Gentrification is certainly a term that has many connotations.
At its best, gentrification has been able to clean up neighborhoods and infuse them with businesses big and small, making areas appealing for families and Gen X’ers looking to invest long-term in a community.
Yet, at its worst, gentrification has taken longtime families, who have strong, unbreakable roots over many years in a neighborhood and booted them out. In many of these cases, it has been the only home generations of families have ever known.
Gentrification has no shortage of complexities, and is an issue that playwright and performer Javier Luis Hurtado has continued to dissect. His examination of gentrification, among other issues, is something he explores “through a queer lens” with his beloved drag character named Perra Pumps.
“Someone once framed her as the lesbian love child of Peg Bundy and Maria Felix and I’m cool with that,” said Hurtado.
San Juan Bautista’s El Teatro Campesino is producing Hurtado’s solo show this weekend, where Hurtado is an artist-in-residence. Directed by Ruben Gonzalez, “Perra Pumps’ Last Call” runs this weekend, March 8th – 10th as part of the “Teatro Lab,” a project which looks to develop Chicano and Chicana voices in a series of new works. In addition to Hurtado’s play, a Mexican diva drag review by his fellow members of the “NosJotros Crew” kicks off the evening.
Hurtado’s play follows the trials and tribulations of a queer Chicano family who has owned a bar over the span of 53 years. Perra’s landlord is raising the rent, and she tries to make sense of it all with her best friend, DJ Mikey Flexx. What follows are stories, songs and bonding over tequila in what might be the end of the only life she has ever known.
Hurtado’s work was born out of his desire to see more characters on stage that look and feel like him. He is passionate about highlighting Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer characters that have stories uniquely all their own. “My aim is to expand the narratives that highlight queer brown people and our expression of love and desire in American theatre,” said Hurtado. “I’m interested in telling stories of people who look like me, love, fight, fear and laugh like me.”
Hurtado understands gentrification and migration are terms that are not going away anytime soon, yet it does not take away the sting of what he has witnessed. “Families being torn apart by racist immigration legislation makes me angry,” said Hurtado. “Disproportionately, communities of color are being pushed out of the places they have called home for generations.”
Currently, Hurtado is waiting to get into a graduate school to continue his theatre studies, and his early installments of Perra Pumps have received great response. His early days with NosJotros was where the character was first born through a drag performance piece, and Hurtado is hoping to continue touring the show around the country. Installments two and three of the trilogy are goals in the near future.
With the seriousness of the subject matter, Hurtado does not lose sight of the fact that his character is wickedly funny. Hurtado cuts a mean drag queen, a character that has a hearty lease on life and someone that aims to be memorable long after the curtain closes.
Hurtado believes that Perra Pumps is certainly a character many can relate to.
“She’s like that badass tia (aunt) in everyone’s family, the messy loud one who always has your back.”
WHAT TO KNOW IF YOU GO
El Teatro Campesino of San Juan Bautista presents “Perra Pumps Last Call”
Written and performed by Javier Luis Hurtado
Directed by Ruben Gonzalez
March 8th and 9th – 8:00 pm
March 10th – 3:00 pm
Tickets range from $10 – $15
El Teatro Campesino
705 Fourth Street
San Juan Bautista, CA 95045
For tickets, call (831) 623-2444 or visit www.elteatrocampesino.com