Conference on the Future of Monogamy and Nonmonogamy

Esmeralda de Noches Vienes 

("Esmeralda Comes by Night")

(Movie, Spanish with English Subtitles, 1998)

Maria Rojo,  Pedro Armenadiz jr., Ernesto Laguardia

 This film, made  in Mexico, is a light-hearted comedy about polyandry - about a woman with five simultaneous husbands who all know about each other, and who (for the most part) get along well with each other.   This rare film had only limited (and brief) exposure in theaters in Mexico, where the local population seems have been rather perplexed as to what they were to make of it. As far as is known, this film has never been shown on broadcast or cable television in any country, but very popular Spanish-only versions have been accessible via YouTube and similar systems in recent years. Even so, it remains largely unknown even within the Spanish-speaking world, and has seldom even been heard of in the rest of the world. It has received virtually no attention in trade publications, cinematic reviews, the popular press, nor in academic literature.

When the highly irregular marriage of Esmeralda and her numerous husbands is eventually brought to the attention of the Mexican authorities, although the court is sure it must be illegal, they are not quite sure which specific law has been broken. They have dealt with many cases of bigamous men before, but there is no precedent of a woman having multiple husbands. Are her various husbands to be classified as "victims" or accomplices? Should they be prosecuted for polygamy -or on some other charge? If so, what crime are they committing? Even the laws against bigamy are difficult to enforce since they presuppose an outraged spouse who is demanding prosecution. However, since none of Esmeralda's various husbands seem to want to press charges against her, (nor against each other),  the judge is quite befuddled about how to proceed. Even the local bigamy statute is problematic, for while it specifies it is illegal for anyone to have two simultaneous spouses, since Esmeralda has FIVE,  and five is not equal to two, it is not clear whether that law can be applied to her case. If not bigamy, then what is the proper term for her crime? The judge tentatively settles on "quintuple bigamy."  Once having settled this matter,  the  extremely moralistic and outraged judge interrogates the bride in an attempt to reconstruct the way in which this perplexing relationship has come into existence. As he does so, he finds himself, much to  his chagrin, becoming increasingly enamoured with Esmeralda.

     All in all, this film presents a rare cinematic investigation of these matters from a Mexican perspective.