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Latino/a Mobility in California History

Genevieve Carpio, Javier Cienfuegos, Ivonne Gonzalez, Karen Lazcano, Katherine Lee Berry, Joshua Mandell, Christofer Rodelo, Alfonso Toro, Authors
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La Carpa de Los Rasquachis: A Pelado Migration Journey by Javier Cienfuegos


El Teatro Campesino was established on the Delano grape workers’ strike’s picket lines in 1965. It grew naturally from the “Huelga” movement of the National Farm Workers of America (later the United
Farm Workers of America) and eventually came to (in their own words) “set the standard for Latino theatrical production in the United States.”

This exhibit's primary concern is with the representation of mobility in the work of El Teatro Campesino, primarily in the play La Carpa de Los Rasquachis (and in particular its adaptation for PBS as El Corrido, or El Corrido de Jesus Pelado Rasquachi).

Media 1

La Carpa de Los Rasquachis tells the story of one man's immigration and labor journey, beginning with his impoverished roots in central Mexico and ending with his death as an old man in urban California.

Along the way, he faces several moments where his mobility is restricted both by circumstances and by figures of authority, a common phenomenon in 20th century Latino history.

In the set of scenes presented below, three different examples of restricted mobility are provided, each with historical precedent.

First, the protagonist (Jesus Pelado Rasquachi) wants to find a job, but he is both unable to do so in Mexico, and unable to pay for his own travel to the US-Mexico Border. He must borrow money from El Diablo (from the imagery and implications, he represents a major gangster or organized criminal). This exemplifies the experience of poverty push factors taking people away from Mexico, the ideal idea to return to Mexico after making money, and the pull of the United States' labor force.

Second, Rasquachi experiences difficulty crossing the US-Mexico border. He does not have a pre-existing contract, and therefore he can not cross the border as a Bracero worker, and he does not have American currency to bribe border officials. Finally, he pays money to a smuggler who takes him across the border illegally; the smuggler, then functioning as a labor contractor, recruits him to work for a rancher who pays him little and infrequently, and provides poor working conditions.

At the end of the story, Rasquachi and his family are told to "stay on this side" of the freeway, thereby drawing the boundaries of their mobility through infrastructure as is reflected in the store told by Eric Avila's Folklore of the Freeway, particularly when concerning the boundaries of East Los Angeles (the Mexican/Chicano neighborhood of LA), where it is heavily implied that the Rasquachis are. The conditions of urban poverty and urban crime lead the members of their family to welfare and prison, while the white-dominated education system leads other members to marriage out of the Latino community (and a rejection of Mexican roots) and mainstream college education (also leading to a rejection of Mexican/Chicano roots).

Media 2

This map maps out the physical space concerning the events presented in the above clips, and the events therein. While not all of the place names are explicitly stated throughout the play, some of them can be surmised by applying historical texts to a reading of the play (i.e. presuming East Los Angeles both by visual cultural signifiers, with La Muerte playing a stereotypical Cholo, and by reading into "this side of the freeway").

Media 3

These photographs show images of El Teatro Campesino's earlier work, specifically from 1966. They represent a significant amount of mobility on the part of the group, and their ability to pack their work and transport it with them, an important tool in organizing and representing migrant communities. It is also evidence of the 

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