It’s unfortunate to say that the relationship many people have with the Latinx community doesn’t reach much farther than eating at Latinx-owned restaurants. Luckily the holiday season is an open invitation for us to experience a variety of cultural celebrations, even amidst a pandemic. Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) is coming up, and Cazateatro Theatre Group has joined forces with the Brooks Museum to provide a safe way to celebrate.
This Saturday, October 24th, they’re hosting a socially-distanced reverse parade at Overton Park featuring performers, floats, beautiful altars, audio tours in English and Spanish, and more!
“Memphis and Shelby County are getting more diverse by the day,” said Monica Sanchez, Artistic Director at Cazateatro Theatre Group.
“It’s not just black and white anymore—it’s colorful, and most importantly, it’s collective. We know that we are stronger together, and people are realizing the importance of what their different backgrounds bring to the table. This is not about my customs being the most important. We’re just shedding light on a different piece of a giant puzzle.”
With a decade of operation underneath their belt, Cazateatro Theatre Group exists as Memphis and Mississippi’s first bilingual theatre group founded by five women who wanted to share their love of theatre with the Latinx community. With a mission to bridge cultures and connections through the arts, the nonprofit organization aims to be both a resource for learning and outlet for expression.
“We are never not educating someone,” Sanchez said. “Our plays are bilingual—español y inglés,” says Sanchez. “So people who speak Spanish learn their lines in English, and those who speak English get a chance to learn their lines in Spanish. We are a multicultural group made up of Colombians, Argentines, Mexicans, etc., and we’re a family-friendly theatre with everybody from mothers to sons to grandparents represented—so there are many opportunities for everyone to learn from one another and broaden their horizons.”
Speaking of broadening horizons, that’s exactly what they hope the Memphis community will do when it comes to recognizing Dia de Los Muertos, a holiday celebrating the cycle of life and honoring those who have passed. Last year, hundreds of Memphians gathered to be a part of the parade and explore the vibrant traditions that bring the holiday to life—and while the celebration may look a little different this year, Cazateatro still encourages even more people to open their minds and their hearts to new experiences.
“The first year of the parade we were expecting 500-800 people,” said Sanchez. “We were being realistic with our expectations, but then 5,000 people showed up. Era impresionable ver a toda la gente esperando. It was overwhelming, but that’s what we want. We want more people who are willing to try something different. We want more people who are willing to step out of their comfort zones. We want there to be people out there who’s beliefs and backgrounds are different than ours.”
Día de los Muertos may only come once a year, but Cazateatro Theatre Group host events year-round where people can continue to connect with the local Latinx community. From local shows and workshops to Latin Fest, everyone is welcome to play a part in bridging cultural barriers.