Emilio Fernández



  • Birth Name: Emilio Fernández Romo
  • Date of Birth: 26 March 1903
  • Place Of Birth:  Hondo, Coahuila, Mexico
  • Height: 5' 11" (1.8 m)


Emilio “El Indio” Fernández Romo, who was born on March 26, 1904, in the state of Coahuila, Mexico, is the most famous person in the history of Mexican movies. For an era he symbolized Mexico due to his violent machismo, rooted in the Revolution of 1910-17, and because of his staunch commitment to Mexican cultural nationalism. Sired by an ethnic Caucasian father and born to an Indian mother, Emilio was himself the “mestizaje” (mestizo) that his films would later glorify. The teenaged Fernández abandoned his studies to serve as an officer in the Huertista rebellion, which broke out on December 4, 1923, led by Gen. Adolfo de la Huerta. On July 20th of that year, Pancho Villa had been ambushed and murdered; one theory was that the killing was done by agents of Mexican President Álvaro Obregón. Obregón, when he served as a general during the revolution, had defeated Villa in four successive battles collectively known as the Battle of Celaya, which was the largest military confrontation in Latin American history before the 1982 Falklands War. Under the Constitution of 1917 that Obregón himself helped write, Mexican presidents could not succeed themselves (Obregón would later have the constitution amended so he could serve a second, non-consecutive term; after winning the presidential election of 1928, he was assassinated before his inauguration). Obregón had won the presidency in 1920 after inciting a successful military revolt against President Venustiano Carranza, who had planned on naming Ignacio Bonillas as his successor instead of Obregón, who believed that he deserved it. The revolt began when the governor of the state of Sonora, Gen. Huerta, broke with President Carranza and declared the secession of Sonora. This was a signal for the beginning of the successful uprising against Carranza, led by Obregón and supported by Gen. ‘Plutarco Elías Calles’ (qav). After Carranza was killed in an ambush, Huerta served as provisional president of Mexico from June 1 to December 1, 1920, until elections could be held. When Obregón won the federal election, Huerta became Minister of Finance in the new government. Huerta considered himself the natural successor to President Obregón, just as Obregón had considered himself Carranza’s natural successor. The murdered Villa was seen as an ally of Huerta, who had publicly announced his candidacy for the presidency. Obregón, however, planned to remain in power by handpicking his successor, a tradition that lasted throughout 20th-century Mexican politics. When he named his anti-clerical Minister of the Interior, the former Gen. Calles, as his heir, Huerta rose up in a rebellion that eventually affected half of the Mexican army. Like Huerta a native of Sonora and a former general in the Mexican army, Calles had preceded him as governor and military ruler of their home state from 1915-16. Huerta thought his service and loyalty to Obregón should have brought him the presidency, but Mexican presidents, not allowed to succeed themselves and limited (mostly) to one term, tried to extend their power by naming political puppets as successors (Calles would outdo Obregón by controlling the Mexican presidency outright or through puppets from 1924 to 1934). The rebellion was a series threat to Obregon, but he was able to quash it by using loyal army units, battalions of workers and farmers and intervention by the US. By the time ended in March 1924, 54 generals and 7,000 soldiers were gone, either killed in battle, executed, exiled or dismissed. Obregón banished Huerta to exile in the US (where he lived in Los Angeles, supporting himself as a music teacher). This was the cauldron of violence and nationalism in which the young Fernandez came into his manhood. He received a 20-year prison sentence for his participation in the rebellion on the losing side. Escaping prison by following Huerta into exile in Los Angeles, Fernández absorbed the rudiments of filmmaking as a bit player and extra working in Hollywood in the 1920s and early 1930s. With the election of Lázaro Cárdenas as president in 1934, the Huertista rebels were granted an amnesty (Huerta himself was recalled from exile by Cárdenas in 1935 and served in several posts, including Inspector General of Foreign Consulates and Director General of Civil Pensions). Fernández returned to Mexico in 1934 and began working in the Mexican movie industry as a screenwriter and actor. His Indian looks, which gave him his nickname “El Indio,” also brought him his first lead role, playing an Indian in Janitzio (1935). Due to his imposing physical presence and Indian countenance, El Indio was cast as bandits, charros (cowboys) and revolutionaries. The Cárdenas government of 1934-40 established the framework in which the “Golden Age of Mexican Cinema” could be realized. The political system that dominated Mexico for over half a century was consolidated