The Politics and Histories of Mexican and South American Theater - Sample Essay

Drama and theater have been on the earth in one form or another since the early days of humankind. Often, the themes and ideologies and conventions present in world theatrical movements are shaped and designed based on the specific infusion of particular histories of a particular geographic area and culture. Accordingly, different cultures and geographic areas will see their theatrical styles evolve in a different manner from one another. Historically, Mexican theater has stronger evolutionary ties to the United States than other styles of South American Theater.

Many of the great Mexican playwrights created their material in the United States and expressed an ideological identity that crossed both borders and ethnicities to a far stronger degree than other South American theatrical movements. Mexican American theater revived in 1965 with the founding of El Teatro Campesino, whose success stimulated the rise of a generation of Chicanoqv theater groups. Several significant groups emerged in Texas. Unlike its appeal to a broad spectrum of the community during the early years of the century, Hispanic-American theatrical activity now addressed a small portion of the Mexican-American population.

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The groups in Texas were organized around amateur performers, as El Teatro Campesino had been. Teatro Chicano de Austin presented actos, that is, short skits modeled after those originated by Valdez. Like other student groups around the country, this group became an integral part of the Chicano movement in Texas. Teatro de los Barrios, formed in 1970 in San Antonio by college and high school students and community members, prepared and produced in 1973 El Alamo: Our version of what happened. (Ramirez)

This is not to infer that one methodology of dramatic style is better than another, but rather it merely infers that external pressure and history within a given geographic area will yield different artistic movements that are indicative of the people of the region. In the case of the history of Mexican theater, Mexicans and Mexican-Americans forged a The Politics and Histories of Mexican and South American Theater Pg 2 very specific style of theater that, while sharing certain similarities with its neighbors in South America, also has a great number of differences from its neighbors as well.

Again, this is not to say one is better than the other, only that certain differences exist based on the respective histories of each nation and that is what will be examined here. One of the more unique aspects of Mexican (and Mexican-American) theatrical styles and history is the fact that because Mexico shares a border with the United States, there is a fusion of ideas that derives from the close and sometimes tumultuous relationship between the two nations.

This does not mean that Mexican theater is purposely antagonistic towards the United States or has an underlying theme that always connects Mexican theatrical heritage to the United States, but rather that because there has always been a close relationship between the population in the United States and the population in Mexico, there will be many themes present in Mexican theatrical productions that reflect this relationship as seen in the following:

In 1971 Luis Valdez published a collection of “actos” to be used by Mexican American community and student theater groups. He also supplied the groups with several theatrical and political principles. Included among these were the ideas that Mexican Americans must be seen as a nation with roots spreading back to the ancient Aztec and that the focus of the theater groups should be the Mexican American people. Valdez’s vision of a national theater that created art out of the folklore and social concerns of Mexican Americans was successful.

The Mexican American theater movement reached its peak in 1976. (Anon) Note that there is a clear mention of political themes present in Valdez’s works. Now, the mere inclusion of political themes is not inherently exclusive to theatrical productions that originated in Mexico as politically themed plays can be found in all cultures throughout history; however, the nature of the political themes will vary from culture to culture, society to society. The Politics and Histories of Mexican and South American Theater.



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