Behind WHEN SORROW TAKES WING: A Secret Brigade of 25,000 Women?
Don't mess with a lady's religion. 500 years after the death of Joan of Arc, a brigade of women fighting for their religion called themselves The Joan of Arc Women's Brigade.
HOW I CAME TO WRITE WHEN SORROW TAKES WING
While writing my female aviator story (almost done), I had two alternating points of view with Jenny and Mariana. Jenny is the daughter of an orange grower, and Mariana's father is a foreman on the citrus ranch. Mariana's brother is murdered, and her family is deported to Mexico to cover things up. During my research, I discovered the people of Mexico were in the middle of a religious war against the government.
THE CRISTERO WAR
It is still a little-known war that has been covered up by both Mexico's government and the Catholic Church for a very long time. After the Mexican Revolution, the government wanted to ensure that no foreigners had influence in Mexico, especially since the priests and Catholic Church helped the people during the revolution. Because of this, the government banned the Catholic religion.
When all the boycotts failed, the people defied the government by still going to church, having their baptisms, weddings, and holy communions. One day, the government sent federal soldiers into a church to clear people out by force. The churches were closed, and federal troops looted and defaced them. Priests were shot in town squares and hung from the rafters of their churches. The women were not having it. They encouraged their husbands and sons to fight for their religious freedom.
It is estimated that 25,000 women were part of the Joan of Arc Women’s Brigade between 1926 and 1929, without a single recorded defection. The network of women stretched from Guadalajara to Mexico City, including fifty-four villages and surrounding hamlets who all provided monthly reports. They were professional women and rural women who fought for their religion and encouraged their husbands and sons to fight. A majority of the women were between the ages of fifteen and twenty-five.
The women and girls were recruited from all social classes but were mostly working girls and peasant girls from the country. The brigades were organized in a military hierarchy with generals, colonels, majors, lieutenants, captains, sergeants, and soldiers. The women smuggled food, supplies, and ammunition to the Cristeros. They not only transmitted information but they obtained it by setting up dances in the villages for the federal officers. The women were spies and resorted to violence, kidnapping, and executions in order to protect the combatants. They also set up field hospitals and an underground hospital in Guadalajara, where many of the Catholic nuns were in hiding as nurses. They worked with the Unión Popular, publishing propaganda and running an underground press.
TWO NOVELS INSTEAD OF ONE
As I kept writing Jenny and Mariana's stories, the longer and longer my novel became. My agent kept telling me it was too long, but both stories were so compelling that I had to do them justice. My editor believed as I did and encouraged me to keep going. It got to the point that I knew my agent was right, and I had to do something. I decided to pull the stories apart and have two separate novels. They are complete stand-alone books but are what some might call "companion novels." They both start with the same beginning scenes, but from two separate points of view, then they diverge. That was when WHEN SORROW TAKES WING took off. Jenny's story still does not have a final title, but it is almost finished. I'm going to see if I can get it done this summer when I am on summer break.
MORE ON THE CRISTERO WAR
If you find the Cristero War interesting, here are a couple of places you can find out more.
FOR GREATER GLORY, a movie with Andy Garcia, Eva Longoria, and Peter O'Toole. It is available on Hulu, Amazon Prime, Apple TV, HBO Max, YouTube, GooglePlay Movies, and Vudu.
La Cristada: The Mexican People's War for Religious Liberty by Jean Meyer
Saints and Sinners in the Cristero War: Stories of Martyrdom from Mexico by James Murphy