Rosaura Revueltas was one of the four Revueltas siblings who became famous artists in Mexico. She was first involved in folkloric dancing that eventually developed into a passion for acting. Ironically, her most well-known role was not for a film in her native Mexico, but in the United States, during a time when your political views determined your amount of success. Her acting career didn’t go exactly as planned but she sacrificed it to produce a film that would have everlasting effects on an international level.
Revueltas was asked to play the lead role in a new film titled, Salt of the Earth, which premiered, after many obstacles, in 1954. It is important to understand what was happening in the United States and the world during the filming of Salt of the Earth, especially as it relates to politics. The world was in a state of political and military tension between the Soviet Union (Communist) and the United States (Democratic and capitalist), known as the Cold War (1947-1991). The United States was so afraid of communism and potential communists that they had a period known as the Second Red Scare, or McCarthyism. Through unfair investigations, the government would accuse artists of being communists without proper evidence. These alleged communist’s names would be put on a blacklist and were denied work or would lose their jobs, often ending their careers. This hostile environment was what Rosaura was walking into when she accepted the role of Esperanza Quintero, a miner’s wife who ended up going on strike in a small town in New Mexico. Before the film could be finished, she was deported back to Mexico with the government’s hopes that it would never be released. People genuinely believed that the film was a bad representation of the U.S. as it depicted working-class ethnic minorities and the discrimination they faced. More importantly, it was seen as communist because the writers, producers, and some actors had been blacklisted. When Rosaura returned to Mexico, she was not even welcomed by her own people. I don’t think she ever really cared about the politics surrounding the film but was more focused on representing the people she was portraying and the work she was able to do. Unfortunately, after the film finally premiered, she was put on the U.S. blacklist and would not be hired there or Mexico.
It’s sad to think that even her own people turned against her and she was punished in an unreasonable way. Imagine not being able to do what you love just because of a list created to taint your reputation simply based on your political opinion? Her decision to star in Salt of the Earth ultimately ruined her career, both in the U.S. and her home country of Mexico. However, whether she believed in communism or not, this film helped to exploit the international Cold War. They were able to approach it from a cultural stand-point and critique and bring to light its different flaws. Salt of the Earth was her most popular film, probably not due to her great acting, but because of the bold political statements it delivered. I took the time to watch it on YouTube (yes, the whole film is there!) and I can imagine that it definitely raised a lot of questions among the people of the world that lived during the Cold War. I like to think that Rosaura would have become an even more well-known actress had she not accepted that role, but she did it knowing the consequences. I think, to her, it was worth it.
Balthaser, Benjamin. “Cold War Re-Visions: Representation and Resistance in the Unseen Salt of the Earth.” American Quarterly 60, no. 2 (2008): 347-71. http://0-www.jstor.org.lib.utep.edu/stable/40068542.
Miller, Tom. “Class Reunion: SALT OF THE EARTH REVISITED.” Cinéaste 13, no. 3 (1984): 30-36. http://0-www.jstor.org.lib.utep.edu/stable/41686417.
Pontikes, Elizabeth, Giacomo Negro, and Hayagreeva Rao. “Stained Red: A Study of Stigma by Association to Blacklisted Artists during the “Red Scare” in Hollywood, 1945 to 1960.” American Sociological Review 75, no. 3 (2010): 456-78. http://0-www.jstor.org.lib.utep.edu/stable/27801535.
Riambau, Esteve, Casimiro Torreiro, and Rosaura Revueltas. “This Film Is Going to Make History: An Interview with Rosaura Revueltas.” Cinéaste 19, no. 2/3 (1992): 50-51. http://0-www.jstor.org.lib.utep.edu/stable/41687200.