A slender glimpse into Latin American history through the eyes of an unlikely participant, Andrea Kalin’s First Lady of the Revolution introduces Henrietta Boggs, an Alabama woman who married Jose Figueres shortly before he started on his path to being one of Costa Rica’s most important figures. Most appropriate for screening in museum or educational settings, the doc does showcase a woman whose adventurous nature was out of step with early 20th-century conventions.
Boggs was born in 1918 and grew up in very conservative Alabama society. To hear her tell it (her sharpness on camera belies her age), she was ready to encounter a larger world as soon as she was able to leave home: “Anybody who was not a white Southern Presbyterian, let me have them!”
A modest introduction to an admirably adventurous woman.
She got her wish. When an uncle invited her to spend some time at his retirement property in Costa Rica, she soon met Figueres, who was smitten. He was older and unhandsome but persistent: When he proposed midway through a motorcycle ride up the side of a volcano, she accepted.
Boggs recalls how, when the country’s very progressive new leader was accused of nepotism and corruption, Figueres began to become political. The doc may not be the clearest guide to the history of these times, focusing instead on Boggs and Figueres, who fled for a time to El Salvador, where they encountered poor workers and were informed by their experience. Soon they were in Mexico, smuggling arms to Costa Rica for battles he saw coming.
Why should Figueres have been the man to lead the revolution that came? We don’t learn that here, but we do see how his efforts with a ragtag group of volunteer soldiers bore fruit. When the country’s 1948 civil war ended, he was president.
Governing a country didn’t allow Figueres to be as attentive a husband as he might have been, and he never seemed much interested in the couple’s children to begin with. Though she stuck around for some time, being a middleman between the president and those who had a hard time getting his attention, she eventually left him and moved back to Alabama. The doc ends with an admiring look at how Boggs kept active in the ensuing decades, starting a magazine and keeping tabs on local politicians.
Production company: Spark Media
Director-Screenwriter-Producer: Andrea Kalin
Executive producer: Martin Kalin
Directors of photography: Dennis Boni, Paulo Soto
Editor: David Grossbach
Composer: Stephen Smith
In English and Spanish