general. But there are not only three Zorros. People attending to the ball decide to dress up like Zorro and act like him too. Thus we eneded up having not three but four, six, or even ten Zorros. It is hard to determine who is the real Zorro. In the movie we hear people commenting that such multiplicity of Zorro is vulgar. Others say it is smart. In both this movie and filming industry, there is not such a thing as "the real Zorro" anymore. Zorro is one and is many at the same time. There are uncontable variations of the hero, but they all call themselves Zorro. Anyone can be Zorro, an aristocrat, an orphan, old or young, man or woman.

Though that Diego is a son of Zorro, he did not choose to appropriate the second identity because of his relationship with the hero, as in Don Q, Son of Zorro. Instead, he is motivated by the stories the people of the village grew up listening to. Like music, dances, and romance, also El Zorro is in this plot an essential part of Mexico's culture, even after California annexed to the United States. But Zorro is a popular hero among the poor Mexicans. The original dual-identity of the original story has also changed. Now both the person behind the mask and Zorro are Mexican and of a low economic status. In fact, it is not important to know whoever is using Zorro's identity since it is the costume itself that comes with a personality attached, independently of the person acting the character.

Zorro as well is a living example evolution from colonial Spanish America to postcolonial Latin America, but there is something clearer than other versions of the movies: Zorro is Latino. When presenting male and female versions of Zorro and the people embodying him, Blasco also depicts a romanticized image of Latin American identity. Latinos are courageous, romantic, good singer and dancers. Latinas are beautiful, strong, good singers and dancers, and do not need a man to protect them, which make them more attractive.

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