Yucatecan actress and playwright Conchi León had her hopes of a Chicago debut squashed by U.S. immigration officials when they denied visas to the cast and crew.
León, who is originally from Merida, had planned to see “La Tía Mariela” staged Saturday at the International Latino Theater Festival.
“We built a new set design for this production, so it could be more travel friendly. We’ve been rehearsing for a long time with our band and the cast, we even turned down gigs to commit to this,” León told NBC News, in Spanish.
But the Monday before the curtain was to rise, she learned the Mexican cast and crew were denied touring visas.
“We are sad to announce that we have had to cancel the performance of La Tia Mariela due to circumstances beyond our control,” the National Museum of Mexican Art tweeted.
“I think the argument is absurd and out of place because my work of 20 years is precisely known for its cultural footprint,” said León.
It is not clear why the visas were denied. The immigration services agency does not comment on individual cases.
The debacle is a lost opportunity for audiences in the United States to learn about Yucatan.
León’s play is centered around three women from Yucatan who come together in the wake of their aunt’s death to remember her legacy. Along the way, the women end up honoring the legacy of all their “tías” while talking about such timely topics as discrimination, violence, abuse, human trafficking and LGBTQ issues affecting women in Yucatán.
“We use humor as a framework discuss these topics,” said León. “As a Yucateca myself, I made sure to include a well curated selection of Yucateco songs, including some from world-renowned singer and composer Armando Manzanero. We include Mayan words and go deep into the cultural roots of Yucatan which are deeply Mayan and mestizo.”
León has written more than 30 plays, including “Mestiza Power,” which was nominated for the Heidelberg International Dramaturgy Award and translated by The Lark Play Development Center in New York. Her “Del Manantial al Aorazón” was recognized at the “Teatro del Mundo” Awards in 2016 as one of the best plays of the year. Both plays are being turned into films, according to the Chicago Latino Theater Alliance.
León’s work has been presented in London, the United States, Argentina, Spain, Chile, the Philippines and Germany.
“It’s important to remember that cultural manifestations are not only about artistic exchanges,” said León. “Hopefully authorities understand that art is a weapon loaded with poetry and culture, contributing to peace.”
Source: NBC News