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Barrio Stories in Barrio Anita, 2017-2018

For Borderlands’ most recent iteration of the project, the Historic Barrio Anita became the subject, and was made in complete collaboration with its current and former residents. While the first iteration of Barrio Stories in 2016 focused on creative place keeping by re-inhabiting the Tucson Convention Center grounds with the memories of Tucson’s original Mexican-American neighborhood, Stories in Barrio Anita focused on building stronger connections among the current residents. After surveying neighborhood residents in the Fall of 2017, it was clear they felt disconnected from their neighbors. There were feelings on the part of long time (multiple generations) residents that newer inhabitants were not aware of the rich heritage and history of the neighborhood. Working with a small contingent of Anita residents looking to reestablish an official neighborhood association, project artists designed the culminating event as a way of bringing residents out of their homes to viscerally experience the history of where they live, and generate enthusiasm and opportunities to get to know each other and organize themselves.  Towards this end, the Barrio Stories Project in Barrio Anita was accepted as part of the first cohort of the Arizona Commission on the Arts’ Creative Communities Institute (CCI). The CCI is a groundbreaking initiative focused on embedding artists in communities in order to achieve community development goals.

The production spent over a year in development, building relationships with the local Oury Community Center and Davis Bilingual Elementary School, ultimately building into a two-night celebration that included:

Oral History Projections – interviews with long time residents and archival photo collages projected on large scale screens and buildings throughout neighborhood, culminating in a movement performance by Pima Community College students choreographed by Milta Ortiz.

Performed Poetry – Youth poets from the Spoken Futures collective roamed the neighborhood performing original poems inspired by Barrio Anita history and heritage, featuring Gregorio Contreras, Leo Herrera, Enrique Garcia, Zoe Keeter, Ara Montano, Virginia Sabimana.

Mariachi Stage –  An homage to the awe inspiring after-school Mariachi programs throughout Tucson that began at Davis Bilingual Elementary in 1983 with Dr. Alfredo Valenzuela showcased the groups Las Aguilitas  de Davis, Mariachi Corazon, Mariachi Estrellas de Tucson, Roskruge Mariachi, and Mariachi Milagro.

Shadow Theater – University of Arizona Mexican American Studies students in Dr. Michelle Tellez’ class brought to life stories of Barrio Anita through the magic of shadow theater. Shadow plays were written by Brenna Mirae, Twyla Patch, and Patricia Preciado Martin’s “La Toreadora” adapted by Milta Ortiz

1950’s Style Backyard Barrio Fiesta – Resident Bobby Benton and musicians played music from the Barrio in the Davis Community Garden, with heritage food sampling and live poetry.

Barrio Stories in Barrio Viejo, 2015-2016

For Barrio Viejo –the subject for the first Barrio Stories (2016)– the production was based on interviews with elders who once lived in the neighborhood. Their stories told of the destruction and loss of their barrio from gentrification due to the racist motivations of city planners of the 1960’s who wanted to push out the Mexican-Americans living in the heart of Downtown Tucson. This first iteration of Barrio Stories addressed a painful, yet profound history of displacement, and drew heavily from Lydia Otero’s book on the subject, La Calle. But there was also celebration, culling memories of going to the cinema, of the people, the food, music, and folklore. In effect, this first Barrio Stories was a time capsule of different voices, the interviews of which inspired several playwrights to adapt into vignettes, which Borderlands staged in the same place Barrio Viejo used to exist– in what is now the plaza of the Tucson Convention Center.

Research : February May, 2015

Beginning in February, 2015, ethnographers from BARA and nine youth from Pima College’s Upward Bound program, interviewed former residents of the demolished neighborhood. In May, 2015, at the Sosa-Carrillo-Fremont House Museum, the youth-scholars presented a series of monologues to the community based on their interviews.

Writing : July December, 2015

Over the summer of 2015, award-winning playwrights, Elaine Romero (Tucson), Virginia Grise (New York) and Martín Zimmerman (Chicago), under the consultation of historian, Dr. Lydia Otero, began the work of turning the collected oral histories into a theatrical script.

Production : March 2016

Barrio Stories was a site-specific, theatrical event presented on the grounds of the Tucson Convention Center’s outdoor Plaza. Audience members were led on a walking tour of the actual space where this recovered history occurred as communal memories came to life, revealing the people, place, and culture of the barrio past. Barrio Stories took place March 3-6, 2016, as part of Borderlands’ 30th anniversary season.  Post-performance activities, created a space for barrio residents to publicly articulate their claims to history and place. Barrio Stories continues to present an innovative approach to historic preservation and civic dialogue unlike any other in the nation.