Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Cartoon 12: Schizophrenia (Fronterizos Series #3)

Now, the Fronterizos process has come to an end, and much to my amazement we did it!  In a month, we, seven folks from around the world, produced and toured a 30 minute long street theater piece with the theme of Borders that included elements of circus, dance, social commentary, and lots and lots of wooden boxes. Ha! We created our portable set using about 70 huacales, wooden boxes that are part of everyday life here, used in the market to transport fruits and vegetables, in homes used as tables and chairs and shelves and anything else that one could imagine.  We did 4 showings of our piece in 3 different towns each time using our make shift box scenery to tell 2 parallel stories... One, the story of an undocumented immigrant traveling from south to north (immigrants who travel through Mexico to the US suffer deeply at the hands of robbers, rapers, and others taking of advantage of their precarious status).  And two, the story of a box of arms traveling from north to south (as a result of failed US government anti-drug 'Operation Fast and Furious' 70% of the guns used by drug cartels here in Mexico came from the US). 

These two stories converge at the border-- the arms (pieces of wood from broken huacales) cross and are given to the public at the very moment when the immigrant attempts to cross. The border guard turns  to the armed public and says "Ready! Aim!..." letting the public choose how the stories ends.  More often than not, the public, laughing and smiling as if it were a joke, shoot the immigrant.  During the whole process my greatest reflection and the question I hoped to offer the audience is 'When the power is in our hands, how do we react? When in our own lives do we have the opportunity to break cycles of violence?'

In the exploration process, we played with the significance of borders on various levels from micro to macro. We discovered borders inside of ourselves like those created by fear or worry.  These emotional barriers have often kept me from taking a step into a new or unknown situation even though I believe that on the other side of that situation is a healthier way of being.  We explored borders between us and other people in relationships. How thick is the barrier I place between me and those around me? How much of myself do I share and with whom? We looked at borders between our families and others, like the walls of our homes. How do we choose who enters?  And of course we explored national borders, impressed at the fact that borders are totally relative to those who cross them, each of us experience them so differently based on our country of origin and socioeconomic status.

All of these explorations became encapsulated in the paths of the immigrant and the box of arms.  In the literal interpretation, I hoped to offer a snap shot of a reality of border dynamics between the US and Mexico.  Considering through the performance piece, as a nation what do we let in or deny entry to and what do we let out?... Also, I feel like there is a tendency for folks to identify an oppressor who plays the part of the bad guy and receives the for the blame for existing negative dynamics such as violence.  In the case of illegal immigration, the story that is often told is how badly people are treated as undocumented folks in the US.  Now I am learning that they also suffer incredible violence along the way as they travel through Latin America. 
On the micro level, for me the immigrant represented the part in each of us that drives us, either by necessity or desire, to face our interior emotional or mental borders and risk the security of the known in search of something better.  The box of arms represented the often violent system of fears and worries that can dominate us into a way of being that is safe because it is familiar although it may not be best.  

In the cartoon, I am trying to express a sort of schizophrenia I feel when thinking about these social phenomenon.  I am both the immigrant and the US.  Considering the US, in conversations around border dynamics or our role in leaving our borders to intervene in the paths of countries throughout Latin America, I feel totally crazy. I hear people be so angry at the US and I want to defend our system.  I am part of it, it is part of me.  I grew up happy and loved there, participating in the system and feeling successful.  Some parts of it work. The internal parts I guess, as a white middle class female, for me work. I feel free at home. I can dress how I want and practice the religion I want and stay out by myself as late as I want and leave a job where I'm mistreated with the confidence that I will find another.  That's how things should be!  That's my personal experience of the US.   But as I am privy more and more to the experiences of others, I learn that outside of its borders (and often inside), the idea of the US is much different.  The same force that assures me these freedoms takes it away from others in unimaginable ways. 

Because of this I feel aligned with the story of the immigrant.  I myself am an immigrant leaving the known (BY CHOICE which is not at all the same as leaving to survive) in search of another way of life. Leaving the comfort and security of the US partly because of what my comfort there means for so many others. I am so thankful for everything that I've had and have and I do NOT think that the right way to deal with privilege is to throw it away. That is part of why I follow this path, looking to understand the world context and understand how to use my privileges how I see fit, not just to be successful in a system in which I may or may not believe (don't know yet!).

Good lord I've taken to blabbing! Next time I promise I'll write less!! And wow I congratulate you, you patient person if you've read all the way to this point!


  1. Blabbing whatever! That doesn't take patience, I always love to read your blog. It made me think of a few things- the dynamic where most in the audience end up shooting the immigrant when given the orders- at first it's kind of disappointing, I would want to see the audience do something different. Shoot the Guard? Break their wooden gun? Throw it on the ground? Did anyone do any of those things that you remember? But when I think about it more it isn't disappointing, because afterward it makes you wonder about the dynamics that would have made you automatically respond to the prompts of "ready, aim, shoot!". I realize that this is a silly example- but it still reminds me of the Milgram experiment- because it shows a dynamic of obedience to authority- even though the authority in question is that of an actor putting on a show. The audience still plays right into looking for how the actor wants them to participate. In that sense the actor does carry some level of authority. It is like a symbolic microcosm of what goes wrong within the army, and the border police, and the narcotic police- when people are able to kill others because of an order.

    Sara thank you so much for this! I hope you are feeling super strong and happy and thoughtful. I can't wait to see you again!

  2. yeh for reals BearBear~ blab away!! wows & love.

  3. Thank you for writing about your journey. Your thoughts are always interesting and the perspectives that you share always expand my views. Travel safe, dear Sara!

  4. Yeh Emilia, I totally know what your saying. I think sometimes we don't realize how normalized violence is. Its kinda crazy that we would play at killing each other ya know? But it happens allll the time when kids play with army dolls or video games... I think it's just part of our upbringing for most of us. Man. That's crazy!

    No one I saw did any of those things. Some people were hesitant, they didn't want to take the gun. But when we insisted, they always took it...

    What I loved most about doing this performance piece was the end which invited the public to burn the guns! I think you saw that part right? Just after the immigrant dies the other actors begin to sing 'Da Pachem Domine' which is a petition for piece. We placed a metal bucket in the front of the stage area and each actor takes their 'gun' and lights it on fire and puts it into the bucket. Then we continue to sing hoping that the crowd will catch on and decide to do the same. Sometimes it worked, and sometimes people were to shy. But the risk was worth it cuz it was soooo beautiful when the people actually did come up and burn the 'arms'.

  5. Chels thank you darlin, lub u!

    Jud! thank you so much for sayin that :) I miss you guys!!!! xos