Film review: Cowboy del Amor (2005)

This is a documentary that by all rights should be offensive and yet it was likable. It tells the story of Ivan Thompson, a 60-year old cowboy from New Mexico who acts as a matchmaker between American men and Mexican women. He stumbled into this business after his own divorce when he placed an ad for a wife in Mexican newspapers and received about 80 responses. He realized that if there were that many Mexican women who were seeking American husbands, then he might be able to match them up, so he advertised his services to American men. The takers are usually older divorced men who seek more submissive women and think that Mexican women make better candidates.

The way Thompson works is that for a fee, he takes his client to Mexico where he places an ad in the local papers and they spend a few days interviewing the women who respond. Once a couple seems to hit it off, he bows out of the picture.

The film tells his own story and that of three couples he brings together. One couple that got the most screen time is an amiable 40-something truck driver who quickly forms an attachment with a 20-something office worker. With another couple, the man was a used car salesman and the woman was a doctor. The third was a much older disabled veteran and she a grandmother.

What becomes clear is that the men are seeking women who will be homebodies and look after them and the women are seeking security and maybe escape from a difficult home situation. The fact that the women know next to no English is actually seen as a plus by the men since that means they will not form social networks outside the home.

While the film was highly entertaining, I was also ambivalent about what I was seeing. The whole premise of relationships, based as it was on subtle male dominance and control, was something that should be objectionable and yet by filmmaker Michèle Ohayon keeping the camera on the couples themselves, you suspend moral judgments and start hoping that these lonely people will find happiness in life.

Thompson himself comes across as a wry and humorous observer of life and love, able to laugh at himself and recognize his own failures with relationships even as he tries to fix others up. His own Mexican wife turned out to be quite an independent woman and left him because he did not want her to take English classes.

Here’s the trailer.


  1. Alex says

    Ok, so these men exploit Mexican women’s difficult social situation, systematically strip them of basic human rights such as education and any social interaction, to keep them as personal servants in the house. I don’t understand what is ambivalent about this.

  2. songbird says

    on the other hand you are dealing with consenting adults. these women did not have to respond to the ads, nor are they being coerced into staying with these men. I mean, it’s sad that they think this is their ticket to happiness, but that isn’t exactly the fault of the men involved.

  3. Alex says

    The fact that they may be better off in the US (and hence take this step voluntarily) does not justify treating them as anything less than fully human. There is a power differential, and thus the idea of consens becomes more than a bit blurry.

  4. Timothy Roscoe Carter says

    “The fact that the women know next to no English is actually seen as a plus by the men since that means they will not form social networks outside the home.”
    Um, are these men aware that there are more Spanish speakers in the U.S. then there are in Spain? If they think most Mexican women will be submissive, they do not know many. I am a white guy and my Mexican wife just got her Psy.D. dissertation approved today, and I am so proud I am using any flimsy excuse to tell as many strangers as I can!

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