during his regime. The government incorporated trade unions, campesino (peasant) organizations and middle-class professionals and office workers into the ruling Party of the Mexican Revolution (later the Party of the Institutional Revolution, or PRI). Cárdenas oversaw the redistribution of millions of acres of land to peasants and the expansion of collective bargaining rights and wage increases to workers. Cárdenas and all subsequent PRM/PRI presidents (all presidents of Mexico in the 20th century beginning with Calles were PRM/PRI members; Vicente Fox was the first from outside the party in three-quarters of a century) maintained political control of Mexico by granting favors and concessions to their constituencies inside the corporatist party structure in exchange for worker and campesino organizations delivering votes and suppressing discontent among their constituencies. The PRM/PRI itself created an organizational structure for the government that allowed citizens access to the political realm, in the sense that they could interface with government agencies. Once inside the government machine, seeking redress, favors, etc., the non-connected citizen was led through a maze of layers of bureaucracy that never permitted a satisfactory result. Citizens caught in the maze were eventually frustrated and discouraged, but the ingenious if disingenuous system worked as it gave them input–just no guaranteed output. By frustrating them within an institutional structure, the PRM/PRI governments–both federal and state–took the fight out of them. The PRM/PRI sought to control frustration that had led to violence in the past, particularly among the generals who had the power to destabilize the society and economy. That government structure thus served as a homeostatic device for the people’s frustration, relieving it and never allowing it to build up again into a revolutionary situation. Cárdenas’ most notable achievement arguably was the nationalization of Mexico’s oil industry. After unsuccessfully trying to negotiate better terms with Mexican Eagle, the holding company owned by Royal Dutch/Shell and Standard Oil of New Jersey, Cárdenas nationalized Mexico’s petroleum reserves and expropriated the equipment of the foreign oil companies on March 18, 1938. A spontaneous six-hour parade broke out in Mexico City to celebrate the event. Unlike Fidel Castro’s nationalization of foreign assets in Cuba, Shell and SONJ were compensated for their expropriated assets. Petróleos Mexicanos (Pemex) and the Mexican model became a beacon for other oil-producing nations seeking to gain control over their own energy resources from foreign companies. Lázaro Cárdenas was the only PRM/PRI president who did not make himself rich. After retiring as Minister of Defense in 1945, the post he took after relinquishing the presidency, he assumed a modest lifestyle. He spent the last years of his life supervising irrigation projects and promoting education and free medical care for the poor. This was the man who set the tone of the modern Mexico that arose from the revolution and civil wars of the 1920s, who cleared the ground for the great economic boom of the 1940s in which the Golden Age of Mexican Cinema reached its apogee. The classic Mexican cinema has mostly been ignored in the US due to the language barrier and a colonialist mindset suffused with racism. When the Mexican cinema has been addressed by those north of the border, primary the focus fell on the brilliant cinematography of Gabriel Figueroa, who shot films for John Ford and John Huston, or on former Hollywood star Dolores del Rio. Fernández’s reputation was so great that he even was appreciated in the US in his lifetime, but his notoriety as a sort of wildman of the Mexican movie industry and his appearance as an actor in Sam Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch (1969) overshadowed his greatness as a director. While Mexico has often served as a locale for American films–the genres of sweet (white) young things imperiled by Mexican bandits and of Americans in revolutionary Mexico, to say nothing of Zorro and The Cisco Kid–have been part of the Yankee cinema since the East Coast-based film companies began relocating to southern California in the early 1910s. Gringo Warner Baxter won the second Oscar ever awarded for Best Actor playing The Cisco Kid in a role originally intended for Raoul Walsh, of all people. Mexico has been the site of such blockbuster films as Viva Villa! (1934), Juarez (1939), Viva Zapata! (1952), Vera Cruz (1954), The Professionals (1966) and “The Wild Bunch,” but except for They Believed He Was No Saint (1972), a Johnny-Come-Lately to the genre, they seldom featured Mexican actors in anything other than bit parts, if at all, with the exception of Anthony Quinn, one of the few Mexican-Americans to achieve superstar status. Mexican performers taken up by the Hollywood industry, such as Ramon Novarro, Rita Hayworth, John Gavin and Raquel Welch were, like half-Mexican baseball great Ted Williams (born