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Shakespeare's plays have been adapted for the stage in a myriad of ways by Latinx artists and for Latinx cultures. 


The Tragic Corrido of Romeo & Lupe

By: Seres Jaime Magaña

Directed by: Pedro Garcia

Pharr Community Center (Pharr, TX) - 2018

The Tragic Corrido of Romeo & Lupe (2018)

by John Milam

Pedro Garcia, the artistic director of the Pharr Community Theater, brought the history of the Texas Rio Grande Valley, his home, to the stage. He collaborated with Seres Jaime Magaña, a native of Guadalajara, Mexico, and graduate of the University of Texas Pan-Am[1] who had settled in nearby McAllen, on a Shakespeare adaptation that was historically centered but that also spoke to contemporary life in the South Texas borderlands.[2] Garcia and Magaña premiered The Tragic Corrido of Romeo & Lupe on 19 April 2018, and the performance ran through 29 April 2018. Garcia and Magaña produced a bilingual production with a mostly local cast and crew, and the production included musical performances from Veronique Medrano, a local favorite Tejano/Conjunto singer from Brownsville, and Julian Arizola, a guitarist from McAllen.[3]

The Tragic Corrido portrays the development of the Rio Grande Valley in the early 1940s, during which time many northerners, attracted by the low cost of land, moved into South Texas.  At the start of the play, Ohioan John Campbell moves to Pharr and claims a plot for himself, and he soon falls in love with local Elena Martinez, whom he marries after her mother’s death and with whom he establishes the Campbell Irrigation Company. Their son is Romeo. The Diaz family are Pharr locals, and Lupe is their youngest daughter.  Most of the Diaz family works for Campbell Irrigation. Lupe’s cousin, Placido, organizes a workers’ rights protest, and amidst the chaos of the rally, Lupe and Romeo meet and fall in love.

Magaña’s adaptation of William Shakespeare’s most recognizable tragedy, Romeo and Juliet, reflects the hybrid, borderlands identity of Texas’ Rio Grande Valley, an area spread across five counties at the southern tip of the state. Pharr, a community of nearly 80,000 people in Hidalgo County, shares a bridge with Reynosa, Tamulipas, Mexico. In an interview, Magaña cites his movement between “belonging to the US” and connecting back to his culture as inspiration for all of his work, but he wanted to make the “struggle between family and passion that many Valley natives and Mexican people can relate to” the focus for this adaptation.[4]

In their scholarly treatment of The Tragic Corrido, Katherine Gillen and Adrianna M. Santos of Texas A&M University-San Antonio argue that Magaña’s play “reflects the plasticity and resilience of border culture and enacts decolonial performatics as it critiques Anglocentric constructs of the Rio Grande Valley,”[5] while also worrying that the conciliatory ending might complicate the play’s decolonial possibilities.[6] Ultimately, The Tragic Corrido deftly reveals the tensions between the upper-class peripheries and working-class centers that trouble the Valley communities.  Magaña uses nature metaphors to describe how he formulated Romeo’s privileged passivity conflicting with Lupe’s strident vitality. In Romeo, acted by McAllen IDEA school teacher Edgar Rodriguez, Magaña depicts “the moon, very passive,” while Lupe, UTRGV student Sara Lopez’s first major role, represents “the sun, very vibrant and alive.”[7] Imagining the two central characters in this way represents forces  that have demarcated life in the Valley in ways that would be familiar to most everyone in the audience – the vivacity of rich cultural practices and the challenges of conservative family values.



[1] In 2012 The University of Texas Pan-Am merged with the University of Texas Brownsville, both now referred to as legacy institutions, to create the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley.

[2] Sydni Salinas, “‘These violent delights have violent ends’,” The Ryder. 5 February 2018. Web.

[3] Texas Border Business, “The Tragic Corrido of Romeo & Lupe plays at Pharr Community Theater,” Texas Border Business. 11 April 2018. Web.

[4] Salinas, “‘These violent delights have violent ends’.”

[5] Katherine Gillen and Adrianna M. Santos, “The Power of Borderlands Shakespeare: Seres Jaime Magaña’s The Tragic Corrido of Romeo and Lupe,” in Shakespeare and Latinidad, eds. Trevor Boffone and Carla Della Gatta (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2021), 66.

[6] Gillen and Santos, 70.

[7] Salinas, “‘These violent delights have violent ends’.”

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