By Libby Juliá-Vázquez
When I was in high school there were a few places teens could go dancing. One of those places was a reception hall located on the 2nd floor of a building on the corner of North and Western Avenues. Of all the places we went to—Medusas, Centrum Hall, Riviera—it was one of the least important, but it’s remained in my memory banks because of one unforgettable night during which a fight broke out. Fights were common, but that particular night, the fight got so out of hand that they started evacuating the place. My friends and I ran out as soon as we could and stood outside on the sidewalk. Then, in a stampede a bunch of guys came running out the door yelling threats at whom, I’m not sure, “I’ll kill you motherfucker!” and “You’re dead” while wiping tears from their eyes. It was like watching a bunch of kindergarteners cry while yelling, “I’m gonna tell my Mom.”
At the time it was a hilarious scene, but as I think of it now, it was equally sad. Young men, obviously in pain, feeling that the most important thing to do at that moment was to maintain a tough façade. But that’s society for you: Little girls are made of sugar and spice, and everything nice and little boys? Slugs and snails and puppy dog tails? Whatever that means, it sure isn’t supposed to be ‘soft’ and that’s especially true for little Latino boys growing up in the ‘hood.
That expectation of Latino machismo is just one of the topics that José Roldán, Jr. takes on in his auto-biographical, one-man show, Father Forgive Me for I Have Sinned.
Not living in New York City, my first opportunity to see this show was a DVD of a recorded performance. I sat by myself in my living room, unsure of what to expect, but feeling that maybe it was a mistake not to wait to see it live. It wasn’t a mistake, even in my living room I felt José’s energy as he was transported back to his childhood and teenage years in the ’80s and ’90s. I laughed and cried with him as he took me down the path he traveled on the search for his identity.
Months later, in March 2013, I was able to travel to NYC to see him perform live, and once again, I was transported to the mean streets of the South Bronx—a familiar-sounding place having grown up in the Humboldt Park neighborhood of Chicago myself—with a cast of characters that were all too familiar and outrageous not to be part of my own Puerto Rican family.
Every family has secrets, and every individual is searching for their identity and acceptance within that family and in the world, and José takes us, the audience, through it all in a whirlwind of emotions. We cheer for him, we fall in love with his family, and we all leave wishing we had a Titi Bruja in our lives.
You can catch Father Forgive Me for I have Sinned at Lehman College on November 21st.
This show is a MUST SEE! Click here for ticket info!
Libby Juliá-Vázquez is founder of the upcoming online destination for progressive Latinas, “More than Latina.” She is a communications professional specializing in writing, editing, and social media, as well as web content creation and strategy. Blending her online magazine and communications experience with 10+ years in higher education, she is the curriculum developer for, and facilitating of workshops in writing, blogging, and social media branding. A passionate community activist, she serves as Volunteer Leader with Chicago Cares, advocates for her Humboldt Park, Chicago community through the sharing of positive stories, and has also served as a mentor, tutor, and trainer with programs such as the Hispanic Scholarship Fund and the Boys & Girls Club.