Mezcla mixes Latino culture, politics, fun

Working for an election campaign, a politician’s assistant decides she must persuade a Mexican American to join the cause. The choices: a gangster, a farm worker and a revolutionary.

In the play “Los Vandidos,” a woman’s search for a token supporter serves to satirize stereotypes people have of the Latino community.

“It plays on all the stereotypes and brings to light a lot of things, like how people think if you’re Latino, you must be Mexican,” said Dinorah Sanchez , a Speech junior and organizer of the play. “It’s funny, it’s political, it’s a great retrograde play. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”

The play, written by playwright Luis Valdez, will be performed May 25 at Shanley Pavilion as the kick-off event for Mezcla, a Latino arts group formed this quarter. The group also will hold a “Latin Lovers” date auction Friday to raise funds for the play.

“The arts don’t have a color,” said Lucila Pulido, an Education freshman and co-founder of Mezcla. “It’s something everyone can relate to. The arts have this magical characteristic that can touch everyone.”

Pulido said she and Sanchez started Mezcla to give Northwestern a forum for theater written and performed by Latinos. But she hopes the group will expand to include music, dance and all types of art next year.

“We have a lot of enthusiastic members, and it was something we felt was about time to do,” Sanchez said.

For Pulido, the group will bring a sense of community to NU that she thought was missing when she first came to campus this year.

“Just coming here was a very iffy thing for me,” she said. “My neighborhood was 50 percent Latino, and the first thing I needed was seeing my people around me. So this is necessary.”

Weinberg junior Christina Saenz agreed that the group is essential if NU’s Latino population wants a presence on campus.

“Art is a form of social protest,” Saenz said. “As far as Latinos, we’re really small, and some people don’t want to focus on our issues. And so-called ethnic art gets marginalized — that’s the history you choose to look at. So you need to have some kind of arts alliance. We’re trying to branch out more.”

Saenz said that other minority groups at NU have successfully branched out with satellite groups.

“African American theater groups are really strong,” she said. “This allows for other voices. It gives a number of voices.”

Mezcla, which means “mix,” gives Latinos a chance to express differing opinions instead of speaking as one group, Saenz said.

“We have a voice as a group, and we also have a voice as individuals,” she said. “There’s the voice of the Puerto Rican, there’s the voice of the Chicana lesbian.”

Sanchez agreed that Latinos need more than one collective voice on campus. She also said she was in awe of the sense of community other groups have formed with satellite groups.

José Martinez, who plays a gangster in the play, said Mezcla gives an alternative for Latinos who might not want to join Alianza.

“It’s another thing that a group of Latinos can do to get together,” said Martinez, a McCormick sophomore.

But Sanchez said the group isn’t just for Latinos.

“It’s definitely not exclusive to Latino students, and it’s not just about theater either,” Sanchez said. “But we definitely want Latinos to have a presence in all aspects of life at Northwestern.”