by Nat Frothingham
Two local organizations—Central Vermont Refugee Action Network and the Social Responsibility Committee of the Unitarian Church of Montpelier—are teaming up to sponsor a stage reading of a play entitled “Qué Nochebuena” (What a Christmas Eve) by Inez Martinez.
The stage reading will be presented on Saturday February 24 at 2 pm at the Unitarian Church of Montpelier and is open to the public.
In a phone conversation with The Bridge, playwright Martinez re-told the story she has dramatized in “Qué Nochenbuena”
It is Christmas Eve and two Guatemalan immigrants—18-year-old Carlos and his pregnant younger sister, Felicia—are seeking refuge in a Mexican-American community in northern New Mexico. There, the brother and sister encounter an elderly woman named Corazon, who is grieving the loss of her son in war. At the same time her granddaughter Adela is soul-searching over why God would come to Earth as a boy rather than a girl.
In another of the story’s threads, Carlos and Felicia are being pursued by Bob, an immigration officer intent on deporting them. Then Kim, another figure, emerges. She is a refugee Vietnamese medical aide intent on creating a different ending than her own for Felicia.
Discussing the present moment in American life, Martinez said, “There’s a great deal of fear in our society. People who have experienced arbitrary privilege are terrified at the erosion of that privilege. People seeking the American Dream are terrified at what appears to be the return of state-supported white supremacy.”
“We all have stories that frame what we think of as real,” said Martinez. “There is more than one version of the American Dream.
”There’s the American Dream as articulated in the Declaration of Independence with its reference to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Reflecting on what these familiar words may have meant to the early citizens of the new American nation, Martinez said,
“They could own slaves. They could take the land away from indigenous people. They could exploit workers for money. And keep power for themselves with the support of the state.
”Martinez then turned her attention to what she called, “The other part of the preamble ”that “all men are created equal.
”She took note of the American nation’s first Naturalization Act in 1790, a law that extended naturalization to white people–but not to indentured servants, not to slaves, and only to some women.
“It’s been a long struggle to extend citizenship and voting rights to all people,” she observed.
“My play,” she said, “is about the dream of America where human beings have equal rights. The dream of organizing a society where we care for one another rather than being indifferent to one another.”