in San Diego), de-ethnicized in a sort of cultural ethnic cleansing. Salma Hayek, who is of mixed Mexican and Lebanese parentage, is arguably the first Mexican since Lupe Velez and Dolores del Rio to cross over as a Hollywood superstar and remain identifiably Mexican (even at the dawn of a new millennium, she was urged by her Hollywood agents to play up her Arabic ethnicity, even with anti-Arab feeling rife in Hollywood and the US at large–their “reasoning” was that no one would go see a Mexican in movies since their cleaning ladies were Mexican), Until the 1990s, with Les épices de la passion (1992) (“Like Water for Chocolate”), Mexican films themselves seldom strayed into Yankee consciousness, except for the rare one like The Pearl (1947), based on a novel by Californian John Steinbeck and a prize-winner at the Venice Film Festival. “La Perla” was directed by Fernandez, the greatest director to come out of Mexico’s golden age of cinema. The first Mexican feature was released in 1906, though production often was eclipsed by political and economic conditions. There were documentaries made about the Mexican Revolution in the 1910s, but very few films were made in the 1920s. Sergei M. Eisenstein’s trip to Mexico in the early 1930s to make Que Viva Mexico (1979), which remained unfinished due to his problems with his American backer, Upton Sinclair, injected a new enthusiasm into the Mexican movie industry. While most American film historians place the Golden Age firmly in the 1940s–some specifically assigning it to the period 1943-46 and others extending it until the mid-’50s–the Golden Age of Mexican Cinema properly stretches back to 1936, peaks in the mid-’40s (when the Mexican cinema receives international recognition when two of Fernandez’s films won the Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival and was nominated for the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festivals) and terminates in the mid-’50s, with the end of Fernandez’s 25-film collaboration with cinematographer Gabriel Figueroa Mateos. ‘Fernando de Fuentes’, the Mexican movie industry’s first great director, inaugurated the Golden Age in 1936 with two hits, Out on the Big Ranch (1936) (“Out at Big Ranch”) and Let’s Go with Pancho Villa (1936) (“Let’s Go with Pancho Villa”). Both were “political message” movies addressing the social and cultural issues lying at the heart of Mexican Revolution. “Vamonos con Pancho Villa” has the distinction of being the first feature produced at the Mexican government-subsidized studio Cinematográfica Latino Americana S.A., while “Allá en el Rancho Grande” made Tito Guízar a star. Guizar eventually became the Mexican movie industry’s first superstar by playing in the “comedias rancheras” (ranch comedies) genre that were the most popular type of film in Mexico in the 1930s. A hit with audiences throughout Latin America, “comedias rancheras” were set in an idyllic, pre-revolutionary Mexico. The vaudevillian Mario Moreno, who became a Latin-American superstar under the name Cantinflas, made his short-subject debut in 1936, and would soon become the Latin-American film industry’s leading comedian when he made his feature-film debut in You’re Missing the Point (1940) (“There is the Detail”). The Cantinflas character is rooted in the image of the “pelado,” or poor white trash, and his character deflates respectable society through his sharp repartee. Peace, i.e., a lack of overt domestic political turmoil, laid the groundwork for the development of a truly popular indigenous cinema in the 1930s and 1940s. The comedias rancheras and Cantinflas comedies helped make the Mexican cinema commercially viable. With Hollywood distracted by turning out propaganda and military training films during World War II, there was an opening in Latin America that the Mexican industry filled. Without competition from Hollywood, the Mexican movie industry dominated Latin-American cinemas for most of the decade. Movie production tripled in the 1940s compared to the previous decade. The Mexican film industry underwent a consolidation and developed a star system, some of whom crossed over to achieve international recognition. The peak of the Golden Age of Mexican cinema came in the 1940s, spurred by rapid industrialization and a resulting affluence, inequitably distributed, caused by trade with the US, as World War II boosted American demand for Mexican raw materials. The Mexican movie industry became the world’s largest producer of Spanish-language films, helped by the fact that the other large producers, Argentina and Spain, were headed by fascist governments. Though the Mexican government was conservative and repressive in the 1940s, it encouraged the production of nationalist films during that helped articulate a Mexican identity. During the 1940s Mexican movie stars and directors became popular icons, and some even became public figures with effective political influence. Among the movie stars blossoming during the decade were Dolores del Río, Pedro Infante, Jorge