Rasquachismo, Mobility, El Teatro Campesino, and a Pelado Migration Journey by Javier Cienfuegos
La Calavera: Bueno pelado, did you like the United States?
Jesus Pelado Rasquachi: NOOOO!
The final lines of La Carpa de los Rasquachis
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” (El Teatro Campesino).
In the early period, their work was migratory; it was used to facilitate the NFWA’s organizing efforts throughout California, and as such, it had to be easily movable and adaptable to a variety of locations. For El Teatro Campesino, mobility was central to its identity as the people’s theatre. In other words, El Teatro had to be just as migratory as the campesinos that it hoped to represent both onstage and politically. Beyond the Teatro’s own ambulatory nature, the theme of mobility also extends into El Teatro’s stage works.
In their play La Carpa de los Rasquachis (adapted for PBS television as El Corrido), El Teatro Campesino highlight the migration journey of the allegorical figure of Jesus Pelado Rasquachi from central Mexico to the United States to the end of his life in urban California. In this Mexican everyman tale, El Teatro Campesino explores the restrictions on the mobility of Mexican migrants by poverty, the state, agribusiness, addiction, and more.
In this project, I aim to use El Teatro Campesino in order to explore its ensemble both as commentators on the subject of mobility and its restriction in the Mexican/Chicano community, and as experts on the use of subversive mobility in the aesthetic execution of their work.
In my theoretical analysis, I will be engaging with work by Yolanda Broyles-Gonzales, whose book, El Teatro Campesino: Theater in the Chicano Movement places El Teatro Campesino within the performance genealogy of the traditional Mexican migratory “carpa.” I will also be using Tomas Ybarra-Frausto’s particular definition of Chicano aesthetics, or “Rasquachismo,” that provides for El Teatro Campesino’s adaptability and thus mobility as artists.
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