Nuevos Pasos: Chicano and Puerto Rican Drama

Nuevos Pasos: Chicano and Puerto Rican Drama

Nuevos Pasos: Chicano and Puerto Rican Drama

Nuevos Pasos: Chicano and Puerto Rican Drama

Excerpt

It can be said that Spanish American theatre was born somewhere in the sixteenth century when the Spanish missionaries wed their evangelical theatre to the dramatic performance of the indigenous peoples of America. 1 From there the basis was laid for the development of a "legitimate" theatre in the Western tradition as well as a folktheatre that was truly mestizo in nature. Both theatrical traditions survive to this date in Spanish America and parts of the United States and have witnessed the birth of a third: a professional theatre that is truly Spanish American. From those times when Spanish religious plays were first translated to the indigenous languages up to the present, Latin America has seen the rise and fall of Spanish cultural hegemony and the growth of the United States as the dominant cultural influence not only in the Hemisphere, but in the world.

While both Mexico and Puerto Rico were in the process of creating their own national identities as separate and distinct from Spain and Europe, the great North American giant intervened and altered that process forever. Mexico saw the major portion of its northern territory devoured by its hungry neighbor and shortly thereafter Puerto Rico became his captive child. After the United States occupation, however, the cultural ties to Spain and Mexico were never completely severed, even while English became the official language of public education in Puerto Rico and Spanish was prohibited on school grounds in some Southwestern states. As more and more Puerto Ricans and Mexicans were drawn to labor in the factories and fields of the continental United States, interior colonization of the Mexican and Puerto Rican peoples became a reality.

While often uprooted from their native lands and converted to minority status in the belly of the giant, the Latinos of the United States never gave up their cultural institutions. Theatre, whether commercial or amateur, professional or folkloric, is one of the most important of those institutions and has been essential in maintaining a sense of identity and community solidarity throughout the last one hundred and thirty years. At each turn, an appropriate theatrical expression has responded to the historical, linguistic, economic, and spiritual circumstances of the Latino communities. During the second half of the nineteenth century, Spanish-language theatrical expression in the Southwest accomodated the populations scattered in ranches, towns and cities: folktheatre, 3 tent theatres, and professional companies that performed romantic melodramas traveled by horse-drawn wagon. There was even at least one company that toured the major cities up and down the California coast by ship, from San Francisco to Mazatlán. Even before the Mexican Revolution of 1910 professional companies from Mexico performed lyric and dramatic works along the border from Laredo to Los Angeles. For them and the groups to follow their routes during the twentieth century, the advent of rail transportation was a boon. After 1910, the establishment of large colonies of Mexican immigrants throughout the United States was followed by the development of extensive, coast-to-coast theatrical circuits and nation-wide tours. In...

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