On Learning the Signs for Tamales De Puerco

A mother of a deaf child reflects on why she wrote her history-making play "Tamales De Puerco", the first trilingual p

By Mercedes Floresislas
Published on LatinoLA: April 2, 2013

On Learning the Signs for <i>Tamales De Puerco</i>

"Tamales De Puerco" (Pork Tamales) began when I was in high school. My brother (annoyingly pushy but well intentioned) called me after having read an article about a talented young woman from Boyle Heights, Josefina Lopez. He said, "Why can't you be more like her?" I didn't even know her but I disliked her just as much as thinking that my brother, who raised me, thought I should be doing more with my life. For twenty years, her name was seared on my mind.

Years later, I was trapped in an abusive relationship and a world of self-limiting beliefs. I was convinced that I was the reason my baby was not thriving. Having my son diagnosed as profoundly deaf pushed me away from the edge that I was ready to jump from and into a world I had never known existed. "What was God thinking giving him such a lousy mother?" I thought.

I went, unwillingly, on a journey. I fought for my son to develop speech; I refused to accept my son would not have a voice; I even got him the most cutting edge technology: A cochlear implant. Nothing helped.

By the time he was six years old it was clear that he would not develop speech. One night, while still longing to hear his voice, I had a dream that I was a refugee. There were other refugee families; they each had a beautiful, healthy plant with them. I looked for mine but it was dried, wilting, dying. At that moment I realized my son was missing, I panicked, I had to find him. I woke up knowing that I was depriving my son of a vital nutrient and we started learning ASL.

It wasn't easy. ASL is a beautiful language, and for people grounded on a sound-based society, it is also hypnotic; it catches everyone's attention. So, there I was, barely able to speak on the phone due to a severe anxiety disorder and I had to communicate with my son using ASL. Once again, I questioned God's thinking. Several years passed before I understood that my son's inability to develop speech gave me a voice. I found healing through the voice my son gave me.

When my son was eight years old, I learned that he believed it was impossible for a Deaf Mexican to become an actor. As much as I hoped to expand his world, I didn't think of writing to attempt to influence the stereotypes represented both in the media and his young mind.

Twenty years after having heard Josefina Lopez's name for the first time, I came across a small, crumpled piece of paper on the hallway where I attended an ASL class (this is pathetic, but I picked it up simply because it was pink). I had been plagued by the heartbreaking stories shared by my Deaf students and Deaf drug addicted clients, for some time. I recognized the name immediately, but I also recognized the ad for a workshop on writing as a Sign. I thought, "Josefina Lopez? Seriously, God?"

I kept the ad in my wallet for months before I attended her workshop in January 2007. Nine months later I wrote the first draft of "Tamales De Puerco" (Pork Tamales) and I had a table read. The story gives voice to Deaf and hearing Latino characters. Josefina's unwavering support gave me the conviction not only to write "Tamales De Puerco" (Pork Tamales) but also to carry its growth (and mine) through three productions.

My son will be eighteen soon and he has the opportunity to share the stage with a sensitive and talented cast of hearing and Deaf actors. "Tamales De Puerco" (Pork Tamales) is a rare experience where cultural borders disappear. For me, it is an opportunity to see temporal borders disappear and see the script laid out without long spaces or unnecessary question marks.

"Tamales De Puerco" - A trilingual play

Written by Mercedes Floresislas
Directed by Edward Padilla

Starring (in alphabetical order):
Arturo Aranda, Alfredo Avila, Yocani Avina,
Oscar Basulto, Brian Cole, Maria Correa, Jaden Delgado,
Mercedes Floresislas, Ramona Pilar Gonzales,
Cristal Gonzalez, Dickie Hearts,
Michael Anthony Martinez-Islas, Scott McMaster,
Lynn Moran, Miriam Peniche,
Antonio Perez, Olin Tonatiuh

Produced by: Miguel Garcia & Mercedes Floresislas

April 3-28, 2013
$15 Previews:April 3 & 4; $25 Opening Night:April 5
(Opening Night includes post-show reception)
$20 General, $17 Students & Seniors
$15 Boyle Heights residents

Fri & Sat at 8 pm, Sun at 5 pm (Group rates available)

tickets@casa0101.org ÔÇó (323) 263-7684

Casa 0101 Theater
2102 E. First St., LA, CA 90033
Casa 0101 is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization

About Mercedes Floresislas:
Mercedes Floresislas (Producer, Playwright, American Sign Language Consultant) was born in Guadalajara, Mexico, earned her Bachelor's degree in Psychology from UCLA and her Master's degree in Social Work from California State Los Angeles.
Author's website

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