POST: 'La Gringa' - I felt myself holding back tears
What it's about?
A 22-year-old Puerto Rican girl born in the United States travels to Puerto Rico to meet her family for the first time. At first she is very touristy and takes photos of everything, while two of her family members make fun of her for doing it. She becomes close to some family members, but also has some hostile relationships with others.
What'd I experience?
When I entered the Repertorio theater, I was surprised to see that the theater was small. Since there are few Spanish speaking theaters, I was expecting a bigger theater. I sat in one of the back rows, and while I waited, I noticed that most of the people in the theater were high school students. There was a class trip! My first thought was annoyance, but my second thought was that I would've enjoyed going to this theater in my Spanish class.
A man stepped onto the stage and started the introduction of the play. He defined a few words such as gringa, coqui, and el yunque. I thought they were basic terms, but I wondered if it was more for the high school audience. He mentioned "while this a story is about a Puerto Rican girl, this story can be relatable across cultures." I knew exactly what he was talking about and I almost started crying.
The whole showed brought out the issue of feeling disconnected from a country that you grew up in verses the culture you were brought up in. The character felt so connected to Puerto Rico, but her family were still calling her a "gringa", a foreigner. Puerto Rico wasn't her home, America was. But in America, Maria dealt with issues like "looking too Puerto Rican."
In those moments, I felt myself holding back tears. I understood the struggle. I was recalling my times that I'd go to Mexico where people would call me "huera" because I was light skinned. This comment also came along with questions like "You're really Mexican?" "Are you adopted?" I would respond, "Yes." "No." Whether I was in Mexico or in America or even anywhere else, my identity was questioned. It's infuriating because all you want to do is feel connected to something, but there's also someone who is trying to invalidate who you are.
Another issue that was brought up in the play was the hostility that happens between families that go away verse families that stay in their home countries. While I don't remember this occurring in my family, I understood the dynamics that they were talking about. There was an aunt that was mad at her sister (who lived in America) for taking her mom's grave to an area far away, all because she had "the money to do it." But in reality, it was the mom's wishes to be buried with the rest of her family.
This reminded me of my family in Mexico. We do the same in my hometown, where we bury the family members together. Even my grandpa, who moved to America, was flown back to Mexico to be buried there. Sometimes I wonder if I would like the same to be done... but then I remember how I feel about the idea of burials - that I'd rather be turned into ashes.
*Fun fact: the play was written by a young audience member who had gone to see another play at this theater. At the end of this show, the man who introduced the play came back and encouraged us to send a play to the theater.