Luisa Calcumil's 1987 solo show, Es bueno mirarse en la propia sombra is a plea for the preservation of Mapuche indigenous culture in the face of the homogenizing forces of globalization. 

The play opens with Calcumil's voice in the dark, introducing herself in the Mapuche language as 'a person of the earth.' We then see her as a grandmother singing in Mapuche and being killed by white invaders who destroy indigenous land and build nuclear dumps. Next is the story of Julia and her mother: in dire financial straits, Julia's mother is forced to send Julia to work in the city as a maid. After many years, she goes back for her, only to find out she?s left her job and given birth to a boy. Calcumil then transforms into Julia, dancing to pop music, wearing flashy clothes. Julia constantly tells herself, 'You're so beautiful, Julia!' 'Why think?' 'Your skin is whiter!' She wants to forget she was raped, forget where she came from, forget she is Mapuche. But even as she calls herself Julie and gets a Western education, her dead grandmother appears in her dreams singing traditional songs, relentlessly reminding her that she can't deny her roots.

This video documents Calcumil's performance at the Teatro da Cidade in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, as a part of the 5th Encuentro of the Hemispheric Institute of Performance and Politics, titled Performing Heritage: Contemporary Indigenous and Community-Based Practices

Elvira and Hortencia Colorado, Chichimec Otomi storytellers, playwrights, performers and community activists are founding members of the Coatlicue Theatre Company. Based in New York City, they are also members of danza Mexica Cetiliztli, New York Zapatistas and the American Indian Community House. 'Caracol, Corazón de la Tierra, Flor de la Esperanza' was created after the Colorado sisters lived and worked with communities in five autonomous municipalities in Chiapas, México. Their text is weaved from the voices of the Zapatista indigenous women they encountered. It is a collage of their thoughts, stories and music: the fire of their resistance, struggle and hope for a better future. This play was performed at the Francisco Nunes theater in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, as a part of the 5th Encuentro of the Hemispheric Institute of Performance and Politics, titled Performing Heritage: Contemporary Indigenous and Community-Based Practices.

Published in Coatlicue: Works
Tuesday, 29 June 2010 16:56

Holding Up the Sky Excerpts (2006)

Holding Up the Sky is a series of theater skits addressing issues of borders and immigration at work in indigenous communities, ranging from the grotesque to the poignant, from the deeply personal to global issues devastating their communities. Distinctive elements of this performance are the use of humor in storytelling and the participation of audience members to 'hold up the sky' as inspired by Mayan mythology. Muriel Miguel (Spiderwoman Theater) contextualizes this event by talking about Coatlicue's long relationship with the American Indian Community House (, and the fact that this Indian Summer is the last series of performances at The Circle in the AICH's current location.

Published in Coatlicue: Works
Tuesday, 29 June 2010 15:46

Pamyua in Concert (2005)

Arctic's (from Alaska and Greenland) performance group Pamyua reinterprets modern traditions of the Inuit and Yup'ik Eskimo through storytelling, music and dance. Pamyua performs Yup'ik danced stories that portray the traditions of the Yup'ik culture in Southwestern Alaska. The quartet also harmonizes ancient and original music that redefine the boundaries of Inuit expression. Pamyua's mixes R&B, jazz, funk, and world music to create a unique new native style. The performances are very dynamic, ranging from traditional dances to Tribalfunk dances—worldmusic.

Additional Links

Pamyua in Concert (2005)
Interview with Pamyua (2005)
Pamyua on 2005 Hemispheric Institute Encuentro Website

Monday, 26 October 2009 21:08

Soledad y Esperanza (2005)

Fortaleza de la Mujer Maya (FOMMA) is run by Petrona de la Cruz Cruz and Isabel Juárez Espinosa in Chiapas, Mexico. Their programs educate indigenous women and children in Tzeltal, Tzotzil and Spanish as well as offering an extensive array of vocational skills and theater workshops. FOMMA also provides services like childcare, women's rights education and healthcare. Partly based on Isabel's life, their play Soledad y Esperanza is the story of two young indigenous sisters who have suffered physical and emotional abuse throughout their lives. Esperanza dreams of an education and of life in the big city. But her older sister Soledad denies her the chance to go to school and instead forces her to work as a maid for a dominating mestiza in the city. Despite the challenges she faces in this environment, Esperanza falls in love with Juan, the gardener. Once they're married, Juan and his new family return to his community, where he owns fertile lands that promise economic stability. Their happiness is short-lived, however, as Juan is brutally murdered by enemies who desire his property. Esperanza, alone and pregnant, sees no future in staying there. She decides to leave on an uncertain journey towards the border, dreaming of a better life.

Published in FOMMA: Works

"Prehispanic Cabaret" is an act of protest against multinational agricultural biotechnology corporations (such as Monsanto) whose introduction of genetically-modified corn into Mexican agriculture severely threatens the country's intangible cultural heritage by all but eliminating natural corn. "We are corn people," says writer, director and performer Jesusa Rodríguez, who has been politically active in in the uphill battle against the government-backed corporations. This cabaret, unlike most of Jesusa and Liliana's work at El Hábito, is largely non-verbal; it is Liliana's mordant lyrics that give voice to Jesusa's symbolic body onstage as she becomes an indigenous woman, a character in a codex, a peasant, and finally the figure of Death. "Cabaret Prehispánico" was performed at the Francisco Nunes theater in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, as a part of the 5th Encuentro of the Hemispheric Institute of Performance and Politics, titled "Performing 'Heritage': Contemporary Indigenous and Community-Based Practices." The performance is followed by a Q&A session, where Jesusa tells the audience that the Death character, besides throwing handfuls of corn up into the air and onto the stage, was also supposed to throw (fake) hundred-dollar bills -- except they were stolen at the airport. Jesusa also reveals that this show (performed only once before, in New York) marks the end of their 15-year trajectory at El Hábito. "There is an abyss behind us and an abyss before us, and we need to take a break to think about where we go from here," she says.

Published in El Hábito: Works
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