Production questions history’s ‘facts’

University alumni add to Teatro del Pueblo’s three-part production

Katie Wilber

History is often told from one point of view. In conflict or in war, the victors record the history. And with the opposition repressed, following generations are taught only a portion of what really happened.

Teatro del Pueblo plays with this idea. It presents “¿Historia?: A Latin American Version,” a trio of works that examine the history – truth and fallacy – of Latin America and Latinos.

“¿Historia?” grew out of the theater’s desire to showcase a historical view that differs from the more common Eurocentric perspective. The production, a work in progress since the first play was commissioned two years ago, gives non-Latinos an idea of the discrimination and challenges faced by Latinos.

“History itself is not cut and dried,” said artistic director and co-founder Al Justiniano. “We want to show that there can be no overarching ‘truth’ to history.”

The first play, “Echoes of the New World,” is the story of sisters who find a trunk that takes them back in time. They are then forced to reconcile their opposite views of their history. “Latinhood” uses music, poetry and monologues to present history as a young Latino man sees it. The final show, “Speak, America!,” looks at two corporate men trying to create a politically based television show.

“We’re trying to compress as much information as we can with hopes that it will inspire people to look further into the Latin American culture, story and people,” said Claudia Vazquez, a University alumna. “There’s so much to know that it’s almost impossible to take it all in.”

This is not the first Teatro del Pueblo production for Vazquez, a 2005 graduate of the University Guthrie Theatre Bachelor of Fine Arts training program.

“I wanted to work with Teatro del Pueblo because, even though I was receiving excellent classical training, I was not being nurtured as a nonwhite actor,” Vazquez said. “I had to look for ways to train myself in the world of performance that would comprise my artistic career.”

Of course, “¿Historia?” is again one person’s version of certain historical events. The question marks around the title signify the murkiness surrounding the history not just of Latin America, but also of the countries and the people who have played a role in the life of a nation.

In its 14th year, Teatro del Pueblo continues its mission to promote cultural pride in the Latino community, to develop and support Latino talent, to educate the community about Latino culture, and to promote artistic cultural diversity, Justiniano said.

“I believe that art is a venue by which people from all walks of life can express their humanity,” he said. “In times of political and social strife, theater takes a vital role in communicating ideas.”