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Teatro Chicana

Teatro Chicana

Laura E. Garcia
Sandra M. Gutierrez
Felicitas Nuñez
Foreword by Yolanda Broyles-González
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  • Book Info
    Teatro Chicana
    Book Description:

    The 1970s and 1980s saw the awakening of social awareness and political activism in Mexican-American communities. In San Diego, a group of Chicana women participated in a political theatre group whose plays addressed social, gender, and political issues of the working class and the Chicano Movement. In this collective memoir, seventeen women who were a part of Teatro de las Chicanas (later known as Teatro Laboral and Teatro Raíces) come together to share why they joined the theatre and how it transformed their lives. Teatro Chicana tells the story of this troupe through chapters featuring the history and present-day story of each of the main actors and writers, as well as excerpts from the group's materials and seven of their original short scripts.

    eISBN: 978-0-292-79455-9
    Subjects: Performing Arts

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xx)
    Yolanda Broyles-González

    You hold in your hands a recently unearthed treasure from the Chicana women’s civil rights movement of the 1960s and 70s and 80s. In fact this volume is the single most powerful Chicana women’s collective document from the era commonly known as El Movimiento. It reunites the voices of seventeen Chicanas and—by extension—of the varied communities and histories they came from. This volume is in fact two documents: It comprises a collective retrospective memoir, embracing the historias/lives of seventeen women who created a performance collective as they formed their own lives and organized to struggle for a new...

    (pp. xxi-xxii)
    (pp. xxiii-xxvi)
    (pp. xxvii-xxx)

    THE TEATRO (THEATER) experience transformed the many women who were part of it, and the progressive street teatro movement of the 1960s and 1970s was, in turn, transformed by those women who contributed their talents and their hearts to it.

    This book is about the women in the Teatro de las Chicanas, a grass-roots troupe that later operated under a variety of names, including Teatro Laboral and Teatro Raíces. For over a decade, beginning in 1971, the women performed at political rallies, at antiwar demonstrations, in high school gyms, at community centers, and at practically every imaginable makeshift venue. This...

  7. I. Recuerdos / Memoirs

    • 1 Delia Ravelo
      (pp. 3-16)

      UP UNTIL I reached the age of six, “Paradise” was my domain in the small Mid-western town of Kenosha, Wisconsin, just north of the windy city of Chicago. My father worked in a foundry that supplied American Motors, and Mamacita worked at home. Yes, I was the eldest of three children and raised around the era of the Harry Truman administration. This was the birth and backdrop of my childhood. Even then I knew I was different from other kids although I couldn’t tell you why.

      My parents had accents like the other kids’ parents, who were mostly Italian and...

    • 2 Peggy Garcia
      (pp. 17-26)

      IT SEEMS THAT it’s been many years since I have thought about my experiences in the Chicano Movement and especially the las Chicanas teatro group. I now reflect on this pivotal time in my life, when I questioned my place in the world and was searching for my independence. Why did I gravitate toward las Chicanas? They were a means of support. They were a collective body from which to learn about the world and the conditions revolving around me.

      My wonderful Catholic Mexican-American parents were born here in the United States. They were proud of their Mexican heritage, but...

    • 3 Laura E. Garcia
      (pp. 27-42)

      Son unas putas y lesbianas, lo que necesitan es una buena cogida” (You’re a bunch of whores and lesbians. What you need is a good screw). This is what some of our critics would say about the Teatro de las Chicanas. And even my closest friends would ask, “What’s a nice girl like you doing with them?”

      We were “Chicanas,” members of the new breed of Valentinas and Adelitas of the 1970s. We were young women with revolution brewing in our blood. ¡Simón que sí, ese! That’s right, man, ready to fight any injustice, a la brava (at the drop...

    • 4 Gloria Bartlett Heredia
      (pp. 43-46)

      I’M FROM CALEXICO, a border town in the hot and harsh desert of California’s Imperial Valley. I started college in the late 1960s, at a time when there were very few Chicanas at San Diego State College (SDSC). (A few years after I enrolled, the name was changed to San Diego State University.) I was one of the minorities in all senses of the word, though I was well assimilated and I studied diligently.

