Play sends a message

By Peter Boskey

One acting group brought the understanding of the pain of immigrants to campus by portraying one families plight.

Teatro Latino de Minneapolis performed the play “Help Wanted” Thursday at the Duke Ellington Ballroom at 7 p.m. The one hour play dealt with the struggles of an immigrant family from Mexico.

“It was very creative,” said Merelda Talavera, a junior criminal justice major. “I liked it very much.”

The Minneapolis-based theater group is composed of Dr. Dionicio Valdez, Joya Echevaria, Linda Caentu and Tristen Fuentes. The group has been performing for 21 years and many people have worked with the group.

“‘Teatro Latino’ isn’t as big as it used to be because the Chicano movement has died down,” Dr. Valdes said. “More people prefer to go to the dinner theaters now.”

The play was based on a real strike that occurred in Minneapolis three years ago. Two women illegally come to Minneapolis to find work. They tried to hitch a ride with a “coyote,” or someone to help them over the Mexican border, but they were unsuccessful. So they walked, finally arriving in Minneapolis. The women were thrilled at all the “Help Wanted” signs in the windows, and they settled on the first job they were offered at a hotel. For minimum wage, they were expected to clean the most rooms in the least amount of time possible. When they were fed up and decided to join the union, the manager called the U.S. Immigration Service and turned them in. They spent a few nights in jail waiting to be deported.

Then union groups, the church and the community helped the two women and fight their case. Together, they won.

“These women changed the law,” said Tristen Fuentes, an actor in the group. “Now everyone is protected in the workplace, even if they are undocumented.”

The members of “Teatro Latino” aren’t theatre majors, but they have learned to act from years of acting with Teatro Latino de Minneapolis.

People that have joined “Teatro Latino” have been politically – motivated or artistically – motivated,” said Linda Caentu. “And some have been both.”

All of the members helped write the play collectively. They used real news stories taken from the St. Paul Pioneer Press and the Minnesota Star Tribune.

“Some of the lines in the play were pulled exactly from the sources,” said Dr. Valdez.

“Teatro Latino” proved to not only put on a great performance but send out a message as well.