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Jose: El Polvo de la Tierra

A play about the first U.S. soldier to be killed in the Iraq War premieres at Wilmington's Harbor College

By Maria Reyna
Published on LatinoLA: March 23, 2009


Jose: El Polvo de la Tierra


My son and I went to watch a play at L.A. Harbor College in Wilmington. The title of the play was simply "JOSE" by Larry W. Heimgartner.

March 21st, 2009 marks the 6th anniversary of Marine Lance Corporal Jose Antonio Gutierrez death. Jose was the first of 4250 American soldiers to be killed in the Iraq War.

Born in Guatemala. His mother died when he was two years old, his father died when he was six. Jose and his sister were now orphan children living on the streets of Guatemala.

El polvo de la tierra - The dust of the Earth -- is a term used to describe the poor, children living on the streets.

Jose went to live in an orphanage "Casa Alianza". He loved to play soccer, and wrote poetry.
He was a survivor and a dreamer, he dreamed of a better place a better world
and had to dream to survive.

In 1997 he decided to follow his dream of a better life.
He promised his sister that some way, some how he would send for her.

Jose started his 3,000 mile journey, across Guatemala, Belize and Mexico.
He walked, hitchhiked and jumped on trains to reach the wall to his destination.
He arrived in California with no money, clothes or shelter.

He was captured by the INS and was going to be deported back to his country.
The only thing that saved him from being sent back to Guatemala was that he lied about his age; he told la Migra that he was sixteen years old.
They don''t deport minors and was allowed to stay.

From there he went to live in several foster homes, he ended up in Torrance, CA with the Mosquera Family who took him in and loved him like a son.
Jose went to school in Torrance, and attended L.A. Harbor College.
It was then he decided to put off his education and enlist in the United States Marines.
It was at that time the U.S. was offering green card holders who enlisted in the armed forces U.S.A. citizenship within three years instead of the usual five years.
32,000 Latino Marines were enlisted and deployed to Iraq, to fight a war in a foreign country.

To this day the Iraq Invasion war has lasted longer and the most expensive than any other war.

Directors Note:
He came to us with nothing but a dream of a better life for his sister and himself‘«™his eyes were as black as night and his face chiseled by sharp Maya features‘«™

Lance Corporal Jose Antonio Gutierrez defied the odds and conquered adversity‘«™when he needed to call upon all of his forces and moved forward toward his dream‘«™we fondly remember him as handsome and heroic‘«™a lanky youth full of wonder and hope ‘«™with a dream in his pocket.

The play will be returning in May, 2009‘«™.
I understand that the family of Jose plan on attending the performance.
It is most definitely a play worth watching‘«™It puts a face to the many young men that have lost their lives fighting in the Iraq War.
It is a very heart-clenching, sorrowful, poignant performance. You can almost feel his sisters sorrow-played by the talented actress Marsi Ramirez.
There was not a dry eye in the theater during the telling of the life of a courageous young man.

There was a 60 Minute program dedicated to Jose A. Gutierrez
There is also a documentary movie available on DVD "The short life of Jose Antonio Gutierrez" by Heidi Specogna

About Maria Reyna:
M. Reyna -Varied artist, painter, poet
Author's website
Email the author




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