Will and Company acting troupe shines light on figures lost to history
Published: Wednesday, September 18, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, September 18, 2013 23:09
When creating “Faces of America,” which sought to truly examine America’s multiculturalism, Will and Company founder and Artistic Director Colin Cox interviewed many college students in an attempt to understand them. But what he also seemed to understand was that most college students lacked understanding of the many figures of all backgrounds who helped change America.
“You feel that the fourth grade textbook was lacking of diversity and multiculturalism on the representation of American history, “ said Cox. “We should tell those stories.” Which is what is told in Portraits of Courage: Latinos Shaping a Nation.
The play, produced in part by USG, the Puerto Rican/Latin American Cultural Center and UConn’s Latino Student Association, which was presented at the Student Union Theater, is part of series of plays that attempts to show the diverse but obscure range of figures who have changed America and include: Native American Visions, African American Visions, African Americans: Soul of a Nation, American Women in Science and Gam Saan: Asians in America. In Latinos Shaping a Nation two actors, Nicolas Ortega, and Jessica Meza portray six relatively unknown Latino figures who have helped shape America.
The play begins with a monologue on how Latinos have always shaped America and how Tejano culture doesn’t exist without Mexicans. We then cut to Gustavo Garcia, the first Mexican American who argued before the Supreme Court. Portrayed brilliantly by Ortega, he takes on the Supreme Court to allow Mexican Americans on juries in his home state of Texas, so that his client could have a fair trial in a jury among his peers. But before the ruling is heard, the play makes an interesting observation. Both in the play and in real life, Garcia is asked in court if he is American born. He replies, “My family has been living in Texas for over a hundred years, before some guy named Sam Houston moved down to Texas.” To me this is where the purpose of the play is underscored: Latinos have always shaped America, whether it was called America at the time or not.
“The purpose of this event is to spread awareness of Latino culture,” said Cristiana Cutz, 5th-semester psychology major, as well as the public relations officer at the Latino Student Association.
“I loved it,” said Francine Quintino, 3rd-semester psychology major, as well as Secretary of the Latino Student Association. “I saw it at CCSU it was a fun way to show Latino heritage.”
The play continues with the story of Andrea Perez, a Hispanic woman who argued against the anti-miscegenation laws so she could marry her black fiancé, Luisa Moreno, a labor leader already fighting for labor before Cesar Chavez, who lost her American citizenship. Following the story of Perez was another Latino who helped shape Latin America, Roberto Clemente, the Puerto Rican star of the Pirates who broke the Hispanic barrier for baseball like Jackie Robinson did for African-Americans. There was also a discussion on the way undocumented Latinos are often targeted by recruitment agencies to fight America’s wars, yet are told they don’t get a green card, as well as the 44 Latinos who have earned the Medal of Honor since the civil war. The play then went on to discuss Sylvia Rivera’s role as a transgender activist who helped launch the Stonewall Riots and America’s gay rights movement.
After the play, one left with a great understanding of how our country was founded not just by Latinos, but also those figures lost to history. Most people never heard of these figures before coming to the play, like Abeid Anslip, a 1st-semester biology major.
“I learned more about Latinos and this country than I ever thought,” Anslip said.