Art & Culture

El Teatro Campesino: A Little Piece of Home

Thanks to a mini-grant from the Community Foundation for San Benito County, SBHS students attended El Teatro Campesino's production of "La Carpa de los Rasquachis," a play that reminded one student of her family's values and roots.
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This article was contributed by San Benito High School senior Denisse Mendoza Hernandez.

El Teatro Campesino is a theater company founded by Luis Valdez during the 1965 Delano Grape Strike as a form of entertainment and encouragement for the picketers.

Since most farm workers were illiterate, Valdez dedicated his time to writing one-act plays that incorporated meaningful messages for the farm workers through visuals and song. Farm workers were encouraged to perform in these one-act plays, or actos, even if they had no past theater or performing experience. Since then, El Teatro has continued to bring meaning and life to the actos and still encourages anyone to join.

One of the actos that Valdez wrote is titled “La Carpa de los Rasquachis” or "The Tent of the Underdogs."

Its final draft was written in 1976 and follows the journey of farm worker Jesus Pelado Rasquachi, whose chance at living the American Dream comes by way of becoming a bracero. Braceros were Mexican males that came to the United States to work in the labor force during World War II, while American males fought in the war.

Although the Bracero Program was a legal program that agreed to by the United States and Mexican governments, it's guidelines and rules were set by farm owners, who often treated braceros as they pleased. Low pay along with long hours of labor and bad housing became some of the main issues affecting braceros.

These are major key points throughout “La Carpa de los Rasquachis” that lead to Jesus standing up to his boss and joining La Causa, the movement led by Cesar Chavez to get farm workers better pay and working conditions.

On Wednesday May 2, students from San Benito High School's Mexican-American history class were given the opportunity to go watch a performance of “La Carpa de los Rasquachis” at  the El Teatro's Playhouse in San Juan Bautista thanks to a mini-grant from the Community Foundation for San Benito County.

The play moved along through songs played by musicians while people onstage acted out the drama filled and sorrowful story that ended on a victorious note.

The days leading up to the performance and the day of, I expected to go watch a performance but I got so much more than that. I personally know of people who have gone through what Jesus had.

My family lived that story. Suddenly the acto became personal and El Teatro did for me what they have been doing for many people for over 50 years. They reminded me of my values and roots.

From the religious aspects to the language used, I was transported back to Mexico. It reminded me that I was where I am now because of the struggles and efforts that my family made for me to have a better life than the one they had. They created a future where anything I dreamed of doing could be done as long as I did not give up, and I worked as hard as they did, which is what I plan to do.

"La Carpa de los Rasquachis" is not only a moving story of a man trying to make it in America, it is the life of many immigrants in the past, present, and future.     

The review was written by reporter and high school senior Denisse Mendoza Hernandez. Denisse plans to study anthropology in college.


SBHS Mexican-American history class

Students enrolled in San Benito High School's Mexican-American history partnered with the San Benito Arts Council's on-going Veterans Voices Project last year to produce a book about local, Latino veterans. During the Fall and Spring semesters, students will honor the voices of our local, Latino veterans. In addition to the arts council, other project partners include: Community Media Access Partnership (CMAP); Voices of Witness; and BenitoLink. A community-wide event scheduled for May 2018 will showcase Latino Veterans Voices of SBC Project and provide the public the opportunity to meet the students and the vets who participated in the project.