There is a false narrative gaining unchecked momentum about DACA recipients that paints them as criminals and gang members. A new play produced by an old Chicano activist about a select group of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals participants aims to reject it and give control back to the dreamers living the experience.
“It’s almost like we are dulled to sleep, living a nightmare without responding. It’s time we wake up,” Armando Vazquez-Ramos told L.A. Taco Thursday as he readied for Dreamers: Aquí y Allá preview night.
Dreamers: Aquí y Allá opens tomorrow, Friday, Feb. 16th, at Cal State Long Beach’s Studio Theater featuring stories and characters crafted by DACA participants who got to travel to Mexico to visit family and reconnect with their roots as part of California-Mexico Studies Center studies abroad program.
L.A. Taco met with the CSULB professor Vazquez-Ramos who founded the program in 2014 to discuss its development and the importance of art in the political message. He is one of the producers of the play and a Lincoln High School alum. Not to mention he was part of the 1968 East L.A. Walkouts, the student-led protest of inequality in the Los Angeles Unified School District.
“Essentially, we want people to get off their ass,” Vazquez-Ramos said emphatically. He wears his long grey hair in a ponytail reminiscent of those hippie barrio warriors who helped ferment Chicano activism in the late 60s. “Today, the entire student population across the country that has no real activism,” Vasquez-Ramos lamented. “We want to get back to those days of great Mexican and Chicano activism.”
‘This is a play that reflects the heart wrenching human stories of the brave people who risked getting denied reentry to get in touch with family and roots they’d never seen before.’
Vasquez-Ramos hopes Dreamers: Aquí y Allá lights a fuse under progressives that he believes have “failed to rise to this goddamn monster” of unchecked racist aggression.
“This is a play that reflects the heart wrenching human stories of the brave people who risked getting denied reentry to get in touch with family and roots they’d never seen before,” he said.
Development on Dreamers: Aquí y Allá began more than a year ago in conjunction with CSULB California Repertory Company as is based on stories from 160 Dreamers who participated in CMSC’s study abroad program.
Vasquez-Ramos shared with L.A. Taco that members of the theater department met with students from the program to help craft the script and characters from a composite of short stories written for a CMSC book they are developing.
“The play is going to show how these experiences impacted the Dreamers and changed their lives forever,” Vasquez-Ramos explained. “Some of them got to spend the holidays with their family for the first time as part of the program. And they risked a great deal to do it.”
According to Vasquez-Ramos, he founded the program when he discovered an advance parole DACA provision that allowed Dreamers the opportunity to leave the country and return legally in cases of humanitarian reasons and educational purposes.
He also discovered that upon reentry to the U.S., DACA recipients were able to negate their initial illegal entry status from childhood and create a legal path to citizenship through marriage.
“We didn’t want to publicize that aspect of it because we were afraid the administration would find out and close the loophole,” Vasquez-Ramos explained. “And it looks like now they have.”
After three years of taking Dreamers to see their families across the border, this past December the Trump administration rejected Vasquez-Ramos’s latest batch of 75 applicants for advance parole.
Vasquez-Ramos said Dreamers: Aquí y Allá is a call to action that “no matter what happens in Congress, these kids have the right to travel and gain the great emotional benefit of reconnecting with their culture and their family. It’s a great educational and humanitarian benefit.”
Dreamers: Aquí y Allá is set to run through Feb. 25th with a special screening on Feb. 24th where the majority of the audience will be the study abroad participants themselves. If the play does well, Vasquez-Ramos said he’d like to put it up at schools and theaters all over the country.
For tickets and more details, visit CSULB’s website.