Un Llanto Colectivo: A Public Outcry of Theatrical and Ceremonial Resistance
In México, Guatemala, Honduras and other Latin American countries, masses of indigenous peoples are forced to leave their homelands resulting from, and aggravated by, the history of civil war in Central América, gang violence and drug cartels, and the loss of sustainable lands due to NAFTA and governmental collusion and corruption. When these families reach the U.S. and Mexican border they are met with a militarized police force, incarceration and separation from their loved ones.
On September 15 and 16 of this year, some forty mujeres coming from the four directions and across four generations, participated in “Un Llanto Colectivo,” a public outcry of theatrical and ceremonial resistance against ICE and in support of refugees detained along the Tijuana-San Diego border.
Las Maestras Center for Xicana Indigenous Thought & Art Practice of UC Santa Barbara, in solidarity with the Otay Mesa Detention Resistance Committee of Pueblo Sin Fronteras, which is comprised of community members from the greater San Diego and Tijuana areas, took action in the form of ceremonial prayer to shed light on the atrocities that are systematically internal to contemporary immigration in the Americas.
“Un Llanto Colectivo,” is a ceremonial, theatrical and community-based action, inspired by the original 16th century story of the iconic Mexican mother –“La Llorona:’ The Weeping woman cries out in mourning, anticipating the loss of the children of the native people that once inhabited what is known today as modern day Mexico, to the Spanish invasion. She is not the evil figure that Spanish-America has conjured. Instead, she laments, “My children, where can we go? My children, where will I take you?
As artists, actors, writers, danzantes & sahumadoras, teachers & activists, we were utterly changed by our experience, in San Diego, working collectively with one another and the organizers of the Otay Mesa Detention Resistance Committee.* Observing OMDR’s dedication, commitment, and tireless efforts to meet the ever-growing needs of detainees and their families, required us to look at our own lives — its privileges and our respons(e)abilities toward nuestros pueblos del sur.
Weeks before the protest, some of us — joined OMDR to meet with young people who had traveled “la bestia” and “las caravanas,” but were forced to remain in Tijuana, unable to qualify for asylum on the U.S. side of the border. We saw that they were no more than the age of many of our undergrads; some already mothers. They were single young men (some two-spirit) and fathers forced to leave their children. Everyone had stories much older than their years.
Most of us had arrived late Thursday night. We spent one 12-hour day on Friday in training (rehearsal) and on Saturday in protest at the Downtown ICE Detention Center. But Sunday, Mexican Independence Day (9/16), was especially impactful, when we took our “Llanto” to Otay Mesa Detention Center, a desolate location 25 miles southeast of San Diego.
We entered the surrounding area ceremonially, carrying the sacred fire, with warrior drums holding down the pace of the procession. We followed the staffs of our female elders, Elvira Colorado and Hortencia Colorado, and the footsteps and birdsongs of Stan Rodríguez of the local Kumeyaay. Refugee testimonios were then rendered theatrically by our cadre of teatristas, accompanied by a coro of students and community, culminating in our collective outcry with every hope that the detainees inside the Center could hear us. Then the call finally came in, where we were able to hear the smuggled voices of detainees (reverberating through huge speaker system) thanking us for our offering. “Compañeras,” one man called us and the word resounded in each of us with new and resolute meaning.
“You are not alone,” we promised back. “No están solos.”