Negrete, Joaquín Pardavé and María Félix, while Fernández and Figueroa became globally known. Luis Buñuel moved to Mexico and would direct some of the country’s major movies in the following decade. Mexican movies typically were genre pictures, melodramas, romances, musicals, comedies and horror, which addressed all aspects of Mexican society, from love stories about the “lumpen proletariat” to dramas about the Indians. Mexican movies are a mirror of Mexican society, including history (19th-century dictator Porfirio Díaz and his court, The Revolution and Villa and Emiliano Zapata), obsessions (both familial and erotic) and mythology (Indian and big-city culture). Mexican cinema did this using the classic genres of the the melodrama, the comedy (in its romantic, musical and ranchera versions, and slapstick and farce) and even the horror film. With its proximity to Hollywood, and the fact that many leading lights of the Mexican cinema were familiar with Hollywood production values, the indigenous movie industry set a high standard for itself, as it had to measure up to Hollywood product. Fernández made his motion picture debut as an actor in Chano Urueta’s El destino (1928), but his early work in movies was in American westerns churned out by Monogram director John P. McCarthy, including the Bob Steele programmers The Oklahoma Cyclone (1930), The Land of Missing Men (1930), Headin’ North (1930), Sunrise Trail (1931) and the Tim McCoy hoss opera The Western Code (1932). After playing a supporting player in Enrico Caruso Jr.’s La buenaventura (1934), he made his return to Mexican pictures in 1934, starring in Heart of a Bandit (1934) and director Fernando de Fuentes’ Cruz Diablo (1934). Fernández’s first film as a director was La isla de la pasión (1942), in 1941, which he also wrote and in which he played a bit part. The movie starred Pedro Armendáriz, who Fernandez would cast in many of his films. Another favorite collaborator was his wife Columba Domínguez. El Indio rapidly gained a reputation as Mexico’s premier director making populist dramas. His film Maria Candelaria (1944) put Mexican film on the map when it won the Grand Prize at the Cannes Film Festival in 1946. The film has been variously praised as “the highest triumph of Mexican plastic arts on celluloid” and as “a titanic promise for strictly patriotic [Mexican] cinema.” French film critic Georges Sadoul, in his 1954 book “Histoire Général du Cinema,” praised the film for its “authentic” portrayal of rural Mexican life and for addressing race relations. The film remains controversial in Mexico over El Indio’s aesthetic choices, which emphasized the exotic and primitive, and his representation of Mexican Indians, which some critics believed was inauthentic or “touristy.” The nationalistic Fernández wanted to articulate an idea of what it meant to be Mexican that was uniquely Mexican, and not influenced by Hollywood, whose films he felt were Americanizing Mexican cinema audiences. Terming his films “autos sacramentales (passion plays) of mexicanidad,” director Fernández wanted to create a Mexican cinema that Mexicanized Mexicans. The film stars Dolores del Rio, the Hollywood movie star who had returned to Mexico after becoming disillusioned with the American movie industry, as the daughter of a prostitute trying to survive just before the Revolution. Set in the floating gardens of Xochimilco in Mexico City, del Rio’s character is shunned by the locals, who are indigenous people. Her great desire is to marry her lover, played by Pedro Armendáriz, but their romance proves to be star-crossed. Fernández’s direction was flawless, and Figueroa’s black-and-white cinematography was masterful. The collaborators created one of the classics of not just Mexican movies but of world cinema. When El Indio and Figueroa were making “María Candelaria,” they were part of a movement in which Mexican filmmakers were consciously attempting to create an indigenous art cinema that could compete with Hollywood product while simultaneously articulating a vision of Mexicans that was rooted in the “indigenismo” and “mestizophilia” of Mexican intellectuals. José Vasconcelos, the Minister of Education during the Obregón administration, was particularly influential due to his concepts of “mexicanos en potencia” and the cosmic race. In Vasconcelos’ philosophy, the “barbarous” Indian was redeemed by a modernization program based on education, and by the assimilation of the Indians with the Caucausian Europeans into “la raza” of mestizos (“mestizaje”). Gabriel Figueroa was conscious of the fact that he and Fernández, a creative team that became known as “Epoca de Oro,” invented an idea of rural Mexico that did not actually exist. Figueroa established himself as the leader in imagining a new, post-revolutionary Mexican consciousness though the vehicle of the visual image. A “painter in light,” Figueroa learned his craft from Gregg Toland and ‘Edward Tisse’, Eisenstein’s cinematographer. Figueroa is credited with creating the classic Mexican film