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Boyle Heights

DOCUMENTING THE UNDOCUMENTED ~ CASA 0101 ~ Boyle Heights

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CASA 0101 ~ 2009 E. 1st Street, Boyle Heights, CA 90033 ~ February 16-18 & February 23-25, Friday and Saturday @ 8pm, Sunday @ 3pm ~ $10 Suggested donation, $8 for Boyle Heights residents, seniors & students.

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"Are you willing to renounce your country of origin for the privilege of becoming a US citizen?"

"Are you willing to fight against any country?"

"Not Mexico!!!" protests La Valentina (April Ibarra,) a Pasionaria in red beret and matching lipstick, while denouncing her 'Application for Naturalization' at a community meeting called to awaken neighbors to the threat of waning abortion rights, affirmative action, and the Equal Rights Amendment.

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Jeremiah Ocanas and on stage April Ibarra aka La Valentina

"Don't stand by watching," she preaches, but in order to vote as a U.S. citizen and influence her adopted country, La Valentina is being asked to turn her back on her native land. DOCUMENTING THE UNDOCUMENTED, a show of short pieces stemming from the joint collaboration between CASA 0101 founder Josefina Lopez and BEYOND THE 25th, a Boyle Heights artists collective, "fuses art, theater and activism," to mold human identities from the complex issues that stand between Mexico and the US like an increasingly oppressive border wall. While revealing the feelings of men and women branded 'illegal,' the show doesn't halt at the border. La Valentina is one of many vivid characters who can testify that the tolls on the rough road to the land of economic opportunity is paid in more than just pesos, whether you are undocumented or naturalized.

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In "Ser", written and performed by BEYOND THE 25TH's Karen Anzoategui, a young Argentine girl whose family emigrated to the US during the economic crisis is told they are returning "home" to more prosperous weather. Home? Which one? Using a Tango dancer's rapture and the zaniness of Larry, Moe, and Curly, Karen recounts her baptism in piss during a live Argentina/Mexico futbol match where Karen and her two brothers face the drunken ire of tens of thousands of opposing Mexican fans. Her courage under fire earned, Karen chooses to stay behind. Orphaned in Los Angeles, Karen struggles to be understood in her native tongue, even in a predominantly Spanish-speaking neighborhood. Does she have to lose her Argentinean accent to fit in? The poignancy in Karen's voice would have you believe she's losing her soul no matter which direction she turns.

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In the sweet-and-sour mock TV series "El Verde," a young factory worker-by day (Anthony Aguilar), becomes a super-hero by moonlight to rebalance the power he's losing in his marriage to Martha, an all-American girl (Valerie Rodriguez.) Martha genuinely loves him, but also pledges allegiance to her Wasp Queen mother, who opposes illegal immigration and suspects her son-out-law of having married her daughter only for the papers.

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Miriam Moses is La Calletana

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The second half of the evening belongs to the reigning Queen Madre of CASA 0101: the prolific Josefina Lopez, actor, writer, playwright, poet, teacher, and big screen author of REAL WOMEN HAVE CURVES. Josefina's eclectic body of work reflects a complex background as a 13-year veteran of being an undocumented Angelita, and a confused young girl from a Mexican home on California soil yearning to see her experience mirrored somewhere on TV.

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Josefina Lopez will be reading from her rich menu of poetic offerings while fellow actors perform some of her one-act plays. The formidable Miriam Moses is "La Calletana", an outspoken illegal street vendor who plays cat and mouse with the police all day just so to feed her two daughters. "La Valentina", played by April Ibarra, is an activist who resembles a CoverGirl model more than the fierce Pancho Villa companera she was named after. Embracing her Mexican American identity, this Valentina interrupts her speech to advertise 'Killer Tacos,' a nearby restaurant that provides space for her meetings of local activists, as well as members of "Telenovellas Addict Anonymous" and "Machos Against Change."

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No matter how charged the subject, the mood at CASA 0101 is one of joy and hope, assuredly assisted by another powerful presence in the house: Photos taken by Samuel Hernandez and Jose Cortez during the massive March 25th, 2006 demonstration against anti-immigrant measures like HR4437. The performers' own experiences as undocumented souls lend a 3-dimensional reality to the photographs and animate them with the laughter and smell of hope from that spring air.

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Photo by Oscar Basulto.

CASA 0101 is truly a home. The red heart on La Valentina's T-shirt beats to the hot rhythm of founder Josefina Lopez and artistic director Eddie Pedilla's commitment to the emerging local talent (see their website www.casa0101.org for information on affordable writing and acting classes.) This weekend Lopez will most likely remind the crowd that Boyle Heights, the "beautiful little barrio" where she grew up, is not East L.A. nor an impoverished ghetto, but a neighborhood "rich with life." Even if the chest-thumping, arrogance found on past-INS and current-Department of Homeland Security's N-400 forms have been toned down since Josefina took her oath, the undocumented workers of our city are still living invisible lives having to look over their shoulders, another thing Josefina Lopez and her friends at CASA 0101 strive to change.

Worthy of lending an ear, a story on NPR's Day to Day heard this Tuesday shattered another anti-immigrant myth: "Colorado passed one of the toughest set of anti-immigration laws in the country six months ago. Now, a state panel reports that illegal immigrants really didn't use state services, and that the new laws are costing more to implement than they're saving for the state. "

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