Su Teatro will open the Golden Season, a two-year celebration of Su Teatro’s 50th anniversary with the production of El Corrido del Barrio, October 7-24, 2021. The play with music, written and directed by Artistic Director Anthony J. Garcia, tells the story of the displacement of the Westside Chicano community in order to build the Auraria Higher Education Center.
The “Westside” was the home of Mexican-Americans from the 1920s through the late 1960s, many residents moved from rural communities in Southern Colorado to the urban environment as a survival method during the Depression. Many immigrated from Mexico to avoid the violence and poverty of the Mexican Revolution. The community was centered around the numerous churches in the neighborhood, the most prominent of which was St. Cajetan’s Church.
A Personal Story:
The inspiration for the performance was very personal as writer/director Garcia was born and raised on 9th and Champa Streets. He was baptized and received his first communion at St. Cajetan’s Church and attend St. Cajetan’s Elementary School for 8 years. While on his way to Su Teatro rehearsal Garcia passed through the neighborhood.
Garcia says “I walked down 9th Street and saw the empty houses and the boarded-up buildings. They once had life and families and memories, and it was now gone. When I walked into the rehearsal, I told the Teatro company members that we needed to do a play about the neighborhood. That night I wrote the words to the corrido “Aqui vivimos en el barrio de West Denver, trabajamos, lloramos y cantamos, porque somos todo que temenos” We live here in the neighborhood of the Westside, we work, we cry and we sing because we are all that we have. Those words are still in the play.”
In 1969 The city of Denver passed a bond referendum authorizing the Denver Urban Renewal Authority which allowed them to use the power of Eminent Domain to condemn and tear them down the houses in the neighborhood. The residents were moved out by 1972 and the demolition and construction began on what is now known as the Auraria Campus, which today houses the University of Colorado at Denver, Metropolitan State University of Denver and the Community College of Denver.
The Pain Steel Remains:
The displacement had a devastating effect on the Chicano community and the trauma continues to this day. A granddaughter of a displaced resident stated it more bluntly, “No one thinks they have a price. But everyone does. Even the church.” So, just like that, it was over. Saint Cajetan’s relocated … and the neighborhood dispersed, a Hispanic diaspora, scattered throughout the city, its suburbs, and even beyond.”
The contradiction of such a devastating loss and a life changing opportunity still resonates today. Garcia graduated from the UCD and is on the faculty of the Chicano and Chicana Studies Department at MSU Denver. El Corrido de Auraria became a signature piece for Garcia and Su Teatro as the company began to build its reputation throughout the theater world.
The production originally produced as a street performance in 1974 entitled El Corrido de Auraria, has evolved over time into a significant statement piece by Su Teatro. The play uses the format of the “corrido” a Mexican ballad tradition of sung storytelling. The corrido as a theatrical technique was further developed as part of the Chicano Theater Movement by Luis Valdez and the world famous El Teatro Campesino. Su Teatro took on this tradition as a means of creating outdoor mobile production with minimum sets and props.
The play, now called El Corrido del Barrio (The Ballad of the Neighborhood) then took its next step, 1982 with the production at the Slightly Off Center Theater on 15th St. The successful run led to an invitation for encore performances at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts. The play also had a memorable remount and a homecoming of sorts in 1998 at St Cajetan’s and in 2000 at the King Center (formerly St Cajetan’s School) on the Auraria Campus.
The Golden Season-50th Anniversary Celebration:
El Corrido del Barrio will kick off a two-year celebration of Su Teatro’s founding. The company was formed out of class taught by Rowena Rivera at the University of Colorado at Denver. The class began in January 1972, but the structure and impetus for the project began in 1971 as Rivera and Don Urioste at the Mexican-American Education Program saw this as a tool to recruit Chicano students into the University of Colorado.
The celebration will include readings of the more than 40 original works created by the company, and highlight nationally recognized playwrights the company has produced. These include Luis Valdez, Octavio Solis, Cherie Moraga, Rudolfo Anaya and others. There will also be tributes to the four acting pillars of the company Yolanda Ortega, Debra Gallegos, Angel Mendez-Soto and Manuel Roybal.
For information contact Su Teatro at (303) 296-0219 or [email protected]
El Corrido del Barrio runs October 7 -24, 2021. Performances are Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7:30 PM with a closing Sunday Matinee on October 24 at 2pm. Masks will be required and Covid-19 protocols may be expanded by performance date. [Organizer's description]