aesthetic in collaboration with El Indio and other film directors. In over 200 movies, he developed the classic imagery and aesthetic of Mexican cinema, which also influenced and was influenced by contemporary Mexican artists. Figueroa pioneered an indigenous visual vernacular that affected the muralist movement, and he has been referred to as the fourth of the most important Mexican muralist after Orozco, Diego Rivera and David Siqueiros. Siqueiros himself called Figueroa’s cinematography “murals that travel.” In their 25 films together between 1942 and 1958, El Indio and Figueroa created the idea of “mexicanidad” cinema while elevating the mestizaje (mixed race) identity, as well as the status of the pre-Columbian culture. The epic visual style they developed was indebted to Eisenstein’s unfinished “Que viva Mexico.” Their style fetishized the Mexican landscape through beautiful, carefully composed, stationary long shots. For two decades, Mexican art cinema was identified with the films resulting from the Fernández-Figueroa collaboration. Their films not only affected Mexican audiences’ collective identity, but they affected how their audiences, both domestic and global, viewed Mexico and its history. The climax of “María Candelaria” was an homage to Carlos Navarro’s classic “indigenista” movie Janitzio (1935). The movie is evocative of the anti-clerical struggles engendered by the Revolution. The secularization of the Mexican state was begun with the 1910 Revolution, continued with the 1917 Constitution, and reached a violent apotheosis in the Cristero Rebellion of 1926-29, when the President tried to crack down on the Roman Catholic church. However, the anti-clericalism of the revolutionaries had to co-exist with the cult of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the symbol that has proved the most powerful and enduring in creating a Mexican national consciousness. Our Lady has served as a symbol for political struggles from the 19th-century wars of independence to the Cristero wars. On one level, “María Candelaria” is a paean to the cult of the Virgin Mary, a phenomenon which is present in much of the classical Mexican cinema, which likely is one of the reasons the films Fernández and Figueroa and others of the 1940s and 1950s proved so popular all over Latin America. In 1946 Fernández filmed an adaptation of John Steinbeck’s novella “The Pearl,” in Spanish- and English-language versions. Shot by Figueroa and starring El Indio’s favorite actor, Pedro Armendariz, “La perla” won El Indio a nomination for Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival, further solidifying Fernandez’s notoriety as a director and publicizing the Mexican movie industry. The film also won him the Golden Ariel for Best Picture at the 1948 Ariel Awards (the Mexican equivalent of the Oscars), and Fernández, Figueroa, Armendáriz and Juan García won Silver Ariels for Best Direction, Cinematography, Actor and Supporting Actor, respectively. Figueroa won a Golden Globe for Best Cinematography in 1949 from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. In 1948 Les bas-fonds de Mexico (1949) was released, written and directed by Fernández with cinematography by Figueroa. An urban melodrama the film was ground-breaking in that it helped usher in a new genre, the “cabaretera” (cabaret) film, racier and just as commercial as the familiar genre of rancheras, which was then fading in popularity. The movie recreates the atmosphere of the famous Mexico City dance hall and won Marga López an Ariel Award, Mexico’s equivalent of the Oscar, for her role as the taxi dancer Mercedes. The movie featured a sensual soundtrack performed by the Afro-Cuban music group Son Clave de Oro. By the end of the 1940s, Emilio Fernández was the most famous and prestigious director in all of Latin America. He would continue his reign as Mexico’s premier director into the mid-’50s, when his powers began to decline and Spanish émigré Luis Buñuel took over the title. As the most famous directors and biggest stars aged or died, Mexican cinema began to decline commercially, and the Golden Age of Mexican cinema came to an end (ironically, Buñuel’s Mexican oeuvre strengthened as the national cinema went into decline and L’age d’or went into eclipse). Although Fernández and Figueroa last worked together in Una cita de amor (1958), which starred El Indio’s half-brother Jaime Fernández, the collaboration was essentially over by the mid-’50s, when they made The White Rose (1954) and La Tierra del Fuego se apaga (1955). Their last great film together was La révolte des pendus (1954) (based on B. Traven’s “Rebellion of the Hanged,” it’s English-language title), which starred Pedro Armendáriz and kid brother Jaime, both of whom were nominated for Silver Ariel awards as Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor, respectively. Jaime Fernández won the Ariel, as did Amanda del Llano for Best Supporting Actress, Editor Gloria Schoemann for editing, and José B. Carles for sound. Antonio Díaz Conde was