I just completed my residency at the CASA Latin American Theatre Festival, which took place between Oct 2-11 at the Barbican and Rich Mix. CASAI was selected to be a part of the CASA Artist in Residency programme and was mentored by CASA and given free access to the festival shows and events. It was 10 days of theatre, performance, fiesta and lots of learning.

The first hurdle was preparing for the Scratch Night and the very first public showing of my new Mexico-related play. The performance went well and I got some very good feedback from some trusted friends and colleagues as well as the CASA staff. Writer, performer and director Gaël Le Cornec served as my mentor for the project and her detailed input was also really helpful.

After much drinking and reviling, I interacted with lots of Latino and British-Latino artists. Most of the invited companies were from Mexico and it was fascinating to become more familiar with contemporary Mexican theatre and performance. From the wild and earthy “Apart” by Colectivo Alebrije, to the political and stunning “I’ll melt the snow off a volcano with a match” by Lagartijas Tiradas al Sol about the 70 years history of the PRI party in Mexico. It was also a joy to see the enchanting “The Love of the Fireflies” by Los Guggenheim (and discovering the brilliant writing of Alejandro Ricaño), the delightfully informal and joyous “Border Mass” by Goguz Teatro, plus many others. Not everything I saw was to my complete satisfaction, but it was all very different and refreshing.

Then there was the Mexico Day of Debate. We saw the documentary “Rosario” about Mexican politician and human rights activist Rosario Ibarra de Piedra. I’d never heard of this left-wing politician who was the first female candidate for President in Mexico; it spoke of the hidden “dirty war” that happened in Mexico during the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s (and to some degree, now). It was then followed by a very spirited debate among Mexicans, Latinos and others. It was cathartic to speak about the current security situation in Mexico, the human rights abuses and how dissatisfied we are with the current government. It also made me realise how much class has to do with the situation, and how, as a middle class Mexican, I’ve even helped perpetuate some of it. Lots of food for thought.

I also participated in a week-long workshop with the Colectivo Alebrije and the other Artists in Residence. It was a week spent talking about what it means to be Latin American in the UK, how that’s affected us, who we are, who we used to be, where we came from, etc, etc, etc. The workshop culminated in a public performance/sharing. It was scared to death, but it ended up being a lovely experience.

This all got me thinking about my Latin American heritage and how little it has influenced my work and my day to day life. Mixing with so many native Spanish speakers during the festival got my mind working in a different way, I even started speaking Spanish to English speakers randomly. Weird.

I definitely think a lot of this experience will rub off on me and my future work. Exactly how, I’m not sure, but change is in the air…

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