By Josie Loza
It’s like taking your first drink from a warm cup of champurrado on a gloomy morning.
No matter what kind of day lies ahead, you know as long as you’ve taken a quick swig of that rich chocolate drink, you’ll somehow be prepared for whatever obstacles you come across.
For Latinas, that feeling of warmth symbolizes how special cultural identity is for them.
Linda Nieves-Powell, a multi-talented writer, says Latinas come in many different flavors. She illustrates the essence of a Latina in her off-Broadway play Yo Soy Latina, which translated means “I am Latina.”
All Latina women have an idea of what it means to be Latina. That idea, however, has not made waves in mainstream America.
Latino heritage, femininity and contemporary prejudices become a fascinating launching point for Latino Flavored Productions Inc. Nieves-Powell serves as president and CEO. Its mission is to entertain and inspire through creative endeavors flavored with the Latino experience.
UNO’s American Multicultural Student Agency presented Yo Soy Latina Wednesday to an almost full Strauss Performing Arts Center Recital Hall.
Yo Soy Latina originated from a short monologue Nieves-Powell, a freelance writer for Latina and Estylo magazines, says. The play made its debut in April 2001.
The monologue is about Latinas of all shades, nationalities, ages and attitudes who try to make sense of what it means to be a Latina in America.
Through live performance, the audience meets the inspirational Latina characters and from the writer’s voice, they learn how and why the production was created.
Nieves-Powell says the vision for Yo Soy Latina drew from her personal experiences. She noticed Latinas need voices.
“The play was my own spiritual journey,” Nieves-Powell says.
She says the production encourages people to “take pride in your own identity.”
For Nieves-Powell, her production helps empower women from all walks of life.
“You have to go through a process of finding yourself,” she says.
Nieves-Powell says the joy and smiles as well as the pain Latinas have are too familiar. As each character tells her story, Nieves-Powell says, her audience begins to connect a common bond that links Latinas together.
“The pain is the same,” she says.
Nieves-Powell says some of the many issues she addresses in her play are about the “strength that lies within all of us women, that we have a function in life and without pain, one cannot truly experience growth.”
Iris Perez, a student, was among a handful of women who were able to meet the cast to talk about Latina issues.
“I feel like it was a big eye-opener,” she says.
Perez, an aspiring actress, asked the women for advice about her career. In the process, she felt that she learned more about herself and her culture.
“It got me to realize who I am,” Perez says. “It reopened the cultures of who I am.”
She says each character in the monologue came from deep within her. She felt connected with all the characters.
“They showed you a quality and gave you a lesson to take and carry with you for the rest of your days,” she says.
How Latinas see themselves often determines others see them. Yo Soy Latina illustrated that prejudices still exist and that “we carry the burden of change.”
Nieves-Powell felt the underlining meaning is that Latinas each carry the quality of strength, intelligence, ambition, pride, vibrancy and beauty, and when they find at least one of these qualities, it is the beginning of their journey to be who they need to be.