      There were five of us children when my mother died at thirty-seven years of age, and our father was not present in our lives. Mexican women...

    • 5 Teresa Oyos
      (pp. 47-52)
    • 6 Kathy Requejo
      (pp. 53-60)

      COMO UNA GALLINA Sin Cabeza,¹ I rushed around frantically. It would be a three-hour drive to San Diego, California, from the Los Angeles area. I had promised to meet my comadres in Old Town San Diego for lunch. This would be the first reunion of the Teatro de las Chicanas. The last time I had seen mis comadres had been close to twenty years before. I had stayed in contact with a couple of the women, but the entire group had not seen each other since their last performance in the 1980s, an eternity ago. I wanted to reminisce about...

    • 7 Clara Cuevas
      (pp. 61-64)

      I GOT A SURPRISE call from Felicitas after twenty-five years, inviting me to a teatro women’s reunion. Her call was most welcome, and it set me thinking about the social and political issues swirling around me as a student in the late 60s and early 70s. Why did I join el Teatro de las Chicanas? At first I wasn’t sure why I was so drawn to this particular group. I suppose I saw the fight in their faces, and later I witnessed the courage in their hearts. Although I had lost contact with most of my teatro colleagues, I often...

    • 8 Virginia Rodriguez Balanoff
      (pp. 65-72)

      IT WAS A blast being in the Teatro de las Chicanas! I would not trade my eighteen months with those charismatic women for anything in the world. I grew by leaps and bounds during that time. The teatro women helped me transition from a sequestered Mexicanita living in the sticks of a desert town, Coachella, into a woman taking charge of her life in big-city San Diego.

      I felt like the misfit of the Teatro de las Chicanas because I spoke Spanish poorly at that time. After being chastised in kindergarten for speaking Spanish, I spoke only English. During the...

    • 9 Sandra M. Gutierrez
      (pp. 73-80)

      Next year you will be filling out college applications and visiting university campuses. Then you will wait anxiously for that thick packet to come in the mail from your favorite university. As you complete high school and prepare for college, I want to share some of my experiences as a young woman with you. Some of the most exciting and enriching times of my life occurred when I was in college and in a women’s theater group.

      Thirty years ago when I was a freshman in college I joined something called Teatro de las Chicanas. This was at San Diego...

    • 10 Margarita Carrillo
      (pp. 81-88)

      TEATRO DE LAS Chicanas. Just recalling the name brings a smile to my lips, and why shouldn’t it? The name speaks for itself—a theater group of Chicana women. Above all, the teatro educated me at that time in ways I would never have imagined. I learned things my mother certainly hadn’t taught me in my twenty-two years. From these women I learned to stand up for myself and be proud of who I am.

      I left Indio, a small agricultural town in the Coachella Valley of California, with my best friend Cindy when we were seventeen years old. It...

    • 11 Hilda Rodriguez
      (pp. 89-96)

      I FIRST SAW women’s theater perform was one evening at a MEChA meeting in 1973. They called themselves the Teatro de las Chicanas at the time. I was appalled by their presentation, titled Bronca. They looked more like male rebels, dressed all in tight black pants, black fitted shirts, boots, and long hair. I could say some of them were sexy looking. But why in the hell were they calling for “equality”? Women can get what they want by going through the back door, isn’t this true? I thought they were unnecessarily confrontational. And when I learned that some of...

    • 12 Delia Rodriguez
      (pp. 97-106)

      “WHAT THE HELL am I doing here, facing a confused audience and possibly an overcritical drama professor to top it off?” This was the thought that raced pounding through my mind as I was about to perform at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) in a play titled No School Tomorrow. I could not make sense of how I had wound up face to face with fear. Back then, I was much too nervous to be able to organize the reasons that led me to act in a play about education. Now, looking back at this intense moment in...

    • 13 Guadalupe Beltran
      (pp. 107-116)

      On the night I am born a male doctor attends my mother at our home. My mother has already given birth to José Angel, Lázaro, Juanita, Julian, Antonio, and Luis. Midwives brought them into this world. You can imagine my mother’s shame in having to open her legs to a man other than my father. The young doctor gets upset and yells at my mother for not wanting to open her legs for him. Immediately my father puts a stop to the doctor’s yelling. The young doctor is forced to be patient with my mother. For the first time, cuando...

