The upcoming “Xicano Power” performance, at Albuquerque’s National Hispanic Cultural Center, makes a definitive statement about what it means to be Chicano and identify as a person of mixed ancestry through flamenco. The dance company uses music, dance and the sounds and imagery of Chicano history to evoke an understanding from the audience about what marginalized groups such as Mexican-Americans face daily.
“I feel excited and I’m a little nervous,” Marisol Encinias, the National Institute of Flamenco Executive Director tells The Paper. “But at the same time, I think it’s okay because a professor of mine once told me, ‘If you’re not making art that pisses somebody off, you’re not doing your job’.”
Mexican-American civil activists in the 1960s took on the name “Chicano” or “Xicano” and wore it with pride. The term Chicano was originally used as an insult against immigrants and Mexican Americans. The Chicano movement grew across the southwest to include restoration of land grants, farm worker’s rights, education, voting and political rights.
“I think this is a really powerful piece for the company to perform,” Enciniassays.“Most of the people that we work with are young people of color. There’s this Spanish fantasy heritage that we’re Spaniards, and that’s why we do flamenco. The truth of the matter is, those of us that are from here were of mixed ancestry and our indigenous heritage and ancestry is very important to us. We’re trying to look at what it means, rise up and be clearer and more honest as artists.”
The narrative voice of the poem I am Joaquin, written in 1967 by Denver-based civil rights activist Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzales, was used as inspiration for the performance, Encinios says. The poem embodies the struggles Chicano people faced in trying to achieve economic justice and equal rights in the U.S.
The performance also uses pieces of audio from Hector Galán’s award-winning 1996 PBS documentary “Chicano! History of the Mexican-American Civil Rights Movement.
“The history of our families and our communities has been impacted by years of power struggles, power dynamics and inequality, ” Encinias explains. “We’re dealing with that as a company and the art of doing flamenco hopefully serves as a method for us to be able to talk about things.”
Encinias explains “Xicano Power” is an evening of flamenco that is enjoyable and beautiful, but with a message. At the end of the concert all of the artists will have an opportunity to share with the audience how they connect to the message in the performance.
“We have to take a stand for what we believe is right,” says Encinias. “What does it mean to be people who don’t have the same kind of rights? What does it mean to be in a place questioning how we go about our day to day, questioning our bias, questioning power structure? We understand it’s more politically charged. I hope it opens up discussion in a respectful way.”
“Xicano Power” was developed in collaboration with UNM theater director Alejandro Tomás Rodríguez, with Joaquin Encinias serving as artistic director. The dance company’s young contemporary choreographers Carmen Coy and Jesús Perona’s work is shown alongside the works of Marco Flores and the visionary Israel Galván.
Tickets are on sale now for the Nov. 10 and 11 concert, through the National Hispanic Cultural Center’s website.