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(This post is part of the 2014 TCG National Conference: Crossing Borders {Art | People} blog salon, curated by Caridad Svich.)

And I’m a Playwright, and here’s my confession: I play at writing.

Let go of expectations. This is a piece of clay. It is meant for you to shape, use or push aside and call something (and thank you.)

There are also tones in here that may help illuminate the clay: the hues of US Passport Blue, Desert-Sunset Mauve, and Border Mexican Brown.

In honor of the 2014 TCG National Conference, and on the theme of “Crossing Borders”, I intend to cross some borders here doing the kind of play-writing I like to do.       

First a short overview of my background: I am by 19 of 33 years, a Border Welder (more on this label later). I lost my mother when I was a little girl, and shortly after her brother passed—and with him the only chance to ‘carry on’ a family name– I took to championing my mother’s maiden name proudly. This is important not only in that I can finally put to rest any ideas you might have about my connection to a famous Colombian (there is none), but also because when I write about borders, specifically Ciudad Juárez, I do it with the spirit of years of ancestry nestled in the ruins of an abandoned agriculture school on the Avenída Hermános Escobar. It is important for me to resuscitate the spirit of my great-great grandfather, Don Rómulo Escobar Zerman and of his father, Jesús Escobar y Armendáriz, the latter who was one of two Mexican mathematicians commissioned by President Lincoln to…

Oh I shouldn’t write it here. But keep your eyes peeled for my next online appearance.

The point being: I not only have a passion, but an inherent duty to think on, ruminate, and have positive opinions about the border, especially a border they worked so hard to build and maintain. My purpose in playing with words here is to share with you how I think re-imagining physical borders can help us think on the New America, how we can make a difference and also, how I came to define the Border Welders.

You are here. So let’s think about borders.

It helps to take a moment to think on any border that you know, recognize or identify with. It helps to look at a map. I find traveling with maps extremely useful; not only are they graphic facilitators providing us literal ‘wide-screen’ perspective; they are good story propellers. If you don’t have a map, create one.

Run your finger along the borders. North and South, East and West. Identify those created by mountain ranges, and those separated by water. If you’re feeling adventurous, draw a thick line where a tall wall divides the southern US from northern Mexico.

Ask questions about these places.

What stories exist there? Who knows them? How could the transference of stories (and, thus, culture) be affected by its socio-topographic reality? What about folk and myth and history and how have they manifested or may manifest into a collective future?

What place in this map do you occupy and where does that put you in relation to the rest of the world?

Take a moment to think about your heritage. If you are Latina/o—and I apologize for my tendency to be Mexican centric in this essay, but, that is what I am— if you are mestizo, then point to the places on the map that your ancestry traces back to. Is there an ocean between the two? Point your finger to what you recognize as home. What separates your home and the home of your ancestors? Is it water? Is it deserts? Is it waters, then deserts, then mountains? Think of invisible borders too. Language? Culture? Rituals of the dead?

Put aside your political animal, tuck away any thoughts or blurry headlines that may situate you, socially, to a place.  Think of the map, as it exists: allowing you to look at the bigger picture. Pull only from information that represents geographical features. Look at landmass. Do you see the Western Hemisphere?

Here you are.

The Americas: One elongated, yet unified mass of land; very separate and physically different from the Eastern hemispheric mass across the ocean. We are inhabitants of the Americas. If you are Latina/o—you are at the heart of the Americas. This heart is made-up of the molecular and bio-informatics of mestizaje (of mixture). This heart is made of a gift for assimilation paired with a respect for tradition and symbolic ritual. This heart is made of Mexico, the home of Shamans and of the largest concentration of hallucinogenic mushrooms in the world. This heart is made of enchanters and conquerors alike. This heart is made of a mixture of the best and the worst, but a mixture nonetheless. And If I’ve learned anything from being a lip- chap/gloss/stick lesbian, is that it is blending that creates the most vibrant effect.

After playing with maps, and words; after ignoring all borders, ignoring all politics, and mixing the histories of the Americas, from North to South and all the islands within, I realize that I am more convinced than ever: Latina/o writers are the enchanters of the Americas, and we can amalgamate stories from all sides of the borders in order to create the New American Theatre.

A cañón…Osea, ¿como?

Pues, here it is: we are not afraid to be irrational. We are not afraid to be fantastical. The use of the fantastical and mythological on stage fulfills a Latin American necessity for symbolic drama. This all stems from what Harold Eugene Davis, in his book Latin American Thought: A Historical Introduction, refers to as “The Era of Positivist and Evolutionary Thought.” The idea of Positivism was borrowed from Auguste Comte (1798-1857) whose “positive” principles were based on a view that history was evolving towards a completely humane stage. Although, he claims, European Positivism was more about rational social evolution, Latin American Positivism had humanistic symbolic/transcendental emphasis.  

