As part of Su Teatro’s 50th Anniversary Golden Season, resident playwright and artistic director Anthony J. Garcia’s “Papi, Me and César Chávez,” is running March 10-27, 2022. This special showing also coincides with the 60th anniversary of the United Farm Workers (UFW) union’s founding.
“Papi, Me and César Chávez,” chronicles La Peregrinación (the Pilgrimage), the UFW’s historic march from Delano, California to the state capitol in Sacramento. It is a fictionalized tale as told through the eyes of 10-year-old Gloria, the narrator. After her father’s initial reluctance to join the strike, Gloria is motivated by her encounters with UFW leader César Chávez to join the march, and she takes her Papi with her. This is a landmark production chronicling the turbulence of the times. The 340 mile march from Delano to Sacramento drew national attention to the suffering of farm workers and brought about the first actual union contract between a grower and farm workers union in U.S. history.
Garcia was inspired to write the play in 2003 when he had a conversation with some young students who weren’t familiar with César Chávez. He wanted to educate people about Chávez’s activism and about the UFW. “Farm working is a different life. That is exposed in the play and students get a chance to see how these people lived and how was it as a kid living as a farmworker.” Garcia’s parents picked beets in northern Colorado, and although he didn’t experience working the farms, he explains the struggles the average farm worker goes through on a daily basis. “Farm workers’ average age expectancy is 49 years old and most of them have an 8th grade education. A lot of time students were pulled out of school to work on the crops because they had to move or help out after the death of a parent,” Garcia explains.
The play toured in many schools in Colorado, Texas, and Arizona. Now the play will grace the Su Teatro stage as a two act play for the first time.
“The play is great for families and has an emotional punch,” Garcia says.
The play features the music of the Chicano Movement, including songs by Daniel Valdez and Augustin Lira, both founding members of El Teatro Campesino, The Farm workers Theater, who participated in the march. There are also songs included that were popularized to support the UFW cause in the 1960s and 1970s as well as original songs by playwright Anthony J. Garcia.
The original home of “Papi, Me and César Chávez,” was at Elyria Elementary for 21 years. The production outgrew the space about 10 years ago and moved to the Su Teatro Cultural and Performing Center.
This year also marks Anthony J. Garcia’s 50th year with Su Teatro. The Colorado-born teacher and writer first took a job with the cultural center as a musician and moved up as a writer and director. He has 30 plays under his belt and has worked to bring Chicano and Hispanic voices to the stage. Mr. Garcia’s work has generated national, critically acclaimed, award-winning successes which have traveled throughout the country, including “Serafín: Cantos y Lágrimas,” “Enrique’s Journey,” “Interview with a Mexican,” and “La Carpa Aztlán presents: I Don’t Speak English Only.” Garcia teaches Chicano and Chicana studies at Metro State University.
Performances are Thursday-Saturday, 7:30 p.m. and a Sunday Matinee March 27 at 2 p.m. at Su Teatro Cultural & Performing Arts Center, 721 Santa Fe Drive, Denver, CO 80204. Tickets are $20 general admission, and $17 students/seniors. Comadre and Student Group rates available. For information and tickets, call (303) 296-0219 or check out www.suteatro.org.