REBEL – A Latina Soldier in the American Civil War #CineFestival
One 2014 CineFestival film I, personally, cannot wait to see is María Agui Carter's REBEL, the true story of Loreta Velazquez, Confederate soldier turned Union Spy.
Shrouded in mystery and long the subject of debate, the amazing story of Loreta Velazquez, Confederate soldier turned Union Spy, is one of the Civil War’s most gripping forgotten narratives. While the U.S.. military may have recently lifted the ban on women in combat, Loreta Janeta Velazquez, a Cuban immigrant from New Orleans, was fighting in battle 150 years ago – one of an estimated 1000 women who secretly served as soldiers during the American Civil War. Who was she? Why did she fight? And what made her so dangerous she has been virtually erased from history? Directed by María Agui Carter, REBEL is the story of a woman, a myth, and the politics of national memory. (Iguana Films)
This film doesn't just fascinate me because it is about a Latina in the American Civil War (yes, that's interesting enough) but also because of how María Agui Carter came about to make this film. She came across a series of articles about Loreta Velasquez written by a senior military archivist at the National Archives. María went to D.C. to meet with archivist DeAnne Blanton and discovered many more documents about Loreta Velasquez that proved she was not fictional.
For 12 years Carter worked on making this movie because of why she felt Loreta Velazquez was 'erased' from history – Loreta spoke out against popular beliefs about the South. She wrote much about it in her own memoir.
In a recent interview with Cuentame Carter says, "Every film that I make has some resonance with my soul. She (Loreta) changes expectations for Latina women of her time. We are hungry to see these stories way beyond Hollywood. Stories are what motivates us to political action … to change our own lives."
This brings me back around to the importance documenting our own stories so current and future filmmakers and writers will have the content and the truth to tell the stories. If our stories are not documented, they cannot be re told and will be left out of history. So, even if it become's a filmmaker's 12-year labor of love, it can be shared and influence generation after generation. Thankfully, Loreta wrote that memoir and by the grace of God it was not destroyed. Latinas can now see themselves in a new light in American history. I do believe it can alter their lives. That is the power of story telling.