This film begins with Laura (Libertad Lamarque), a white singer and mother, reassuring Roberta, the dark-skinned daughter of her best friend Angustias (Eusebia Cosme) that “in this country, racism does not exist.” Throughout the film, this statement is refuted, revealing the issues of racial prejudice in Mexican society. Laura’s daughter, Alicia, falls in love and wishes to marry Ricardo, a black medical student. When she presents him to her mother, Laura reveals her latent racism and forbids the relationship. Laura seeks advice from Angustias but the two fight after Laura shouts that she does not want a negro in her family. Soon after, Alicia grows ill and needs a life-saving heart transplant, while her boyfriend doctor stands by her side. Roberta gets hit by a car and suffers a fatal head wound after her boyfriend denies her in front of his boss. Laura must reconcile with Angustias and ask her for consent to transplant Roberta’s heart into Alicia. Angustias gives her consent saying, “It is a negro’s heart, but it is a heart none the less that will save your daughter.” The film ends with the two women saying their last goodbyes to Roberta at the cemetery.
The film, directed by Abel Salazar, is set in 1970s Mexico against the backdrop of modern architecture and buildings from the colonial period. The plot resembles Douglas Sirk’s Imitation of Life, but has several plot changes and a lot more melodrama. The story is appropriated for Mexican culture and can function as a critique of racism in Mexico, but also distances and marginalizes the struggle of the Afro-Mexican characters. Eusebia Cosme’s, an Afro-Antillean actress born in Santiago, Cuba, character Angustias reveals that she fled from the United States to Mexico when her daughter Roberta was born so to raise her child in a society that would not treat her inferior to others. This marks her as not Mexican, but African-American and places her (and the ethnic group she represents) as a foreigner in the country. Her acceptance would defy the Mexican tradition of identifying itself as mestizaje, a mix between indigenous and European descent.