Basicaménte, the philosophies of José Vasconcelos (The Cosmic Race), and Samuel Ramos (Profile of Man and Culture in Mexico) and even of my kin Jesus Escobar y Armendáriz fuel the following ideas: [Mexicanos] have the want, the need and the capacity to re-imagine history, to create alternatives and by doing so, reshape the forms of character and society. To quote William James, to ‘act and write as if what you do makes a difference’ creates transcendence. Alejandra Rangel, a writer from Nuevo Leon, Mexico writes a beautiful introduction to a collection of essays in which she speaks of Latin America and, specifically, Mexico as the ‘epitome of contradiction.’  She is convinced that it is through metaphors, magic, and language that our mestizaje is expressed. It is through these forms, she writes, that a writer’s literary creation becomes “a transformative possibility and [can] be a force to inspire dreams, propose utopias and name them so often that by the force of repetition, achieve reality”

I cling strongly to the idea of realization through repetition. Especially, because I firmly believe that writers perform minor magic and are a form of enchanters. I believe in the power of symbols and words and how the repetition, especially on the stage, can create a reality. (By the way, this is the foundation behind my advocacy for a violent-free representation of Mexico on our stages. I do not think it’s invalid, or that narratives of violence should not be created, I advocate for responsibility and I encourage the demystification of history through imagination and positivism rather than through the interpretation of violence, especially, along the border. But that, is an entirely different essay…)

An exploration into the positive-narrative, our Narratus Incantare, can only be secured by working in tandem with, what I call, Border Welders: The linkers of worlds.

It is imperative for the exploration of Latinidád and our role in the Americas to re-purpose our story building. The Border Welders maintain the links formed by imaginary and physical borders. We cannot attempt to hold the key to our unity in diversity without the contribution of the artists along borders.

The border, specifically El Paso (The Passage) Texas, is ripe with stories. As I’ve heard it recently described, El Paso “spoons uncomfortably” with its Mexican sister city, Ciudad Juárez. It is this proximity, this visual and metaphorical ‘spooning’, that makes this border confluent in nature; an energy that oozes out in the works of visual artists and muralists like Zeque Penya and Jason Lucero. The tenacious talent, hungry for creation, manifests in the works erected by Frontera Repertory Theatre and The Border Theatre. The ghosts of genocide fume around its slam poetry, and it is the croak of feminist Chicana slam poet “La Rana” and playwright Yadira De La Riva that paint this desert with color.

These are just a few artists from one border city. But I am hoping to reach out to all Border Welders from every point in the American territory. I am now pointing my words, my ears and my eyes towards you. Border Welder: Show up. It’s time. Show up to conferences, to conversations, to festivals. Show up to the square. Show up to the well. Bang loudly and weld proudly. Our collective gift as inhabitants of the Americas is the ability to pull stories that are capable of re-enchanting our nations out of our collective-history. Our gift as border welders is to keep the links strong between borders: real or imaginary.

And this is where the clay begins to harden. But don’t lose your place. You are still here. Before the clay sets, let me hydrate it a bit with this: Believe.

Believe that it is the amalgamation of minds and hearts that collide through events like the 2014 TCG National Conference and the 2013 Latina/o Theatre Commons National Convening, that will provide the practical models that we will inherit for the sustainable, and re-imagined transference of culture and knowledge

Believe that the maps we need to navigate today are those that provide us with digital territories—places like TCG Circle, HowlRound and Café Onda (to name a few)—that allow for the open investigation of creative Terra Incognita.

Believe.

If the creation of borders has made us believe in them, as abstract as they are; then let us believe in our capacity to re-define them as linkers-of-worlds and not dividers.

Let us believe that things like maps, mythos and stories can capture the ALL American wisdom that ultimately unites us. Believe that playing at words, that naming us enchanters and border welders can be catalysts at strengthening our links and celebrating our joint history.

…And now that I’ve crossed a few borders, and now that I’ve played with words and worlds, and now that your eyes reach for the next word and the next—as you hope and pray that the period is soon in coming—(it is)—I hope that, whatever side of the map your index finger landed on when you chose “home” didn’t matter; that somewhere in this claywriting, you found yourself re-thinking and wandering through the potential of unified stories, and that somewhere in your registry you have calibrated the idea of a New American Theatre.

And that’s a great place to start.


Georgina H. Escobar is a native of Ciudad Juarez, México currently living in Manhattan.

Escobar was awarded the “Outstanding Service to the Women of the Border” Award for her co-production of the Vagina Monologues: Spotlight on the Women of Juarez campaign in 2004. She is the recipient of The Kennedy Center’s National Playwriting Award: Theatre for Young Audiences 2011 for Ash Tree , which was also part of the 17th Annual ASSITEJ Festival in Malmö, Sweden and in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Professional affiliations include the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center (Lit Associate), the National Theater Institute (Instructor), American Theatre Magazine (Editorial), The Civilians (Translation), DNA Works (Arts Mang.) and Live Nation (Marketing).

She is currently working on finishing the book for a commission from Littleglobe’s musical COAL: Fable of the Firerock  with former collaborator Acushla Bastible, and composers Molly Sturges & Luis Guerra. She is a member of the Editorial Board for Cafe Onda and is part of the Latino Commons Steering Committee.

  • James Burnside

    As a foster parent with Hispanic teenage daughters I need to hear these stories.