As part of Latina Heritage Month, Mills College students welcomed San Juan Bautista’s Teatro Campsino, a non-profit Mexican Heritage Performing Arts Program, to learn about street protest theater.
The event was held on Sept. 10 in the Student Union, with over 35 people attending. Teatro Campesino, which translates to “Farm Workers Theater,” was founded in 1965 in Vallejo, California. This theatrical troupe was used as a basic tool for farm workers to create performances to address the “political [and] socioeconomic difficulties” inspired by their own life hardships.
“It [consists of] theater traditions passed on through generations to create social change,” explained Lakin Valdez, a performer for Teatro Campesino. “We can utilize our bodies to unleash impulses, and create images that are going to stand out in a protest.”
At one point during the event, students formed a circle that broke into a snake form, but students remained holding hands. They began to run around the room shouting different sounds, imitating animals and different laughs. It was to learn how to “forget about being normal,” said Valdez to the audience.
Abigail Orona, a senior at Mills, sat down after being part of the circle, but watched and laughed during the performance.
“My feet began to hurt, she said, “But I remained watching because I was really impressed of the energy in the room and I could feel it too.”
Kinan Valdez, brother of Lakin Valdez and also apart of the troupe, expressed his passion by explaining the concept of “El ACTO”, or “the act” — a one-act play, which he considers essential to street theater.
“A is to activate the spine to approach the problem, C to cultivate the heart, T to teach to learn, O to open the mind, S to serve social justice,” he said.
Ruben Gonzalez, also with Teatro Campesino, said that an important aspect of street theater is “to satirize the opponent.”
“Farm workers had to laugh at something that they could not really laugh at, it was a way for them to dominate their situation,” said Gonzales. “They incorporated satire to laugh, but also hinting at a solution.”
Toward the end of the night, students were given a political cartoon that they could reenact with props. The controversial political cartoon depicted a minute man, holding a whip as an undocumented immigrant was in the position of his horse.
First they re-enacted the cartoon, and then they hinted a social justice solution. Senior Yuritzi Gomez acted as a human rights lawyer and jumped into the “cartoon.”
Lilana Gonzalez, a sophomore at Mills, said, “I liked bringing the social justice into the cartoon…it made me feel that I was creating a solution underway.”
Kinan ended the evening with closure on what Teatro Campesino stands for within life.
“Solidarity is always a solution, we need to come into conscious with one another,” he said.