    • 14 Maria Juarez
      (pp. 117-120)

      I WAS BORN in Cuba so I became known as la Cubanita. My mother, who remains in Cuba, was overwhelmed by the care of her children who were my younger stepbrothers and sisters. She had remarried but was so poor that my grandparents had to adopt both my brother and myself. My grandparents did the best they could to raise me. My father, who was already living in the United States, offered to bring me at age seventeen to a country where I could finish my education and choose a different kind of life.

      When I left Cuba I was...

    • 15 Gloria Escalera
      (pp. 121-128)

      TEATRO PLAYED A major role in my life. Before having to play different roles onstage, I could not separate myself from the roles in my life. Before this self-awareness my life was like that of many Latinas or other young women who feel isolated and stuck in a certain location and way of life. I was born in the desert town of Brawley, California.

      I come from Mexican heritage. My paternal grandparents came to this land when there was barely a border dividing the United States from Mexico, our motherland. We were Mexico’s children. We are natives of this soil...

    • 16 Evelyn Cruz
      (pp. 129-136)

      UNDENIABLY, THE YEARS I spent with Teatro Raíces continue to influence my work today as a playwright. Many of the themes addressed in our theater were driven by an examination of class inequality, racism, and sexism from a primarily Marxist perspective. This sobering perspective was counterbalanced by the spiritual element of collectively writing and performing scripts with an all-woman theater group. I met the women of Teatro Raíces when I was twenty-one years old and a single mother of two children. I was introduced by my boyfriend, Saul, who later became my husband. The fact that we had no actual...

    • 17 Felicitas Nuñez
      (pp. 137-168)

      DELIA RAVELO AND I first met in the summer of 1970 at San Diego State University (SDSU). Our field of awareness was spectacular, animated by Chicana students ripening into their potential worth and power. We came upon teatro as a way to discover ourselves and connect with our surroundings. Our street theater became a cradle that rocked us on the rivers of the world. It became a training ground for the individual to further strengthen self-worth and self-power. This awakened in me a means and a desire to support the voice of younger women who for the first time were...

    • Conclusion
      (pp. 169-172)

      THIS BOOK REPRESENTS the labor of seventeen women who formed a collective in order to put together their recollections of the work of a beloved theater company, which was first called Teatro de las Chicanas and was later known variously as Teatro Laboral and Teatro Raíces, but was always teatro chicana. These women, now heading into middle age, were university students in San Diego from the late 1960s into the 1970s. The process of producing this book was like stitching together a patchwork quilt, one piece at a time, not quite knowing what the final product was going to look...

  8. II. Actos / Scripts

    • Chicana Goes to College
      (pp. 175-190)

      LUCY: Stop, please, Ricardo, my parents are inside.

      RICARDO: Then let’s get back in the car and go to back to Lover’s Point.

      LUCY: I’d rather not because you can’t listen to me.

      RICARDO: Listen, you love me don’t you? Or are you just playing hard to get? You are teasing me. Besides, what is the point of holding back, baby?

      LUCY: I am not ready for this.

      RICARDO: I love you more than I love my mother. Do you understand what that means? I am putting you above my mother and you are playing hard to get. What else...

    • Bronca
      (pp. 191-192)

      CHORUS: Bronca, Bronca, Bronca,


      MUJER 1: Bronca, ¿por qué solo me quieren de cocinera? ¿Porque soy mujer? Why is it that when it comes to the preparing of food, automatically men see me stuck to pots, pans, and dishes?

      Cooking food is the task as well as the many joys of life.

      Carnales, don’t put yourself above this task.

      Pitch in and let’s divide the work equally.

      (Mujer 1 steps back into the Chorus.)

      CHORUS: Bronca, Bronca, Bronca!

      MUJER 2: Bronca, ¿por qué solo me quieren de secretaria? ¿Porque soy mujer?

      Why is it when it comes to...

    • So Ruff, So Tuff
      (pp. 193-204)

      ROD: You’re traveling into the unknown arena, not only of sight and sound, but of mind. A traveling into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of the imagination. At the next sign, posted up ahead, the next stop, the Unknown Arena.

