Written by DJ Lincks
With minimal props, satirical undertones and sensitive social issues, La Carpa Aztlan’s, I Don’t Speak English Only, is a play written and directed by Anthony J. Garcia and performed in the Mexican Vaudeville Tent Show tradition. It parodies issues primarily regarding race, sexuality and religion. Though the overarching themes of the play make for touchy topics of discussion, it makes no attempt to hide the humor that can be found within their stereotypes.
The play begins with an introduction from a production member, relaying some of the play’s background and history. In 1988, the Colorado government passed an amendment to the Colorado Constitution, making English the official language of the state. This, for the state of Colorado, meant that in order for their government to communicate legally, it must be done through English, and no one had the right to demand government-provided services in any other language. This establishes itself as the primary theme of the play.
Set in the year 2020, when all diversity, including the speaking of languages other than English and homosexuality are illegal practices, La Carpa Aztlan is one of the only remaining Mexican Tent Shows in the United States. Under close supervision, the play’s crew is constantly running from the “Cultural Police.” Given that their performances are spoken in Spanish, they are all liable to face time in jail. When a young girl stumbles upon the tent while getting lost on her school field trip, though reluctant at first, she joins the crew and goes on a journey of self discovery and awareness of her ethnic culture.
Flyer for La Carpa Aztlan’s, I Don’t Speak English Only
Front Range Community College faculty members Tino Gomez and Michelle Medeiros were in attendance for the play, bringing along students of their ethnic literature courses.
“We wanted to offer a learning experience outside the literature classroom,” said Gomez. “I left feeling guilty for some of the things I was laughing at.”
He elaborated on a particular scene in which his laughter caused perplexity on his moral compass. A makeshift border was created in order for one of the Mexican actors to cross, and immediately following his crossing in slow motion, with the famous theme music of Chariots of Fire playing in the background, he was given a leaf blower.
“I caught myself and thought should I be laughing at this?” asked Gomez. “It’s such a reality; we’re poking fun at truth.”
Later, Gomez resolved his feelings of guilt, coming to the conclusion that, through laughter, we are able to bring these issues into a new and more accessible light.
“Why not grab hold of what’s not changing and deliver it in a very powerful, perhaps comedic way, that makes it new?” asked Gomez.
FRCC student, Jeffrey Lee was also in attendance for the play.
“I thought it was wonderful, it was not only hysterical, but it said a lot about racism in general,” said Lee.
“Nothing was safe, nothing was sacred, they even made fun of themselves, which I think takes a lot of courage.”
When asked what the play’s message had meant to him, Lee mentioned that it made him face a reality of Latin American and Hispanic culture that he’s otherwise not accustomed to. As with Gomez, and though the two come from different backgrounds, a similar feeling of guilt was present.
“I think every white person in the audience should have felt guilt, it was all too real and made me feel a little uncomfortable, which I guess was the point.”
Through experiencing a different pedagogical environment, the students of Gomez and Medeiros were able to explore similar content that they are learning in the classroom in a new light, and attain a new perspective on such matters.