El Movimiento de Benito Juarez y el Mono Bichi

The Movement of Benito Juarez and the Mono Bichi

Through a series of location filming and interviews this short documentary film by LuisCarlos Davis and cinematographer/editor Jorge Arreola explores the conception of the famed Nogales, Sonora landmarks and the conflicts that arose upon their inception and again when they were relocated to accommodate a rail overpass in 2009.

The Monument to Benito Juarez and the Monument to Ignorance, together commonly called the Mono Bichi, were surrounded by discord from the time they were conceptualized in 1962.

After receiving funding for the project, local journalist Don Jose Pomposo Salazar asked famed Spanish sculptor Don Alfredo Just Jimeno, best known for his masterpiece sculpture Manolete, located outside de Plaza de Toros in Mexico City, to conceptualize the monument.

They knew that one statue was to be dedicated to Benito Juarez, but for the other Pomposo Salazar wanted something that would address his concerns about the possibility of ignorance growing in Nogales, because at that time all of the movie theaters had closed and he feared that without knowledge and culture that films provided, the people of Nogales may become ignorant.

To which Just Jimeno reportedly replied, “Well, what do you think of this idea – let us kill ignorance.” And the concept he came up with is a naked Yaqui warrior killing a strange beast, part eagle, bull and bat, which represents ignorance.

Powerful local priest Padre Nacho, who had great influence over the very religious city of Nogales in the early 1960’s, was immediately opposed to the project, and the film examines the differences between the opposing sides of the church, and the local masons and liberal thinkers, and how they were ultimately resolved.

Then, in 2008, conflict once again surrounded the monument when it was discovered that the statues were in the path of a planned traffic construction project. Local citizens were outraged that the city would even consider moving the monument, and the clash between those against the move and those for it came to represent greater issues of culture and history versus modernity and progress, especially for border communities.

The situation also demonstrated the strength of the bond that had been established between the statues and the residents of Nogales, Sonora. As one project engineer who was interviewed in the film explained, the idea of moving this beloved monument was likened to telling the citizens of Pisa that their tower was going to be straightened.

To tell the interesting story of this beloved symbol of Nogales and the back stories of the conflicts it has endured, the filmmakers interview several people who were connected with the initiation of the monument and its relocation in 2009 for interesting first-hand recollections that tell the history in the words of its residents.

Released in 2010, the documentary was sponsored by Dr. Maribel Alvarez and the University of Arizona Southwest Center, and is approximately 22 minutes in length.

Screenings will be presented on Friday and Saturday afternoons in the Olmec Room at the Quality Hotel Americana and at the Saturday night party at the Museo de Arte in Nogales, Sonora.

Both events are free of charge and open to the public.

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