Students comment on the meaning of being Latino


By Jessica Cabe

Teatro Americano is Spanish for American theater.

The professional ensemble from Teatro Americano, a part of Latinos Progresando, performed the original play Equanimity in the Boutell Memorial Concert Hall in the Music Building. With October being Latino Heritage Month and LGBT History Month, this performance was a great opportunity for students to celebrate diversity.

Latinos Progresando is a community-based organization in Chicago founded by Illinois Congressman Luis Gutierrez.

“Teatro Americano is a youth program that uses theater as a tool for leadership development,” said Adrienne Lange, director of development at Latinos Progresando.

Emmanuel Gutierrez, co-artistic director for Teatro Americano, explained the history of the program. It began in 2004 with performances of non-original plays. He joined the ensemble in 2007, and it wrote and performed its first original play called Lotería. Since then, the ensemble has written and performed two plays per year and toured generally for one month at a time.

The performance served multiple purposes said Vanessa Segundo, research and project specialist at the Latino Resource Center. She said the play was sponsored by the Latino Resource Center, LGBT Resource Center and the Office of Admissions as an initiative to promote diversity on campus. The play was the last stop of the day for visiting student groups from area high schools and community colleges.

Equanimity dealt with themes of sexuality, alienation, modern media and, most importantly, how to take one’s grievances with society and create change. These themes were explored through five main characters: Sol, a progressive graffiti artist, played by Kerly Panora; Blaze, a closet bisexual struggling to make sense of his feelings, played by Martha Razo; Pulse, one of Blaze’s love interests, played by Alfredo Flores; Eunice, Blaze’s other love interest, played by Alexia Pardo; and Felipe, an illegal immigrant dealing with the gang-related death of his 8-year-old brother, played by Emmanuel Gutierrez.

These five characters and their relationships form a unique and relevant commentary on what it means to be Latino in today’s society. The play is so genuine because it was written by the Teatro Americano ensemble, made up of young Latino students.

“Writing is a group thing,” said Gutierrez. “We conduct interviews and surveys to make stories relevant.”