Academic journal article Cervantes: Bulletin of the Cervantes Society of America

"The Don Quixote of the Streets": Social Justice Theater in Sao Paulo, Brazil

Academic journal article Cervantes: Bulletin of the Cervantes Society of America

"The Don Quixote of the Streets": Social Justice Theater in Sao Paulo, Brazil

Article excerpt

En Sao Paulo, la capital financiera y cultural de Brasil, diversas organizaciones humanitarias utilizan adaptaciones de Don Quijote como base cultural y politica para su trabajo con ninos y jovenes en situacion de riesgo social. Ademas del "Projeto Quixote," una ONG fundada en 1996 que a traves de un equipo multidisciplinar de mas de 140 trabajadores y voluntarios ha colaborado con unos trece mil ninos y jovenes, numerosas organizaciones han escenificado en la ultima decada versiones teatrales (la mayoria escritas para la ocasion) de Don Quijote. Este articulo se centra en los tres grupos (Instituto Religare, Teatro Resurreicao y Circo Navegador) que han representado sus respectivos Don Quijote a publicos que alcanzan los varios miles de espectadores a lo largo de multiples temporadas. A traves del analisis de sus primeras escenas, identifico el tema de la transformacion personal y social como mensaje principal de estas obras. Dado que Don Quijote se presenta como resultado de un cambio personal, destaco el papel central de Alonso Quijano en el comienzo de estas tres piezas y su posible significado en el contexto de la lucha por la justicia social en Sao Paulo.


Preguntemonos quien es Alonso Quijano.

JORGE GUILLEN. "Vida y muerte de Alonso Quijano" 105

IN A 2007 BLOG entry, Peterson Xavier--a former intern at the infamous Sao Paulo juvenile detention center, the Fundacao Estadual para o Bem-Estar do Menor ("State Foundation for the Well-Being of Minors"), generally known as FEBEM--explained how he escaped certain life imprisonment or even death as a young career criminal by becoming a "Dom Quixote das ruas" ("Don Quixote of the streets") (Xavier). His transformation began with his performance of the crazed knight-errant on a particularly special evening. On October 11, 2000, at Oscar Niemeyer's Memorial da America Latina in Sao Paulo, Brazil, some 150 FEBEM interns staged Mario Garcia-Guillen's adaptation of Miguel de Cervantes's Don Quixote, entitled Num Lugar de la Mancha. Valeria di Pietro conceived and directed the project and cast Peterson Xavier--not without some initial hesitation due to his unruly behavior--in the title role. With dozens of interns freely moving about the stage and hundreds of relatives and friends in the over three-quarters full 1600-seat Simon Bolivar auditorium, security forces were as on edge as the performers themselves.

In the end, the performance turned out to be a resounding success, and the cast earned thunderous applause. Ina rare rum of events, not only relatives and friends, but also audience members and, most strikingly, security guards praised the young amateur actors for their intellectual and artistic worth. Despite the security detail, the acting crew quickly dispersed and mingled with the audience, receiving parabens ("congratulations") from family, friends, and guards alike. Through the power of Dan Quixote's story, the young actors were endowed that evening with a renewed sense of pride and dignity. For once, their (on-stage) performance was appreciated rather than repudiated, as they were closely watched in admiration rather than fear. In this case, as in Diane Conrad's work with incarcerated youth in Alberta, Canada, the act of practicing theater in prison helped to awaken "the potential for making positive change in our lives and [to contribute] to a greater social transformation" (Conrad 139). By performing Cervantes's characters, the actors had themselves experienced self-transformation. At least for one evening, their public persona had changed in the eyes of both relatives and security officers, and thus, the rigid societal structure of prison was dramatically altered.

Performing the character of Don Quixote indeed transformed Peterson Xavier's life. After his release, Xavier became a professional actor and community activist, and today remains committed to his work with at-risk children and juveniles at the Instituto Religare in the Barra Funda district of Sao Paulo. …

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