1968. A turbulent time in Mexico, especially on the political end of the spectrum. A new movement was on the rise, with demands for a change from the authoritarian regime that had been the Mexican norm for generations. Known in Mexico as El Movimiento Estudiantil (the student movement), it wasn’t long before the Mexican government acted, quashing the movement in an attack now remembered as the infamous Tlalteloco massacre of October 1968. Just like that, the growing Mexican youth movement was suppressed practically in an instant; a brutal demonstration of the power of the Mexican government.
Today, one of the most important artifacts from that era that we can still use as a window into the growing rebellion of Mexican youth in the 60s exists as the 1968 gothic supernatural horror film, Hasta elviento tiene miedo (Even the wind is afraid In English).
Directed by a famous Mexican horror director Carlos Enrique TaboadaEeven the wind is afraid tells the story of a group of schoolgirls who are punished for trespassing on prohibited property on school grounds by being forced to stay during a school break. Midway through their stay, they become aware of increasingly bizarre sightings of a mysterious female figure, student Claudia encountering a silhouette of the figure hanging by her neck in the school’s clock tower.
Although the figure is visible to all the girls, they don’t care about Bernarda, the headmistress of the school. Bernarda enforces school rules with an iron fist, having no tolerance for cheekiness or indecency. Even being strict enough to scold one of the girls for sleeping in somewhat revealing clothes on a hot night, Bernarda insists there is nothing wrong with school despite the fact that it harbors dark secrets that may actually be linked to sightings of the ghostly girl. .
Tabaoda recreates a familiar, conservative setting with the attitude and aesthetics of a repressive school system, as was the norm for 1960s Mexico. A standard, stuffy interior combined with a massive but stuffy, gates, and the aforementioned clock tower that towers over the entire school both physically and metaphorically. The restrictive nature of the school stands in stark contrast to the sleek chic and energy of the students, who are more focused on the boys and the joys of coming home to all things remote school.
If we were to watch this film solely based on its plot, Even the wind is afraid doesn’t seem to have much to do beyond the usual scares that populated Mexican horror cinema at the time. A Mexican ghost story in the 1960s wasn’t reinventing the wheel, not with the standard of Mexican horror at the time being mostly supernatural features and creatures.
Accompanying Mexico’s simple horror stories was an equally simplistic approach to morality, often playing the tried and tested method of fighting absolute good and ultimately defeating undoubted evil. Even films with villains as main characters chose simplicity over complexity and with the growing success of horror films in Mexico in the 1950s, why fix what isn’t broken? Even the wind is afraid initially follows this logic all the way, immediately presenting us with a spooky spirit for the girls to investigate and solve the mystery of as a hook for the plot.
As the film progresses, the unmistakably tense dynamic between the girls’ youthful rebellion and the director’s steely determination paints a clearer and far more complicated narrative than what was presented to us at the start. The girls, though often vain and sometimes vindictive towards one of their straight-featured peers, are united both by the circumstances of Claudia’s ghostly first encounter and by the struggle to break the restrictions put in place by the headmistress. Bernarda.
Although featuring only a small cast, a sense of community throbs among the handful of girls forced to stay in school. The differing personalities between Claudia’s dark but cheerful tastes and her classmate Kitty’s lively and openly hormonal frustration create a lived-in, natural-friends dynamic that arguably poses a greater threat to Headmistress Bernarda and her reign. on school. than the presence of a friendly ghost.
Because the more we advance in the history of Even the wind is afraid, the more obvious it is that Bernarda herself is the film’s most menacing antagonist, though she’s not a traditional bloodthirsty madwoman. In many ways, she’s not a villain on an individual level. His determination to keep the harrowing truth of the ghost a secret is not an effort to directly harm his students, but his insistence on not confronting his demons is indicative of the tangled web of deceit and corruption that plagues institutions like the school.
Bernarda represents the oppressive control of institutional bodies against which the Mexican youth movement protested. A greater icon of authority who used his privilege to treat the youth and working class as second-class citizens who should only have a mind to follow and take orders. Bernarda’s strict management of school policies regarding its dress code, contact with the outside world, and students’ general attitude toward the school is a direct reflection of similar goals of the Mexican government before and during the 1960s.
If it seems that I keep the supernatural aspects of Even the wind is afraid attached to the back seat, it is not useless. Tabaoda’s gothic ghost story refrains from overexposing the spirit itself. In fact, most of this movie focuses solely on the exploits of the frustrated teenage protagonists who have to deal with Bernarda’s intimidating shadow and an apparition. A good portion of the movie is devoted to building girls’ unity through banter and the itch to break the rules whenever possible.
Tabaoda warms us up with our protagonists through their relatable urges to let loose once in a while. Any discussion of boys (especially Kitty’s off-campus boyfriend) or off-limits topics is treated with a certain sense of innocence. Yes, girls talk about sex, inattentiveness in class, and other forms of mild rebellion, but never with the intention of overthrowing the structure of the school. The girls simply act like teenagers, but for a school as tightly run as Bernarda’s, that very attitude is seen as the most pressing issue to quell, even in the face of a ghost.
If the content of Even the wind is afraid brought to us in modern times, we’re forgiven for believing that a melodramatic Ghost drama from the 1960s doesn’t present a social issue we don’t already have some knowledge of. It’s easy to think that a story of teenage girls subtly rebelling against an authoritarian body is something born out of the modern “woke” movement that’s been raved about in just about every online movie circle you can think of.
Tabaoda’s film is over 50 years old.
In addition to helping revitalize the horror genre in Mexico, Even the wind is afraid was notable for its content considered shocking and extremely edgy at the time. Despite the dark subject matter, much of that controversy has been directed towards an infamous striptease sequence where Kitty strips naked during an impromptu piano jingle. Despite Kitty actress Norma Lazareno being well into her twenties at the time of filming, it was still a portrait of a schoolgirl stripping naked in front of the camera (at a private school no less).
The sequence itself is mostly character driven, keeping the plot to the back until the ghost scares it away from going any further. But the scene itself is fascinating simply for having existed at the time it existed. The same year that saw Mexico’s youth movement brutally silenced in an act of violent oppression also saw a gang of lady horror mouths for the camera, one who had a secret boyfriend she hid to the director Bernarda.
All these factors did not influence the fact that Kitty and her friends were the undeniable protagonists of the film. A horror film that bluntly denounced the sickening consequences of absolute authoritarianism and the repression of expression. Weirdest of all, a movie that had these elements in a time before movies like Halloween, Texas Chainsaw Massacreand The last house on the left provoked and frightened the public with their respective transgressive content.
Although the film has gained a significant cult reputation in Mexico since its release, it is not as well known overseas. But Even the wind is afraid is as important to film history as it is to the horror genre. I’ve said it over and over again, but horror is a genre that calls for confronting social, economic and political issues and sometimes overturning them.
It’s frankly miraculous that this film came out in the turbulent and chaotic time it did and while the extent of the film’s influence on the film as a whole is debatable, Even the wind is afraid stands today as an ominous window into the darker underbelly of 1960s Mexico. Don’t let the spooky melodramatics and special effects fool you; the film’s stance on social issues was as risque as it got at the time.
It’s easy to get lost in a movie like this, especially now that it’s well over 50 years old, but the new reach of the internet has made this distant cult classic more accessible than ever to global audiences.