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Huerta - Sleeping Giants

Huerta - Sleeping Giants - Theatre Survey 43:1(May 2002...

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Jorge Huerta W HEN S LEEPING G IANTS A WAKEN: C HICANO T HEATRE IN THE 1960 S The term “Chicano” is as politically charged today as it was in the 1960s, when contemporary Chicano Theatre was born. No one can trace the etymology of the term, which is neither Spanish nor English, but it was adopted as a self- identifier by mostly urban, politicized Americans of Mexican descent during the period. To call oneself “Chicano” meant that you were neither Mexican nor “American” but, rather, someone who recognized the various forms of oppression your communities were suffering. Then, as now, Chicanos scorned people who identified themselves as “Mexican Americans,” dismissing them as middle-class conservatives who were more comfortable “blending in.” On the other hand, Mexican Americans shunned “those Chicanos” as rabble-rousers and troublemakers with undue grievances. There was a class distinction at play in which working-class Chicanos criticized middle-class Mexican Americans as “sell-outs.” To further complicate matters, recent émigrés from Mexico were Mexican, people with a clear cultural and national identity who had difficulty understanding why these two subgroups did not simply call themselves “Mexicans” and speak Spanish correctly. Although their issues were sometimes distinct, there was no discernable difference to their oppressors, and Mexicans, Mexican Americans, and Chicanos often found themselves the brunt of discrimination based solely on the color of their skin. (For this reason, I use the term “Mechicano” when discussing issues that pertain[ed] to all three subgroups.) Sociopolitical and identity issues fostered theatrical interventions in Chicano theatre of the 1960s, and representatives of Mexicans, Mexican Americans, and Chicanos are often found in the theatre of the Chicanos. Reflecting the colonial gaze turned inward, these subgroups search for a sense of “home” in a land that used to be home, a land in which they were the majority and Spanish was the official language, not a forbidden tongue. Chicano theatre has its roots in the Spanish-language theatre produced (since 1598) in what is now the United States. 1 In addition to the religious folk theatre performed for centuries in most Spanish-speaking churches and communities in the Southwest, secular performances began to develop in the eighteenth and nineteenth Theatre Survey 43:1 (May 2002) Jorge Huerta holds the Chancellor’s Associates Endowed Chair III as Professor of Theatre at the University of California, San Diego. He is also a professional director and a leading authority on contemporary Chicano and Latino theatre. Huerta’s latest book is Chicano Drama: Performance, Society and Myth (Cambridge University Press, 2000).
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centuries. New Mexicans, for example, delighted in historical plays/pageants on horseback that demonstrated their military prowess over their enemies. One play frequently cited is the outdoor spectacle on horseback Los Comanches , which dramatized the Spanish defeat of the Comanches between 1777 and 1779.
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Huerta - Sleeping Giants - Theatre Survey 43:1(May 2002...

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