Follow TV Tropes


Film / Modesta

Go To
The League of Liberated Women

Modesta is a short film from 1956, directed by Bernard Donziger and based upon a story by Domingo Silas Ortiz. It stars Antonia Hidalgo as the title character and Juan Ortiz Jiménez. All other roles are played by residents of the Soñadoras barrio in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico.

Modesta is a peasant young woman with three kids and another one on the way. Fed up with her authoritarian husband constantly nagging her to do chores and manage the household, she and other women in the barrio (neighborhood) organize the "League of Liberated Women" to fight back.This film was named to the National Film Registry in 1998.



  • Armor-Piercing Response: Modesta is reading the women's list of demands for husbands. At hearing the third, that men must help care and educate children, the bar owner is dismissive.
    Bar Owner: Even change and wash diapers? (laughing)
    Modesta: And why not? Didn't someone put diapers on you when you were little? (everybody laughs).
  • Awful Wedded Life: As soon as Modesta wakes up, her husband tells her to stop whining and complaining about her body aches and take care of the two kids. When she fails to catch the chicken due to her pregnant belly, he accuses her of being useless right in front of his friends, who just nod.
  • Beastly Bloodsports: The husband goes off to a cockfight. Somebody asks about a gamecock of his. He says it was useless and that he told his wife to catch it and stew it for dinner.
  • Advertisement:
  • The Dog Bites Back: After being on the receiving end of her husband's "The Reason You Suck" Speech, Modesta breaks a stick of firewood over his head and runs him and his friends off.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The sticks of firewood Modesta is gathering. She breaks one off to strike her husband when he is calling her names and heaping abuse. During the League of Liberated Women's first meeting, the firewood stick becomes a symbol of their efforts for equality. At the end, after both the men and the women agree that there should not be any physical violence, they all pair off and walk stepping over the the sticks.
  • Domestic Abuse: The husband dismisses Modesta having trouble with her chores on account of being pregnant. He even threatens to beat her if the next baby is a girl. Later at the league's meeting, the neighbor who proposes a law forbidding men to hit their wives is sporting a black eye.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: Referenced by a sign at the local bar where the husband is hanging out:
    Si toma para olvidar
    Pague antes de tomar
    (If you drink to forget
    Then pay before you drink)
  • Hypocrite: The husband’s friends. They listen and nod while he insults her by calling her a gossip. And then they run off and tell a neighbor, who tells another guy, who tells someone else, and so on. The gossip finally reaches the neighborhood women.
  • No Name Given: Credits do not list the husband's name. He is simply “The Husband”. While some of the other neighbors have their names mentioned, their names are not listed in the credits, just included collectively as "residents of the barrionote  Soñadoras, Guaynabo, Puerto Rico.
  • The Reason You Suck: According to the husband, Modesta is just making excuses to avoid work and like all women, she is only good for having babies and gossiping.
  • Sleeping Single: Modesta sleeps by herself in a double bed, while her husband sleeps in a hammock.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Per the narrator, the person who told him the story assures that this tale he got from his great-grandparents, who got it from his great-great-grandparents, is absolutely true.
  • Win-Win Ending: The women read their list of demands to the men. After a discussion, they come up with a contract that is agreeable to everyone. The contract stipulates that the sticks of firewood will no longer go into play (i.e. husbands will not hit wives and vice versa). It also acknowledges women’s demands to fair treatment (help with heavier household tasks and child rearing, etc.), while at the same time acknowledging how hard men work to provide- and that they will NOT wash diapers.
    We acknowledge the right of women to ask us to make them happy. But, since we also want to be happy, that’s why we say, “More loving, less gossipping.”Original quote in Spanish