In the 1960s and ’70s, left-wing student and guerrilla groups in Mexico rose up against the government in what has become known as la guerra sucia, or the dirty war. During this time, hundreds of suspected rebels were kidnapped, tortured and killed by the Mexican government. Now, decades later, participants in the war and their descendants continue to feel the ripples of this rebellion, and struggle with what the conflict means for them today.
This month, la guerra sucia will come to life for Calgarian audiences through a scenic documentary performance called El rumor del incendio (“Rumour of Fire”). The innovative performance will use videos, images, archival documents and scale models, as well as conventional theatrical scenes, to tell the stories of the revolutionaries, with a focus on Margarita Urías Hermosillo, a guerrilla fighter, political prisoner, historian and teacher.
El rumor del incendio was created by Luisa Pardo and Gabino Rodríguez, co-founders of Mexican theatre company Lagartijas Tiradas al Sol (Lizards Basking in the Sun), and Francisco Barreiro, all of whom also act in the performance. While Canadians may not be familiar with the dirty war, and though the story is told in Spanish with English subtitles, Calgarians will surely connect with Margarita’s fight for a better future for her country.
“We hope that Margarita’s story will resonate in the audience,” Pardo and Rodríguez write from Guatemala, where they are currently touring. “The reactions always depend on the context, if the audience is close or not to the violence of war, the poverty, the history in general. An audience is never predictable.”
But even within Mexico, many of the stories of la guerra sucia are unknown; children of the guerrilla fighters still may not be aware that their parents were involved. “Almost everybody is connected with the story,” explain Pardo and Rodríguez. “That’s why we must tell it: to build bridges between the generations.”
El rumor del incendio plays at the Theatre Junction GRAND from March 12-15.
By Sara Elizabeth Taylor
Photos: Andrea López