Women retell on stage their border crossing stories

Women who have immigrated into the United States are for their first time acting out on stage what it was like to cross the border and leave their families in order to provide for them.

The project is a part of a work-in-progress play directed by Bill Shields, chair of the Labor and Community Studies Department at City College of San Francisco.

The performance will showcase about a dozen women recounting their stories as part of an effort to humanize and to honor the struggles and sacrifices many immigrant women make when coming to the United States.

The play nods to forms like Theater of the Oppressed, which emerged in the 1960s as a social justice tool.

The women are not professional actresses, instead they rely on their real experiences to create a story, actress Maria Inocencia Benitez told El Tecolote:

“I think people may be curious to know everything we’ve battled against since we left our land. I am not a professional actor … but I am conjuring what it felt like to be in the desert, gripped by fear and uncertainty.”

Benitez is part of La Colectiva, a collective of female domestic workers in the Bay Area where many of these women have been able to create a home away from home.

The play also hopes to erase the stigma domestic workers carry, particularly women who have immigrated into the United States.

La Colectiva co-founder and director Guillermina Castellanos hope the performance will garner attention for California Assembly Bill 241, which would secure basic worker’s rights such as paid overtime, breaks and workmen’s comp.

The first half of the play will be presented Monday at 6:3o p.m. in the Creative Arts building at the CCSF campus on Ocean Avenue.

The second half of the play, which will focus on what each woman’s life has been like in the United States, will debut in the fall.