Photo by Philicia Endelman

(L-R) "Culture Clash’s" Ric Salinas, Herbert Sigüenza, and Richard Montoya in Bordertown Now at Pasadena Playhouse.

Twenty years after their original production “Bordertown” that examined the issues at the U.S./Mexico border –  Culture Clash brings a  new production that couldn’t be more timely and important with “Bordertown Now”  that provides snapshots of the many people who cross the border and those that work to keep them from entering the United States.  The daily  push and pull that has created wedges against the will to survive against  the political might of our government.  “Bordertown Now” has its final performances at the Pasadena Playhouse this Thursday June 21- Sunday June 23.  The performances will be followed by panel discussions and this weekend will include Immi Art, featuring artists who are immigrants.

This is Part 2 of an interview with Herbert Siguenza and Editor Diana Martinez talking about Culture Clash and this production of “Bordertown Now”. 

SFV Sun/El Sol:  You covered so much in this play and with each topic you covered, each topic could have been a play in itself.

Herbert Siguenza:   This was a hard play to produce, it was a real long sprint. We had more subject matter and had to hone it down and we had to concentrate on the border.  This was a hard birth.  

SFV Sun/El Sol: How important was it for both Ric Salinas and for you to both address the issue of El Salvador and how it relates to the border and set the record straight about MS 13?

Herbert Siguenza: It was very important.  Rick and I are both Salvadoran, a lot of people don’t know that.   I get really upset when I hear the news and they equate MS 13 with DACA and the Dreamer kids and it’s the complete opposite.  And it’s like what?  What do you mean?     It’s like equating Californians with Isis, it just makes no sense.   People just don’t know their history.  The civil war in El Salvador was awful and it was funded by the U.S. Government.   We wanted to show how MS 13 is really a product of that intervention thirty years ago and it came back to bite us.

SFV Sun/El Sol: You made the point well that MS 13 [despite Trump’s depiction] is home grown, was made in the USA and isn’t the drug cartel coming over the border. MS 13 didn’t come across the border as immigrants from El Salvador. 

Herbert Siguenza:  Yes, MS 13 was born in the USA and from the United States and was carried back to El Salvador.  MS 13 was born out of poverty, bad education and bad living conditions in the barrios in the U.S.   We [USA] aren’t innocent, it’s like Al-Qaeda, when we went to Afghanistan and we  created Al Qaeda, we destabilized those governments over there.  But people don’t understand that.  Afghanistan, people don’t understand that, they think people just want to get back at us.

SFV Sun/El Sol:  That whole segment – the TED Talk in the play about El Salvador was very strong and made the point about the diversity of people crossing the border., it’s not just Mexicans – it’s been Central Americans too for decades now.  You point out in the play, that El Salvador is such a small country, and was so devastated by the war.

Herbert Siguenza: Yes, it’s not just Mexicans crossing the border.  There were 75 thousand  people who died during the civil war in El Salvador. A third of the population migrated to the United States and we’ve become the 3rd largest Latino population after Mexicans and Puerto Ricans in this country.  El Salvador had a population of 6 million people and 2 million came up, one third of the country left.  So, we are everywhere now.  There are pupusas now in Kansas.

SFV Sun/El Sol: You relate to being a Chicano although you are Salvadoran.  

Herbert Siguenza: We grew up in the 70’s here when Chicanismo was really strong so we grew up Chicano culturally, but we knew we were Salvadorans and with the Civil war we were in solidarity with that.   As artists we self-identified as Chicanos.  Ric and I are thinking about writing a play just about Salvadorans and just get more specific about that.  The TED Talk in the play is the beginning about setting the record straight and hopefully we get a play out of that. 

SFV Sun/El Sol:  This is also interesting to see how many people will come out to support this kind of production and see if there is an audience of Central Americans to support that kind of production and increase that reach. 

Herbert Siguenza:  I think we took a big risk with this production and expanding our view and our style and we are almost 60 now.  People can’t expect us to do the stuff we were doing when we were 30 with the same kind of production and physical comedy when we were 30.   We’ve calmed down and writing things a bit differently, we’re family people now and we are more analytical.  I think this play is more analytical. 

SFV Sun/El Sol: Or older and wiser who knows?

Herbert Siguenza: Or older and wiser who knows!

SFV Sun/El Sol:  The plaza area at the Pasadena Playhouse was filled with your older fans after the play and gathered to talk about it. But what you also saw was a large crowd of a younger audience.

Herbert Siguenza:  I’m so happy and feel blessed to see the younger people in the audience enjoying the play just as much. It’s really for them, you know?  They are the future, they are the ones who will be affected by these laws more than most people.  I’m sure a lot of those kids in the audience were Dreamers and we are talking about them and we don’t see them in movies or on television shows. Where do they get represented?

I’m very interested to know, we aren’t sure yet about what we created, how it’s hitting them and what it means to people.

Bordertown Now continues with final performances through Sunday June 24.  For more information go to: PasadenaPlayhouse.org By phone at 626-356-7529 In person — Pasadena Playhouse Box Office, located at 39 South El Molino Avenue, Pasadena, CA 91101