A Story of Self-Discovery as a Mexican American
Review of I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter at Seattle Repertory Theatre
Written by Ecna Aguilar-Santiago during an Arts Criticism workshop at Evergreen High School
You walk into the theater and immediately are captivated. Your eyes are lured to a woman in her casket, front, and center stage. The lights beaming directly on her face, smirking.
Humor, tragedy, romance, family, friends, a heartwarming coming-of-age theater masterpiece written by Isaac Gomez based on the novel I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sanchez. The lighting, the simple props, the effects, the turntable, and the actors all come together to take you to Chicago and make you feel like you're living everything with them. Karen Rodriguez who plays the main character Julia Reyes does a mind-blowing, amazing job of portraying a bookworm Latina daughter dealing with a family loss. Issac Gomez’s play does a fantastic job of showing us the ups and downs of a teenage girl dealing with death, immigrant parents, mental health, and self-discovery.
I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter tells the story of 16-year-old Julia Reyes and her story of dealing with the death of her older sister Olga, played by Sofía Raquel Sánchez, and the secrets she uncovers along the way of trying to understand who her sister truly was in life. Her immigrant parents want her to be the perfect Mexican daughter. But Julia struggles with pleasing her parents—she’s a rebellious girl who prefers to wear all black instead of a pretty pink dress, doesn’t know how to cook, not even how to flip a tortilla, and prefers to be nose deep into her books instead of socializing with even her own family. And this causes her to be an outcast within her own family.
One of the aspects of the play that is very powerful is the portrayal of family relationships. Amá, played by Jazmín Corona, has never been emotionally present for Julia. Julia feels like her mom just yells at her left and right and never compliments her on the things she's doing right. Similar to Amá, Apá played by Eddie Martinez has also never really been present as a parent. He has a hard time expressing himself as Julia described him. He wakes up, goes to work, comes back home, stays sitting down all day watching TV in the living room, eats, goes back to sleep and it repeats again. But during the summer Julia goes to visit her grandparents in Mexico she gets a different light from her parents. As her grandma tells her about her parent’s story of crossing the border, Julia starts to understand her parents better and why they are the way they are. This shifts everything for Julia.
Julia’s struggles with understanding her parents, as well as coming to terms with the loss of her sister, all greatly affect her mental health.
Similarly, Julia’s friend, Juanga, played by Marco Antonio Tzunux, experiences a lot of discrimination and even physical abuse for being openly gay. The audience experiences a very powerful scene with him in which Julia and Lorena (Leslie Sophia Pérez) discover Juanga’s abuse and help him through it. This topic of mental health, especially seeing this in young Latino kids, is something that makes you reflect on your own mental health. It makes you feel not alone knowing that things like this happen and that it's nothing to be ashamed of. They're telling you it's ok to not be ok.
I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter is a play that anyone should see. Everything just captures you in—the performances, lights, simple props. so much that you don’t even realize how long you’ve been sitting there for. This play has something that anyone could relate to, whether that be, being a child of immigrant parents, dealing with mental health, on a journey of self-discovery, being a teenager, or being a parent. This play is a mirror that anyone can find themselves in.