La Posarela, a bilingual musical play, re-enacts the biblical journey of a young couple who traveled from Nazareth to Bethlehem in search of a place to sleep with their first-born child Jesus.
But as told in the 45-minute play, free at 7 p.m. on Dec. 11 and Dec. 12 at the Community Music Center, the themes of homelessness, undocumented immigration and health care come to the fore.
“Ay, José. Maybe, after all, this city will continue to be a sanctuary city for illegal pilgrims like us,” Ana Ortiz, who plays Mary, tells Joseph.
Rooted in the Mexican tradition of the bible narrative, La Posarela tells the story of Mary and Joseph going from inn to inn looking for shelter. Each time, they are turned away.
The search symbolizes today’s social perils — in the Mission District and across the country — of trying to find shelter and undocumented immigrants trying to belong, said Chus Alonso, the play’s music director. It can also symbolize a person’s search for the truth, he added.
In a new twist to a classic celebration, La Posarela is a hybrid of two of Mexico’s traditional festivities: Las Posadas or the “inns,” which is a procession re-enacting Mary and Josephs’ journey to find lodging and the Pastorelas, which is a play of the biblical tale in which the devil tries to lead the couple astray.
While the Pastorelas have remained relatively obscure in mainstream American culture, the Posadas have become popular in cities across the United States, particularly those with a sizable Latino population.
“There’s a mix of Christmas and social themes,” said Alonso. “Each time we’ve adapted it so it can touch upon a part of history.”
The play includes carols of traditional songs from Latin American and Spain, such as Campana Sobre Campana and Pastores de Belen and comments of current events. Past plays have criticized the war in Iraq, an entire administration or a U.S. policy. This year, health care will examined.
The casts are music center students ranging from young children choir to adult actors and singers. Music center teachers are also participating. In all, 65 people are participating in the play, with poet and playwright Carlos Baron playing the grand devil.
Martha Rodriguez-Salazar, conductor and producer of La Posarelas, said between 150 and 170 people are expected to see the show each night.
Tamales and atole, a cornstarch-based hot, thick drink, among other traditional foods prepared during the Christmas holiday, will be sold after the play.
Rodriguez-Salazar said the auditorium fills to capacity, which is why the Music Center is looking for a larger space to hold the next year’s musical event.
Luis De la Vega, who plays Joseph, said he enjoys sharing his heritage with others.
“When I was asked by my teacher if I wanted to participate, I said yes, this is a great way to showcase our Latino culture.”