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The Philadelphia Inquirer
A Celebration Of Tradition: A Theater Company Uses A Festival Performance To Educate Its Audience About Latino Culture
By Gloria A. Hoffner
November 24, 2002
Dressed in the multicolored, handwoven clothing native to Guatemala, the actors of Ecos del Pueblo took the stage to perform two stories from Latin America.
The show was part of the Media Fellowship House Festival of Myth, Folklore and Story held recently at Media Elementary School. The theater company was formed Feb. 5, according to Monica Rodrigo, company president. This was its first Delaware County performance.
"We want to bring theater with Latin American roots to the Delaware Valley," said Rodrigo, who lives in Media. "The mission of Ecos del Pueblo is to educate the community about Latino issues through dramatic arts and to create a bridge of understanding between all the different cultures in the U.S."
Ecos del Pueblo - which means Echoes of the People - is a Latino theatrical organization that operates under Raices Culturales Latinoamericanas, a nonprofit cultural organization in North Philadelphia. Theater-company members range in age from 9 to 60 and live throughout the Philadelphia region, Rodrigo said.
"We have a lot of people interested in theater, some with experience and some learning. I want Latinos from around the Delaware Valley to join us," she said.
Rodrigo is a native of Peru, where she studied theater at the Catholic University of Peru. At the Fellowship House event, Rodrigo narrated two stories, alternating every paragraph between English and Spanish.
The first story performed was the book Abuela's Weave by Omar S. Castaneda. The second was a folk story of the legends of the Taino, the Native Americans of Puerto Rico.
Miguel Rosado of Northeast Philadelphia directed Abuela's Weave. The stage props included handmade, cardboard renderings of a village hut, a tree and a bus as well as bright, original weavings from Santiago de Atitlan, a town on the shore of Lake Atitlan in Guatemala.
Abuela's Weave is the story of a grandmother with a birthmark on her left cheek. Teased about the mark as a child, she covers her face in public as an adult.
Played by Magarita Vera of North Philadelphia, the grandmother teaches her granddaughter, played by Genesis Cordoba of Northeast Philadelphia, how to weave. The two go to a crowded market to sell the weavings.
Once they reach the market, the grandmother, afraid the crowd will not buy weavings from a woman with a birthmark, leaves the granddaughter alone. The shy youngster navigates the market, where her beautiful handmade items are well-received by the crowds.
When the grandmother learns how the buyers responded, she feels free to uncover her face and rides home from the market that way seated beside her granddaughter.
The cast returned to the stage to perform the Taino folk legend of a young girl, played by Andrea Montero, who becomes ill. A friend, played by Tatiana Caratini, searches the forest for a fruit that makes the girl well again.
Amy Hurley, an audience member from Media, enjoyed the performance.
"I liked how the story was acted out rather than just one person telling a story," Hurley said. "I also liked that it was multigenerational."