Identity—that is, one’s connection to heritage and search for autonomous existence—has been the leading theme throughout the history of Latino drama in the United States. According to Elizabeth C. Ramírez’s Chicanas/Latinas in American Theatre (2000), “in earlier decades (primarily during the [Richard] Nixon administration) there was a concerted effort to combine all Spanish-speaking groups in the United States into one, designating the term ‘Hispanic’ for this massive population.” Yet, the term “Hispanic” speaks of a collective, homogeneous Latino experience and ignores the diversity of each single culture that contributes to it. Among the numerous groups that belong to Latino culture in the United States, the three largest are Mexican Americans or Chicanos (American-born Mexicans), Puerto Ricans or Nuyoricans (New Ricans), and Cuban Americans, whose modern theater has acquired several names, including Cuban American and Cuban exile theater. The multitude of terms signify an acute awareness of Latino origins within—and in opposition to—the mainstream culture, a postmodern political consciousness of “the other” as both outsider and insider. “There are many subject positions one must inhabit; one is not just one being,” wrote literary critic Gayatri Spivak. “That is when a political consciousness comes in.”
Poet and novelist Lois Griffith’s writing, as an outcome of such political consciousness, was a political activity. She writes in Action: The Nuyorican Poets Cafe Theater Festival (1997), “My cityscape is painted in spit, blood, and curses that depict the devil as the uninformed accomplice in the murder of innocence. Theater captures life’s intent from moments when we confront our motives for action.” This poet’s words demonstrate the very modern, Antonin Artaud-like mission of theater to imitate life. Because modern Latino consciousness is arguably always political consciousness, modern Latino theater as its mirror is always political theater.