by Bailey Blaker
“So far from God, so close to the United States” is one line of the many moving scenes in Yadira De La Riva’s riveting one-woman show, “One Journey: Stitching Stories Across the ‘Mexican-American Border.’” De La Riva grew up straddled between two cities, two languages and two cultures in both El Paso, Texas and Ciudad Juárez, in Mexico’s state of Chihuahua. Her experiences living on the Mexican-American border are the driving force behind many of her artistic projects, including the performance she gave in Peirce Pub at 7 p.m. on March 20.
“There are hardly any border stories written by women of color,” De La Riva said in an interview with the Collegian, “In the overall conversation of immigration and Latinos in America, I hardly heard any stories about border people. … I wanted to participate in these conversations but I didn’t know how I fit in.” The theme of not belonging is essential to the play. De La Riva used a thin line of masking tape to symbolize the massive concrete wall that separates Mexico from the U.S. Multiple times throughout the performance, De La Riva straddled this line running down the middle of the stage, calling into question what it means to be “American” and what it means to be seen as “other.” De La Riva’s strategic use of Spanglish and her dynamic physicality on stage brought the vibrancy of Latina culture to life.
Erika Cuevas ’16 was key in bringing De La Riva’s act to Kenyon. Cuevas, a Discrimination Advisor, worked with the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion to plan the event.
“I want [the show] to be a learning experience for people who aren’t sure or have no opinion on immigration and life in the borderlands,” she said. “I hope [the audience] will be a little more invested in the topic and see the compassion in the issue and the humanity of the people involved.”
Certain points in the narrative, like De La Riva’s comical portrayal of her grandmother, elicited laughter from the crowd. Other moments, like her depiction of the violence in Ciudad Juárez, moved audience members to tears.
Karen Salas ’18, an attendee, was especially moved by the play because of her personal connection to the borderlands: “I come from a border town, too,” the Yuma, Ariz. resident said. “So it was one of the few events [at Kenyon] that I saw and could say, ‘That’s me, I can identify with that.’”
Questions of identity, humanity and family were at the heart of De La Riva’s performance. De La Riva’s next project will take her to the Moroccan-Spanish border to examine its similarities to other borderlands around the world.