Inspiring. Enraging. Heartbreaking. Exhilarating. Cara Mia’s current show: Crystal City 1969 will catch you off-guard. I confess that I was unfamiliar with this incident in Crystal City, Texas (unlike Stonewall, Ferguson, Little Rock) where high school students protested blatant, brazen, unconscionable discrimination from teachers and administrators alike. Not that Texas has ever led the way when it came to issues like civil rights, but even for a school operating in the Bible Belt, in 1969, the transgressions of those in authority were particularly egregious. Students were paddled for speaking Spanish, refused equal participation in school activities (though they outnumbered Anglos) shamed, humiliated and verbally abused in the classroom by teachers, punished for protesting or even signing petitions. Some young men were even sent to the front lines of the Vietnam War, made cannon fodder for the sheer audacity of objecting to unfair treatment.
Somewhat similar to The Laramie Project, Crystal City 1969, shows a myriad of characters and situations. The toxic effect of diminishing and degrading ethnicities and races perceived as “the other,” by those in power. We are privy to the home lives of the students, parents, Latinos, Anglos, no one is demonized or canonized. If anything the commonplace occurrence of unchallenged racism and imperialism is made palpable. None of the white people are made to look like The Grand Dragon or Simon Legree, but the gratuitous hostility, the remarks like, “I thought you were one of the good ones,” illustrate the disgusting way a culture indoctrinates its members to seek comfort and validation by subjugating others. Again and again we see individuals ignored, knocked down or eliminated lest they begin to act on their self-esteem. Even the most reasonable requests for decent humanity is met with arrogance and abuse.
Whenever a play seeks to examine the nature of prejudice, civil rights, the countless ways human beings find to justify beating and lynching and exterminating one another (In White America, Bent, The Diary of Anne Frank) the risk is stacking the deck, on one side or the other. Jason might have treated Medea like drek, but he still gets to tell his side of the story. Playwrights David Lozano and Raul Trevino have avoided this entirely. Crystal City 1969 is not distorted or amplified. It tells the story of Latinos in a small, provincial Texas town, where bigotry is so ingrained in Anglo behavior, that it must be fought, without stooping to their level. Cara Mia Theatre and this wonderful cast (and adroit director David Lozano) have crafted a deeply moving, powerful, stirring narrative of the triumph of humanity and spiritual abundance when we genuinely care for and look out for one another. I think Jesus said something like that, didn’t He?
Cara Mia Theatre presents Crystal City 1969, playing September 24th – October 16th, 2016. Latino Cultural Center. 2600 Live Oak Street, Dallas, Texas 75204. 214-516-0706. CaraMiaTheatre.org.