Theater Review: LA VIRGEN DE GUADALUPE, DIOS INANTZIN (Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels)

Post image for Theater Review: LA VIRGEN DE GUADALUPE, DIOS INANTZIN  (Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels)

by Lawrence Lucero on December 10, 2023

in Concerts / Events,Theater-Los Angeles


Since 2002, Latino Theater Company has been presenting La Virgen de Guadalupe, Dios Inantzin, a holiday pageant re-enacting the story of the appearance of the Virgin to an Aztec peasant named Juan Diego. She instructs him to go to the Spanish Catholic Bishop and tell him she wants a church built on Tepeyac Hill, which is in the northern most borough of today’s Mexico City. Facing ostracism from his own indigenous people, and his fears of being branded a liar and threatened with torturous punishments, Diego perseveres and makes several visits to the bishop to relay the messages of the Virgin. The narrative portrays his multiple encounters with the Virgin and his ultimate convincing the bishop to build the church.

Sal Lopez

Taking place in the glorious Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, the cast of over one hundred actors, singers, and indigenous Aztec dancers performed with spirit and conviction. Elia Saldana as the Virgin, first seen in the choir loft and subsequently in pageant wagons and near the altar, was a beautiful vision. Her voice has a lovely contemporary soprano sound. Sal Lopez as Juan Diego athletically and convincingly portrayed a man torn between two cultures trying to do what is right for the greater good. The “Tonantzin” Earth Mother dance and the men’s “Fuego” were colorful and exciting. I especially liked the “Danza del Aguila Blanca” White Eagle Dance, splendidly executed by General Lazaro Arvizu and Totocani Garcia.

Lucy Rodriguez

Director José Luis Valenzuela made excellent use of the space, keeping up with the momentum of the piece by redirecting the audience’s attention to the cathedral’s various locales. As a nod to the history of the resurgence of theater in the church after the dark ages, it would be astonishing if he were to include a Deus ex machina next year. The lighting and projection by Cameron Mock and Emily MacDonald were also inspired as they evoked the vibrant colors of stained-glass windows where there is only architectural concrete.

Sal Lopez, Castulo Guerra, Geoffrey Rivas

This annual event is as important culturally as it is spiritually. Adapted for the stage by Evelina Fernández from the mid-16th-century text The Nican Mopohua, the story of the Nahuatl-speaking, brown-skinned Virgin and her desire to bring the Aztecs and the church together is a 1531 message of inclusion. Christianity and the church with its message of peace and love came about in Europe at a time when journeying to a neighboring town was a danger to one’s life. It makes sense that the Virgin would want the same for the indigenous people of the Americas. The Aztecs’ survival depended on being accepted by the church as inherently good people with souls as opposed to being looked on as savages. And a lone, one-time timid, steadfast Aztec peasant made it happen. This pageant and its portrayal of peace, perseverance, and inclusion is a divine gift for the holidays with a message for every season.

Castulo Guerra, Geoffrey Rivas, Lucy Rodriguez and Jesús Castaños Chima

photos courtesy of Latino Theater Company

Sal Lopez

La Virgen de Guadalupe, Dios Inantzin
The Latino Theater Company
in association with the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels
presented by El Gallo Giro
Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, 555 W. Temple St. in L.A.
played on Dec 1 & 2, 2023; plays again in 2024
for info, call 213.489.0994 or visit Latino Theater Co

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