      (Enter Rosie and Rudy.)

      ROSIE: I’m glad the graduation ceremony is over . . . hey, there’s Linda (waves at audience). Oh no, look, my buddies Art, Fernie.

      (Enter Mother.)

      ROTHER: Oh, my children! I am so proud of you. I am so happy. (Hugs Rosie and Rudy.) Oh, oh, my children, so intelligent.

      RUDY: Ma, my friends...

    • Salt of the Earth
      (pp. 205-228)

      ESPE: How can I begin my story? On this day, I am thirty-five years old and it is my Saint’s Day. I am the wife of a miner, a mother of two children and another on the way. My husband, Ramón, has been working in the mines for eighteen years with dynamite and darkness. Before the Anglos came, Ramón’s grandfather owned the land that my husband works on. The house is not ours but the flowers, the flowers are. And the radio is still not ours but the music gives me company in my solitude after a hard day’s work....

    • E. T.—The Alien
      (pp. 229-240)

      ENRIQUETA: Chicle, chicle, please buy some gum, anyone, please.

      (She is ready to burst into tears and notes her audience front center stage and slowly moves to the left, telling her story.)

      ENRIQUETA: My name is Enriqueta Tejeda—call me E. T. I am from the continent of South America, across the Mexican border. In Latin America the poor are not as hidden as in the United States. Once you cross the border poverty is vast and naked. There are the super-rich who have taken all the land and are protected by the government, and then there are the foreign...

    • Anti-Nuke Commercial
      (pp. 241-244)

      SHOW HOST: Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. Let me welcome you to your favorite T.V. show—THIS IS YOUR LIFE!! (Kazoos blare.) But now a word from a representative of our sponsor, your favorite and only utility company, the Gas and Electric Company!

      (Blare of kazoos. Host exits stage left. Enter stage right G&E Rep.)

      G&E REP: Yes, we’ve heard lately about the oil shortage and we’ve heard about Three Mile Island and the accidents connected with nuclear energy, but this is a one-sided view. The reality is that we need nuclear power to provide and meet our current and...

    • Archie Bunker Goes to El Salvador
      (pp. 245-258)

      EDITH: Oh, hello, Mrs. Valdez.

      (Mrs. Valdez enters stage right.)

      MRS. VALDEZ: Hola, Señora Bunker. How are you doing?

      EDITH: Fine, what brings you here? Come in and sit down.

      MRS. VALDEZ: Thank you, I came because I ran out of sugar and I’m making some pies.

      EDITH: Oh, you are making some pies. Please be sure you send me a piece.

      MRS. VALDEZ: Of course I’ll give you some. How’s my prize student, Gloria?

      EDITH: My daughter is doing so well. You know just a week ago she was interviewing whales at Sea World. You know I’m so proud...

  9. ADDENDUM: Reunion of Teatro de las Chicanas
    (pp. 259-262)

    The idea of reorganizing and reinstating the women’s teatro has been discussed amongst a few of the old members. The reconstruction of the teatro is not only seen as a creative vehicle but also because we see the necessity of clarifying the issues affecting the working class on a local, national and international level, as well as the issues that affect women in daily life.

    In the past our teatro has been involved in these aspects:

    A.) professional: the teatro

    B.) political: the educational phase

    C.) personal: our lives and problems

    Unfortunately, it seemed the teatro dealt more with the...

  10. ADDENDUM: Bylaws of Teatro Raíces
    (pp. 263-266)
    Delia Ravelo

    Full-time participants must follow the set criteria to qualify as a member of the teatro with voting rights and full privileges.

    A. Community Involvement. A full-time member must belong to a valid and recognized organization within a given community. This organization, while not necessarily agreeing with the teatro’s goals, must not be in direct conflict with Teatro’s aims, i.e., KKK, Nazi Party or Anti-Busing Organization. The community organization cannot be solely a social or “fun” club.

    B. Study Groups. Each full-time member will participate in a teatro study group. Topics will be chosen at group’s discretion and according to needs...

    (pp. 267-268)
    (pp. 269-272)