nominated for a Silver Ariel for Best Score. As his collaboration with Fernández waned, Figueroa’s professional relationship with Luis Buñuel waxed. Figueroa first served as director of photography on Bunuel’s classic The Young and the Damned (1950), which won 11 Ariels in 1951, including the Golden Ariel as Best Picture in 1951 and awards for Best Cinematography for Figueroa and Best Director and Original Story for Buñuel. Their other films together were Nazarin (1959) (“This Strange Passion”; winner of the International Prize at the 1959 Cannes Film Festival), La fièvre monte à El Pao (1959); The Young One (1960), (which won a Special Mention at the 1960 Cannes Film Festival); The Exterminating Angel (1962), (“The Exterminating Angel”); and Simon du désert (1965) (“Simon of the Desert”). Of the Golden Age output, “New York Times” movie critic A.O. Scott said, “There is a frankness in these films that would never have passed muster with the Hays Office.” The Golden Age had peaked in the 1940s, bolstered by the economic boom caused by the World War II alliance with the US, government support for the industry via state-funded studios, the maturation of a star system, and the rationalization of distribution and exhibition. Aside from Buñuel’s pictures, the post-Golden Age era saw indigenous cinema suffer through the 1960s, as the industry became more dependent on formulaic pictures and such popular genres as the “Santo the Wrestler” series. During the 1960s and 1970s many cult horror and action movies were produced with professional wrestler El Santo’ and ‘Hugo Stiglitz being the biggest stars. However, the moribund 1960s led to a revival of government support for the industry in the 1970s, which established the base for a revival of Mexican art cinema in the 1980s and 1990s. El Indio continued directing films until 1979, but when his collaboration with Figueroa ended in 1958, his reputation suffered as the artistry of his pictures declined. He began acting more, though he directed a picture every few years. Gradually, the notoriety of his life began overtaking his reputation as a filmmaker. El Indio lived out the fantasy of perhaps every director when he shot a critic who had dissed one of his movies in the testicles. A violent man, he shot and killed a farm laborer, which he claimed was in self-defense. Convicted of manslaughter in 1976, he served six months of a 4-1/2-year sentence. By the 1960s Fernandez’s off-screen reputation as a violent man had led to his typecasting as brutal villains in many Mexican and American films. As an actor, Emiliano Fernandez appeared with his brother, the singer/actor Fernando Fernández, in John Ford’s The Fugitive (1947), on which he also served as associate producer. Other American films he appeared in were John Huston’s The Unforgiven (1960) (on which he also served as second unit director) and The Night of the Iguana (1964), the John Wayne pictures The War Wagon (1967) and Chisum (1970) (on which he also served as second unit director), Sidney J. Furie’s The Appaloosa (1966) in support of Marlon Brando, and Burt Kennedy’s Return of the Magnificent Seven (1966). After assaying the Mexican Gen. Mapache in the classic “The Wild Bunch”, Fernandez appeared in two other Peckinpah films, as Paco in _Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid (1973)_ and as El Jefe, who gives the order to Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia (1974). He was reunited with John Huston in Au-dessous du volcan (1984) and appeared in Roman Polanski’s Pirates (1986). El Indio’s last two films as a writer-director were México Norte (1979) and Erótica (1979), in which he also starred. In all, El Indio directed 43 pictures from 1942-79. He was the credited screenwriter on 40 pictures, starting with Beautiful Sky (1936) in 1936. He also served as second-unit director, both credited and uncredited, on such American pictures shot in Mexico as The Magnificent Seven (1960), in which he was attached to the American crew by the Mexican government to ensure that the depictions of Mexicans were not racist or demeaning. Fernandez died in Mexico City on August 6, 1986. Government sponsorship of the industry and the creation of state-supported film helped create the phenomenon known as the “Nuevo Cine Mexicano” (“New Mexican Cinema”) that catapulted Mexican movies into prominence on the global market in the 1990s. Amores Perros (2000), Y Tu Mamá También (2001) and El crimen del padre Amaro (2002) are just three of the most recent Mexican films that have featured prominently in American art cinemas. The spirit of El Indio lives on! In 2002 “La Perla” was named to the National Film Preservation Board’s National Film Registry, which is maintained by the US Library of Congress. Fernandez and his collaborator Gabriel Figuerora were honored on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of El Indio’s birth at the inaugural Puerto Vallarta Film Festival of the Americas held in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico in November 2004.