Written by Marco Flores
“Coming to terms with the suffering of others has never meant looking away from our own” (Cherríe L. Moraga).
It is hard to find the words to best describe this artistic encuentro, “Our Undocumented Lives,” which originated through Cherríe Moraga’s Chicano Teatro class at Stanford University. I recall the first time Maestra Moraga had approached me about doing some teatro work. “You’re a writer,” she said. “I know you’re sensitive enough that your orejitas can hear when there’s a good cuento to be told.” The idea of assisting with teatro work fascinated me. But I didn’t exactly know how my love for words could assist the artistas we’d be working with for the next ten weeks. Nevertheless, I understood that if Maestra “saw it in me,” it’s because there was a craft there for me to develop.
Maestra Moraga and I had discussed the significance of bringing the voces of undocumented gente to the stage; so entrevistas became essential to crafting stories that were not solely focused on DREAMers themselves but also intentional about giving artistic expression to our communities and familia. I collected stories of our undocumented gente, interviewing community and familia about their undocumented lives. Stories ranged of gente crossing the U.S.-México border to sueños that were lost at the frontera. I collected stories from many people living in the U.S. without papers, interviewing during our national encuentros, always taking advantage of any undocuqueer convening to gather those experiences of my own familia of jot@s.
This workshop production is about shedding light onto our own lives, the hidden and unnamed aspects of our lives that can serve as política. We have interviewed our familias for cuentos to share on stage, along with developing our own stories that could shed light on those “secrets” that remain hidden. It was all part of our artistic process; learning the basics of writing for stage, moving on the stage, and creating stories from oral histories. Each workshop involved various exercises, from intensive meditations to practicing “writing (with) our body.” Pero siempre con cuerpo and corazón at the center of our artistic expression.
Maestra kept reminding us what it meant to embody our cuentos, bring life to our words through the breath and heart and physical movement. In the process, we have learned to expose the wound that has caused us sufrimiento, what has been stolen from us as a gente – exposing the nightmare of the “American Dream.” We have learned to create meaning from those parts of ourselves that we have been taught to shame, silence, hide, and leave nameless. But, most of all, we have learned to be a collective esfuerzo. Arte has brought us all together. UndocuTeatro — documenting con lágrima and laughter, we bear witness to el anhelo profundo de nuestras familias, our youth, and ourselves.