Sydney Kate Watson, asst. arts & living editor
To kick off National Hispanic Heritage month, on Thursday Sept. 16 Sigma Delta Pi, the Department of World Languages and Department of Fine Arts presented the Core Ensemble performance of “Las Magnificas” in the Betty Anne Rouse Bell Recital Hall. The piece gave students the opportunity to look beyond their own culture and explore the diversity of the world.
According to the Core Ensemble website, they began performing new music theater works that explore feminist, multicultural and humanistic topics in 1993. The group has performed in all 50 states across the country, and they were even at Berry in 2018 to perform “Tres Vidas.” The mission of Core Ensemble, as stated on their website, has always been to promote intercultural understanding, explore social justice issues through art and to offer an impactful cultural experience that spark conversations and actions to change the world for the better by promoting equality for all.
“Las Magnificas” is a chamber music theater experience that highlights the lives of three remarkable Latina musicians and cultural figures. The three women portrayed are: Mexican Ranchera singer Chavela Vargas, Cuban queen of Salsa Celia Cruz and the Chilean singer and leader of the Nueva Canción movement, Violeta Parra. The performance looks at a specific moment in each singers’ life when they are facing a challenging decision or life change.
When the Core Ensemble immerses the audience in an important moment for Vargas, it is 1991. The singer is in a backstage dressing room in Mexico City. She has fought with alcoholism for many years, but she is returning to the stage. Cruz’s moment is in Mexico City in 1959. She is struggling with the communist revolution that is happening in her home country, Cuba. Cruz grapples with the reality of possibly never returning to her home country. Finally, Parra’s moment is in La Carpa de la Reina (The Queen’s Tent) in Santiago, Chile. The evening is Feb. 5, 1967, and it is the last night of her life on Earth. She is overwhelmed with the tumultuous happenings of her life.
A tremendous amount of work goes into forming each character representation, and which moment of their life is depicted. According to Core Ensemble actress and singer Nadya Encarnacion, she took inspiration from watching videos, documentaries, listening to their songs and looking at photos of these three icons to correctly capture their essence. She strives to provide an accurate representation of these women. Encarnacion also explains that the depiction of these women does not only come from her, but from the ensemble, cello, piano and percussion, as well. While she acts out that moment in that particular woman’s life, the ensemble plays classical pieces, by Latin artists, behind her voice. The ensemble also provides the instrumentals when Encarnacion sings.
“Each woman through the specific style or genre of music is able to share their own pride and heritage,” Encarnacion said.
“Las Magnificas” offers people the chance to consider that even though these three women all share a common language, they are all from different Hispanic cultures. Encarnacion suggests that Hispanic culture is influenced by European, African and Indigenous roots and truly becomes a melting pot. Encarnacion hopes that the audience was open to each woman’s separate style and genre.
“Just to be open to the diversity of the stories and the lives of each woman and to connect to all the pieces of their lives that resonate with them,” Encarnacion said.
Associate Professor of Spanish Jennifer Corry echoes Encarnacion’s remarks. Corry believes that “Las Magnificas” is an experience where students were able to discover different parts of the world and have a better grasp of how diverse the world truly is.
“It’s important for people to understand the world in which we live and all the wonderful diversity that we have,” Corry said.
Corry and Encarnacion encourage students to use the internet to dive deeper into the lives of these three women. Corry urges students who are trying to improve their Spanish language skills to listen to music and try to sing along. Encarnacion suggests that students should find sounds that resonate with them but also to broaden their horizons.
“Take a chance on something different, colorful, sometimes moody, that’s meaningful, and experience the world through this experience,” Encarnacion said.
Junior co-president of Sigma Delta Pi, Amy Solana believes that “Las Magnificas” was a great way for the Berry community to begin celebrating National Hispanic Heritage month. She believes that the performance brought well deserved attention, respect and honor to these three outstanding women. Solana urges students to find more opportunities like this performance in our everyday life to be more understanding and receptive of other cultures around us.
“This was a really good opportunity to appreciate other cultures,” Solana said.
Hispanic Heritage Month is a time for people to look past their own cultural understandings to broaden their perspectives and be appreciative of Hispanic cultural influences. However, evaluating one’s own cultural biases and reaching out to understand others can be done at any time of the year.