Cencalli: Puebla's theater with a social perspective on the pandemic

Ángel Moreno, Frida Mancilla, Paul Delfín and Rodrigo Roman, have founded in 2020, one of the most promising theater groups in Puebla.

Cencalli Teatro is a group of enterprising actors who one day decided to start a theater company, from a professional internship experience, at the end of their degree.

Angel Moreno, Frida Mancilla, Paul Delfin and Rodrigo Roman have founded in 2020, one of the most promising theater groups in Puebla.

They decided that they should have a slogan, theater with a cause. The concern for addressing social and local issues led them to their first play called "Cholollan 500", which they wrote for the Regional Museum of Cholula, after having had access to a large number of books and interviewed several people about discrimination in Mexico.

Cencalli Teatro
Cencalli Teatro. Photo: @carlosPRESS.

Racism and classicism in historical terms since the time of the so-called Conquest.

Angel, Frida, Paul and Rodrigo have become aware of the aesthetic considerations, among people, based on skin color and want to tell what repercussions this has on everyday life.

In fact, they emphasize the normalized discrimination that people experience, and how they perceive as something better and even aspirational, when a person has a whiter complexion than others.

Source: INEGI
Source: INEGI

"We say that we are a group committed to Mexican society, because we deal with local social issues. Beyond going to what is happening in other countries, in this case in Puebla, we deal with the strongest issues that are experienced here," says Paul Delfín.

For example, in the latest National Survey on Discrimination, ENADIS, conducted in 2017 by the National Institute of Statistics and Geography, INEGI, just over 20% of the population aged 18 reported having been discriminated against in that last year.

It also reports that 49.3% of the indigenous population perceives that their rights are little or not respected at all.

Making discrimination visible in Mexico is essential for understanding and modifying it, hence the need to have information that allows us to identify which population groups are most affected by it. (ENADIS, 2017).

All acts or omissions that cause distinction, exclusion or restriction, that hinder the rights of people based on race, ethnic origin or physical appearance, is discrimination; and that is where the greatest attention lies in the contents and works of Cencalli Teatro.

"We were commissioned to write a play, which was about the 500 years of the Conquest, and he also mentioned to us that he was interested in involving the theme that, we as Mexicans, still feel a bit conquered and how they teach us history," mentions Frida Mancilla.

Cencalli Teatro
Cencalli Teatro. Photo: @carlosPRESS.

Theater and the pandemic

The onset of the pandemic and the closing of cinemas and theaters was a disappointment for this team of actors. In fact, artists have been among the groups most affected by this situation. The experiences of spectators, enthusiasts and fans of entertainment as well as culture, overnight ceased. Funding and survival become increasingly burdensome.

"It really did hit the four of us, because it was like an artistic disillusionment. But at the same time we realized that we had already done something. (...) We began to ask ourselves questions, because at the same time the contingency opened dialogues (...) about classism, skin color, violence. A lot of people started to talk about that", says Ángel Moreno.

Despite this, the members of Cencalli Teatro realized that while some doors closed, other dialogues opened and the debate began. They realized that the important thing was to get the message across, to be able to reach people, and it didn't matter if it was live or not.

That is why they also emphasize the importance of theater in schools, street theater, and the dissemination of online activities for the rest of society.

Cencalli Teatro
Cencalli Teatro. Photo: @carlosPRESS.

Theater should be uncomfortable

Ángel, Frida, Paul and Rodrigo are convinced that theater should not be comfortable, but safe

"We believe that theater should not be something comfortable (...) for me it is a great phrase of the theater that I want to continue doing. (...) Theater should be an emergency exit. In the midst of a time when information flows the fastest in history, it should be a space of restraint and analysis; and then when people leave that space where people interacted, they return to their reality with a different feeling," says Rodrigo Román.

Just like cinema, this is a reflection of society, and the topics that can be dealt with in it are also a reflection for the spectator.

They affirm that, if they go for comfort, they would be competing with content on the web, for example, of people lying in bed, and against that, they will always lose.

They are Cencalli Teatro

Read it in Spanish here