The Highlights of September come from Joe Smith, a first-year scholar majoring in Philosophy and English.
After attending the talk by Guillermo Gómez Peña, Joe participated both in the dinner afterwards and the workshop the following day. Read below the insightful comments regarding these three events.
Guillermo Gómez-Peña’s performance crossed borders, being, often all at once, funny, pleasantly puzzling, educational, and emotional. His production combined spoken word and monologue to explore, from a cross-cultural perspective, issues like immigration, language, and academia. He shifted freely between English, Spanish, and a kind of shamanic glossolalic chanting; even though I couldn’t make much sense out of the latter two tongues, it was fascinating to become an outsider, a stranger in his linguistic territory. As well, after his show I had the extraordinary pleasure to attend a dinner with Gómez-Peña and his performance art workshop the next day. Over dinner, Gómez-Peña encouraged attendees to share their experience re Latin America. For example, some brave individuals discussed their crossing the Mexico-United States border and living in the U.S. as an undocumented immigrant. Stereotypes of Mexican-Americans were also broached and quickly dispelled. The dinner not only encouraged me to reevaluate my privilege, but got me interested in Latin American scholarship and activism, fecund grounds for American academic interest. Gómez-Peña’s workshop, which he ran with his wife Balitrónica, was similarly evocative. The workshop provided training in presence, that is, the ability to clear the mind of everything but bodily sensations. I roamed around a room with my eyes open and closed. I stared into the eyes of three people I had never before met for approximately fifteen minutes. I ran from wall to wall, eyes closed, forward and backward. The range of feeling was again obvious: the exercises I performed were scary, profound, insightful, and, above all else, joyful. Guillermo Gómez-Peña has a remarkable gravity about him. He’s able to convince you to try things that you might not, at least before meeting him, take seriously. He’s able to convince you to sacrifice something of yourself as a spectator because, as with all performance art, the viewer is an integral part of his message.
Joe, thank you for sharing with us these personal notes. We look forward to reading more about your future experiences at UMBC.
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