MISSION: Southwest Research and Information Center is a multi-cultural organization working to promote the health of people and communities, protect natural resources, ensure citizen participation, and secure environmental and social justice now and for future generations

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Almas - An Evening of Latino Theater

A Chicano theater class gave birth and inspiration for "Almas," showcasing four plays which explored themes of cultural resistance, pride and identity. Almas was presented in three actos (playwriting form based on theories of social commentary) written by University of New Mexico students, and in a little known full length play by Luis Valdes (founder of El Teatro Campesino and author/director of "Zoot Suit."). The plays were directed by Sabina Zuñiga-Varela (see Voices from the Earth, Vol. 1, No. 1). "'Almas' brings together a nationally known playwright with local writers to create a dialogue about those issues which tie our generations together and those which differ," says Zuñiga-Varela.

The production began with three 15-minute actos featuring UNM actors and veterans of La Compania and other Albuquerque Theatrical venues playing multiple roles. "Saco Mucho en La Escuela (I Get A Lot Out of School)" by Sophia Breyer is a satire on public schools, attacking how children of different backgrounds are taught about history in the West and about their ethnic identity. "Missing Ingredients" by Elizabeth Kay Otero is about a young Chicana and Chicano born to a culture, yet not knowing enough about their culture to pass down to future generations. And "La Crisis" by Elsa Menendez-Senechal presents a woman who wakes up not knowing who she is. She draws on ancestral beliefs in the form of three pseudo-spirit women - Doña Cron (La Wise One), Frida Kahlovera (La Madre), and La Virgin Maiden - to give her advice in helping her form her identity as a woman.

The production showcase "Bernabé" is a full length play written by Luis Valdez in the late 1960s. Bernabé is a developmentally disabled man who lives in a small town with his mother, a nagging, burned out woman. He is literally in love with the Earth and goes into a hole where he hides. He is plunged into a dream sequence where he must prove his worthiness to the earth. "Bernabé reminds me of growing up in Tierra Amarilla, (New Mexico)" comments Zuñiga-Varela, "where land is considered the heart and soul of family and culture. This reality isn't talked about much anymore and is the reason why I bring this work to (the) stage."

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"As we see all around us, racism and racial discrimination continue unabated. Although we refer to our world as a global village, it is a world sadly lacking in the sense of closeness towards neighbour and community which the word village implies. In each region, and within all countries, there are problems stemming from either a lack of respect for, or lack of acceptance of, the inherent dignity and equality of all human beings. Our world is witness to serious ethnic conflicts; to discrimination against minorities, indigenous peoples and migrants workers; the accusation of institutionalized racism in police forces; harsh immigration and asylum policies; hate sites on the Internet and youth groups promoting intolerance and xenophobia."
– Mary Robinson,
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
24 March 1999



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