Runtime: 102 minutes
Director: Eva Longoria Bastón
By Morgan Roberts
A quarter of a century ago, we witnessed a historic boxing match: Oscar De La Hoya vs. Julio César Chávez. Now, 25 years later, the sociopolitical and cultural struggles are examined in Eva Longoria Bastón’s feature directorial debut “La Guerra Civil” (2022).
You do not have to be familiar with this fight before jumping into the film. Longoria Bastón provides you with just enough historical context to carry you forward. For those unfamiliar (like I was) with the De La Hoya/Chávez fight, in 1996, two boxing legends for Mexican communities both at home and in the United States, fought an incredible match that was a personification of generational divides and of Mexican and Mexican-American identities.
Chávez, born and raised in Mexico, was an undefeated fighter when Mexican-American De La Hoya won the gold medal at the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona. Chávez had long been the pride of the Mexican and Mexican-American communities. When De La Hoya won, he was seen holding both the American and Mexican flags. Four years later, these two would face each other in the ring.
“La Guerra Civil” really explores the depth of internal struggle when it comes to identity. De La Hoya, interviewed throughout the film, touches on the verbal harassment he received after his Olympic win. He was not American enough because of his race, but he was not Mexican enough because of where he grew up; he was placed in identity purgatory when he was ready to let both identities live harmoniously.
Chávez, on the other hand, started boxing in the 1980s, when De La Hoya was merely a kid. He showed strength and grit. But embodied the vicious cycle of wins, money, power and overindulgence. Chávez was very self-assured and sometimes overly confident. Even after his loss to Frankie Randall, his hubris guided him to a rematch.
What the film balances is both examining the history – of the prep and circumstances leading up to the fight, and the cultural divides that began to permeate communities and households. It highlights how the struggle for cultural identity and cultural understanding is woven into these moments in history.
While the film is not an immediate knock out, it certainly packs a punch as it builds upon itself. We reflect on this moment in history, and the mirror it holds to our understands of ourselves, of our culture, of our identities, and our struggles.