With the words and stories we choose, we are affirming our reality. Palabra.
Blog01, Housingby Alexis Casas - July 27, 2019
The lack of adequate and affordable housing affects many in Salinas, California, specifically, on the east side. A major issue that comes with packing families like sardines in small apartments are that landlords continuously raise the rent, benefitting their pockets only; further causing these families to fall under a cycle of under-represented cultivators of the Salinas Valley’s “salad bowl of the world.” However this problem doesn’t only exist on the east side of Salinas, rather it is a county-wide issue constantly faced.
Last Summer, Baktun12 participated and documented a protest in Soledad, California. Gathered were many Nielsen’s Trailer Park residents standing against the property owner’s decision to sell the land to a hotel company. This outrage was inevitable after making such a decision without preparation, secure displacement, and any hope for the future of these families. Concerns regarding their homes and their children, most of which are preparing themselves for the transition from high school to college, are now facing homelessness. During this protest the students interviewed, gave testimonies about the fear and stress that builds on them everyday. Always questioning: What is our next move? Where do we go, and can we afford it?
The removal of the Nielsen’s Trailer Park dates back to October 2018, when residents received a notice that stated their property owner had sold the property to a company that would use the land to build a hotel. Residents can choose to move their trailers to a different trailer park, but it has been established that it is a nearly impossible option for some homes and approval for such actions have already been denied. Janet Zavala, a teen amongst those marching the streets of Soledad shares that this is her home, and one she wishes not to leave.
Taking a look at what our community faces, locally, is very similar. Families struggle to live in such costly and compact spaces, working paycheck to paycheck to make ends meet. It is clear that opportunities to live “The American Dream” do not come easy for these families, whereas opportunities to prevent them from getting there, are. Some are still unaware of these struggles. For residents in this community whose work provides the world with food on their table, it’s ironic that it’s those workers who live in poverty. Low income, or affordable housing, is steering toward an issue many of us know as gentrification. As the AG and tech industry continue to expand, there is no doubt that the community of Salinas is trying to upvalue the city and make it appealing to tourists and ag tech employees; but what about those that have lived here for years? What happens to them? Is it right to stand idly by while families struggle to maintain their home? Their jobs? The security to ensure their family’s health and education stay afloat? The injustices are getting worse, but we can put an end to this--together.
Baktun12 collaborated with Cristal Avila González, to bring you La Cortina de la Lechuga. A one-act play that captures the stories and struggles of the farmworker community. This call to action addresses the severity of our current housing crisis.
Media Coveragekazu.org - March 8, 2019 voicesofmontereybay.org/ - July 12, 2018 zocalopublicsquare.org - July 28, 2015 montereycountyweekly.com - November 19, 2015 kcet.org - January 2, 2014
Blog02, Teatro Programby Alexis Casas - August 17, 2019
The sun rises for the start of a new summer and while some children slip n’ slide celebrating a few weeks of vacation, other children kiss their parents goodbye as their workload flourishes amongst this season. During this verano Baktun12 hosted a weeklong teatro training for a group of hopeful and driven individuals—soon to be maestrxs. This training was to prepare us to become the best teatro instructors while also engaging our own childlike energy. Another instructor and myself collaborated with a housing organization called CHISPA (Community Housing Improvement Systems), located in Castroville, California. Other teams collaborated with school districts. With Cristal González Avila, a Teatro Campesino native, B12 began facilitating a weeklong training. The results of these workshops left kids with the skills needed to lead a thriving life and rather than absorbing negativity, to process, understand, and act positively on it.
Many of the children had no issue getting along with others and completing storytelling tasks both physically and literally through books. However, only a selected few needed guidance in branching out and becoming more open to acting silly and goofy in front of others. Situations like these call for attention; we cannot wait to see our youth feel embarrassed for being creative and themselves, it is our responsibility as movement cultivating teatristas to help uplift individuality and a secure path for our kids.
By the end of the summer, we all grew to dread the last day of the program because it meant we had to move forward without seeing these beautiful kiddos shine through individual and collective talent. Courage and curiosity will take them far and to have watched them grow from shy to outspoken was a gift as both an instructor and a student. After all the sweat and the laughter, these kids gave us the best of them through performance and we as facilitators couldn’t have asked for a better group, or for a better experience.