It’s been nearly 20 years since the hit comedy play “Petra’s Pecado” first captured the hearts and minds of Austinites. Since then, playwright and Teatro Vivo co-founder Rupert Reyes’ timeless story has taken on a life of its own with productions in several U.S. cities, two sequels and now its own book.
Often described as the Chicano “Greater Tuna,” the play tells the story of a Latina grandmother and tortilla factory owner who catches a glimpse of an X-rated program while channel surfing and runs to her priest to confess. Her penance? To direct the church’s annual play.
Reyes shared decades worth of “Petra” memories as we flipped through a thick binder full of archival photographs, posters and newspaper clippings that document the bilingual play’s success. From Minneapolis performances to Reyes’ daughter joining the cast, each page tells a story. When Reyes first played the part of Petra’s husband, he had to make himself look older; nowadays, not so much, he jokes. It’s clear that after about 20 years, Petra belongs to everyone.
Reyes has always been a storyteller, but he felt as if he was chosen to tell this particular story. Writing the play, he says, felt more like observing a family than having a conversation. He imagined jotting down everything he could in the background.
“Petra’s Pecado” has been bridging cultural gaps one audience at a time, and the recent book ensures that a new generation will be influenced by the heartwarming tale. Part of the proceeds from book sales help fund an effort to send books to every high school in Austin.
“There are many plays in history that have been lost,” Reyes says. “‘Petra’s Pecado’ won’t be one of them.”
Listen to excerpts from the play during a reception and book-signing from 6:30-8:30 p.m. Nov. 14 at the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center.
And for fans who can’t get enough of Petra, Reyes plans to premiere another sequel soon called “Petra’s Pastorela.”
Must-see Hector Galán films
As a kid, I remember riding the school bus back home, bumping up and down caliche roads, clouds of dust flying into the windows. It was a lose-lose situation — either melt in the heat with windows closed or arrive home covered in dirt. I’d step off the bus with white hair on most days.
When an out-of-state friend visited my childhood home in the border town of Eagle Pass, he asked, “Are we in Mexico?” “No. We’re still in the U.S. It’s just a colonia.”
Unincorporated neighborhoods called colonias dot the U.S.-Mexico border, from California to Texas. Often these colonias lack adequate infrastructure and basic services such as wastewater or electricity. It’s America, but a forgotten one.
In 2000, acclaimed Austin filmmaker Hector Galán brought cameras into colonias and let other Americans see what daily life was like for some of the nation’s most marginalized people. “Forgotten Americans,” which was originally broadcast nationally on PBS, will screen at the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center at 8 p.m. Nov. 13.
The Cine Las Americas series features some of Galán’s award-winning work throughout the decades. A key figure in bringing the Latino experience in America to film, Galán allows a mass audience to better understand some of the struggles and triumphs that connect us all.
The influential four-part series “Chicano! History of the Mexican-American Civil Rights Movement” also screens on Oct. 30 (first two parts) and Nov. 6 (next two parts.) And if you want to dig deeper into Tejano rhythms, “Songs from the Homeland” screens on Nov. 20. For more information about the film schedule, visit austintexas.gov/page/emma-s-macc-events.
Peligrosa Latin dance party televised
From New York to San Francisco, DJ crews have been modernizing Latin American roots music, making it relevant to new audiences and re-energizing the sound. Dancing partygoers may be sweating, DJs may be blasting beats, but how does a Latino electronic dance party become a movement?
A KLRU Arts in Context episode called “Peligrosa” gives a behind-the-scenes look into Austin’s premier electronic Latin dance party. Peligrosa, a collective of DJs, visual artists and producers have raised Austin’s profile in the national Latin dance party movement with their monthly parties since 2007.
Check out how they came together in a 26-minute documentary airing Nov. 7, 9 and 10 on KLRU. For times, visit klru.org. But don’t just watch these guys from your couch, visit facebook.com/Peli.Boys to stay updated on upcoming parties. See you on the dance floor.
Welcome to Cultura En Austin, a monthly column highlighting Latino-related events in Austin. Look for it on the last Friday of the month. Send tips or suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter: @latinoculture.