Skip to content

Mexican American Film Festival Unveils Resonating Short Film ‘The First Cowboy’

Dr. Jose-Luis Ruiz's adaptation highlights the untold origin of Mexican vaqueros in American cowboy tradition

The Short Film That Resonated at The Mexican American Film Festival,By Bel Hernandez Castillo

Film festivals are an amazing place to discover films and filmmakers who you instinctively know you want to see more of. Recently at the Mexican American Film & Television Festival, there were several short films that fit the description. One that caught our attention and an audience favorite was The First Cowboy, written, executive produced, and co-directed by Dr. Jose-Luis Ruiz and produced by Johnny Murillo.

 The film is both a love story and an epic human story that depicts the initial mistrust between the Protestant Palmers and the Catholic Velascos. The friendship begins with the slow and reluctant interaction which blossoms into affection and pacts made between them, and then the eventual betrayal, followed by dehumanizing domination. Dr. Ruiz, I had heard that the American cowboy learned from the Mexican Vaqueros but did not know all of the story.

This is a crucial part of the history of Mexicans in American history that the history books have never told correctly. Before writing my fiction novel The First Cowboy, The Collision of Two Great Cultures, I did extensive research and hired a historian to dig out information about the lives of the people who lived at this time. This film is an adaptation of the novel.


The First Cowboy is based on a novel by the same name written by Dr. Ruiz. It delves into the tradition of the American cowboy, the subject matter of countless Hollywood movies. But those movies have never dealt with the true origin of the Mexican “vaquero” whose traditions were adapted to create the iconic American “Cowboy”, which was truly a Mexican tradition. PHOTO BY GEORGE FREY/GETTY IMAGES 

If you read the news and see Hollywood films, you would have to assume Mexicans are newcomers to America, and who barely contribute to this country. Few Americans understand that Mexicans have been part of America for almost 200 years and have contributed in endless ways to make America what it is today, but have never been credited for it. What is more American than the cowboy?  Well, the fact is that the vaqueros are the original American Cowboys, almost a carbon copy of the Mexican vaquero and that is a thing of great pride for Mexicans and Latinos, and to see it on the screen makes all of us very proud.

 I feel very fortunate to have found such a great producer in Johnny Murillo within his production company Chicano Hollywood. He and his production team are very talented and who worked tirelessly to make my story come true on the screen. I am a creative, and I have a vision and I guarded this vision throughout the casting, production, and post-production, to closely adhere to the novel.



Produced in association with Latin Heat

“What’s the latest with Florida Man?”

Get news, handpicked just for you, in your box.

Check out our free email newsletters

Recommended from our partners