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The Dartmouth
June 17, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Nuestras Voces blasts Prop. 209

The dramatic performance group Nuestras Voces effectively attacked discrimination and recent efforts -- such as Proposition 209 -- to roll back affirmative action programs, during last night's powerful performance of El Teatro de la Esperanza's "Guadalupe."

Proposition 209, also known as the California Civil Rights Initiative, is a ballot referendum passed by voters in California on Nov. 5. Proposition 209 would ban the use of race as a criterion in employment, and prohibit affirmative action programs.

Electricity crackled in the Collis Common Ground as the student-run Latino theater group performed the play, which was selected from a collection of Latino works called "Necessary Theater," edited by Jorge Huerta.

A cast comprised of freshmen, sophomores and juniors, many of whom took on multiple roles, re-enacted the story of a group of Chicano parents who battled against discrimination and abuse in the Guadalupe, Calif. school system. The play opens and closes during the same scene -- a parent-teacher meeting that took place on March 16, 1972.

In a scene set in the school supervisor's office, two parents (Micaela Diaz '00, Marcos Leiva '00) are protesting the school's treatment of their children. They demand an explanation for the lack of forks in the school cafeteria.

The supervisor (Alfonso Ballesteros '00) explains that the school was trying to respect Chicano culture by letting the children eat with their fingers -- as well as prevent them from stabbing one another. The parents, in horror, cry out that if the schools truly cared about their culture, they would provide bilingual teachers.

After the parent-school meeting, all the leaders of the parent committee are subsequently jailed, placed on probation, or both.

The actors made up for the minimal stage props with their animated performances. Lydia Garcia '99 and Sandra Martinez '99 as wide-eyed gossips and Amir Abu-Khalil '98 as the town sheriff with the thick Southern accent provided some comic relief.

However, much of the play's dialogue was in Spanish and may have confounded some non-Spanish speaking audience members if it were not for the occasional reiterations of lines in English.

Maria Simental '97, the director of the play, said she wanted a play that dealt with the American education system. She said she was astounded by the similarities between a decades-old play and an issue hounding the country in the present.

In the play's final scene, Diaz cried out, "... if it's a crime to fight for the education of our children ... then let them put us all in jail!" Simental added, "Denounce Proposition 209!"

Simental, at the end of the performance, reminded the audience that while Proposition 209 may be law in California, similar initiatives are currently undergoing consideration in 15 other states.