Somewhere right now, an engagement is being hatched over the sound of gunfire, a baby is taking its first breathe amidst rubble, and a marriage is testing its limit as massive riots rage outside. They didn't think to add "in peace and in violence" to the list of marriage vows, but it's easy to forget that as the world consumes itself in violence and disaster, life goes on.
The latter is the subject of Por Las Tierras de Colón (Across Columbus's Land), a play about a famous actress and her husband trapped inside a theater when civil unrest erupts. The drama is based on actual events in 1948 when violent riots broke out in Colombia following the assassination of populist presidential candidate Jorge Eliécer Gaitán. A charismatic leader who denounced both liberals and conservatives in favor of the people, his death ushered in an era of violence that influenced a generation of leaders. On the afternoon he was killed, he'd been scheduled to meet with a young college student named Fidel Castro. Nearby, Gabriel García Márquez, a law student who would later pen a Nobel Prize-winning novel, was eating lunch.
But though the Bogotazo riot offers a gripping backdrop, Por Las Tierras
de Colón focuses on individuals' fates amidst the rubble. Its
playwright, Mexico-born Guillermo Schmidhuber, says "We create political
scenes, with real characters--like the community--and with fictional
characters--like the heroes and politicians. With grand arguments we try
to establish the political scene...We no longer know where reality exists,
or where our true historical path lies."
Schmidhuber continues, saying he "dreamed of a play...that would cry all
of the grief of Latin America." The play won the University of Miami's
1987 Golden Letters Award. And the production this week closes the
month-long International Hispanic Theatre Festival. Mario Ernesto
Sánchez, director of the festival, explains "The story could have
happened in any Latin American country due to the lack of political
Por Las Tierras de Colón will be performed in Spanish with English
supertitles tonight through Saturday at 8:30 p.m. and August 1 at 5 p.m.
at the Arsht (1300 Biscayne Blvd., Miami). Tickets cost $28.75 for
adults and $23.75 for seniors and students. Call 305-949-6722 or visit
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