MEXICO CITY – Spanish filmmaker Luis Buñuel, along with many other famous artists, was closely watched by the Mexican security service who followed his every step from the time he entered the country to the time he left, documents from the National General Archives (AGN) show.
The information compiled by Mexican spies includes, for example, the fact that on March 13, 1956, Buñuel participated in a film roundtable in the Mexican capital.
Buñuel – whose film “Los Olvidados” (1950) about poverty in Mexico garnered ill will in the country’s circles of power – was a speaker at the roundtable held in a university facility, said “Agent 69” in his report to the defunct Federal Security Administration (DFS).
A sanitized version of the close surveillance of – or espionage perpetrated against – Buñuel between 1954 and 1975 is available in a six-page AGN document, although it no longer contains “sensitive details.”
The importance given to the Spanish filmmaker by Mexican spies is clearly documented in the Oct. 9, 1956, notes by Arturo Durazo Moreno, the feared leader of the DFS group who became Mexico City police chief in 1982.
“Buñuel, who lives on Felix Cuevas Street in Mexico City, will board the KLM plane that arrived yesterday from Amsterdam,” says the report, which includes the names and addresses of other travelers, including some of French origin.
On July 2, 1959, Buñuel was at the Universidad Obrera, an institution linked to Mexican Socialist leader Vicente Lombardo Toledano, to attend the inauguration of a student fraternity house and see a painting exhibition, the agent on duty reported.
His arrival in Mexico on an Air France flight on Feb. 22, 1964, and his attendance on Aug. 29, 1975, at the inauguration of the Cinematographic Training Center, of which he was president, is included in the filmmaker’s file.
Along with Buñuel, the entire Mexican intellectual and celebrity elite was under the DFS microscope on an ongoing basis.
The DFS – a secretive espionage agency – was created in 1947 and dismantled in 1985 after acts of corruption and links to drug traffickers were revealed.
Mexican actress Silvia Pinal, star of Buñuel’s film “Viridiana” (1961), and comedian Mario Moreno “Cantinflas,” a key figure in the founding of the National Actors Association (ANDA), were also under intensive surveillance by Mexican espionage services.
Neither intellectuals nor writers were able to escape the scrutiny of the DFS, and Mexican Nobel Laureate Octavio Paz (1990), Carlos Fuentes, Carlos Monsivais, Jose Revueltas – who served time in the Islas Marias penal colony – Efrain Huerta and Diego Rivera are all mentioned in Buñuel’s file.
But the eavesdropping did not end there and also was directed at international “targets” such as Fidel Castro, Ernesto “Che” Guevara and Camilo Cienfuegos during the time when those revolutionaries were in Mexico preparing to mount the Cuban Revolution.
US President John F. Kennedy and his alleged assassin Lee Harvey Oswald, Queen Elizabeth II of England and US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger also have files in the Mexican security archives.
The 60,000 confidential files, made public a couple of years ago, are stored in 7,314 boxes in the custody of the AGN, the Mexican spy agency that operated from 1920-2019.
Although the majority of the files were made public in 2002 via an executive order signed by then-President Vicente Fox, it was President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador who recently ordered the removal of all restrictions so that the press can examine and publish the documents.
The political espionage efforts got started under the governments emerging from the 1910-1921 Mexican Revolution, although it was President Miguel Aleman (1946-1952) who created the DFS.
During the 1985 crisis involving the murder of US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agent Enrique Camarena, the DFS was disbanded when it was discovered that drug capos were being protected by the agency.
The National Security and Investigations Center (Cisen) was created after that, although Lopez Obrador ordered it closed after taking office last Dec. 1.
In 1985, the AGN received 3,091 boxes with files prepared by the Office of Political and Social Research and the DFS during the period from 1920 to 1975 and in 2002, 4,223 boxes with 58,302 records from the Cisen for the period 1947-1985 were added.