By Brenda Murphy of Jambalaya News
For 90 minutes the audience at the Shadowbox Theatre, mostly Latinos from different social classes, remained riveted as Aliens, Immigrants and Other Evil Doers unspooled before them.
The award-winning series of monologues, written by Jose Torres Tama, satirizes the situation of Latino immigrants and foreigners and explores the rise of hate crimes against Latinos around the United States.
“What one sees at Home Depot, at Lowe’s and on the corners of the city of New Orleans does not represent the reality experienced daily by immigrants who helped rebuild New Orleans after Katrina,” Torres Tama said.
His show opens with its eight characters entering the theater burdened by a cross that has been adorned with dollar bills, symbolizing the pain of the immigrants who come in search of the American dream in a country built by immigrants, and yet who end up cursed and exploited.
Torres Tama, who was born in Ecuador and grew up in New Jersey and New York, said he is seeking to tell the real stories, the actual experiences, of this group. The artist and writer has lived in New Orleans since 1984, a place he describes as his spiritual home. He explores the effects of media on racial relations in the United States through his bilingual poetry, visual art and critical writings. Torres Tama’s work also incorporates such themes as the American dream, mythology and the Latino immigrant experience.
“Art is a part of my being,” he said. “I do not separate art from social outcry.” Torres Tama’s work has been described as “a philosophical art, aesthetically well done, well written depicting human ideas. He brings a human heart to the stage.”
In Aliens, Immigrants and Other Evil Doers, Torres Tama explores individual experiences of Latino immigrants. There is the Nicaraguan woman who crossed the border when she was 8 years old, accompanied by her three younger sisters in order to join their father, who escaped Nicaragua during its civil war in the ’80’s.
There is the story of the young Honduran and his brother who were kidnapped at the border as they crossed over to the United States, kidnappers demanding telephone numbers of relatives abroad for extortion; if they did not cooperate they would be murdered. He tells of how they were able to escape, how they were able to make it, finding jobs. How on a bad day their brother was assaulted, beaten, and worse — the perpetrators called the police and accused him of trying to rape the woman who accompanied them. The brother went to jail. Then their mother, whom they came for, died. Now one brother is due to be released from jail, and the brother who is free must tell him, somehow, that the mother they came to see has died. He hopes to convince him to return home.
Then there’s a story about a New Orleans activist worker, who had his arm reconstructed after an on-the-job accident was met only with indifference from the contractor.
“I think many people are interested in seeing something that is refined, that is multimedia, which also has humor, because I use humor subversively,” Torres Tama said. The play’s acceptance in this city has been great; the response has been magnificent, he added.
“The Times Picayune gave a fairly strong review; they did not like the subject of the cross, the Honduran immigrant,” he said. “I urge someone of the public to translate this genuine story and to preserve its character. I am an immigrant and I am Latino and I know what it is to be discriminated against.”
Aliens, Immigrants and Other Evil Doers has concluded its run in New Orleans, and is traveling to the stages of Houston, Minneapolis and Washington DC.