New Performance-Poem by Juan Felipe Herrera Reimagines the Juarez Border Arts Renaissance of the 1930s

Live performance-poem inspired by the lives of Cuca & Eva Aguirre will be performed 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 2 at UCR

Las Tres Chatitas

RIVERSIDE, Calif. ( — UC Riverside Professor of Poetry Juan Felipe Herrera had a chance encounter two years ago that led him on a journey through family history, cultural renaissance, and artistic innovation. On Friday, Nov. 2, that journey will come to life at UCR for one night only.

“Stars of Juarez: Cuca & Eva” is a live teatro de variedades performance of his latest work. The sketches are inspired by the radio, song and dance lives of two sisters and their niece. In this performance piece, he imagines the voyage of Cuca and Eva Aguirre, and Elvira Macías as teenagers in Juarez, Mexico — pioneers of a revolutionary multi-arts movement born along the Juarez/El Paso borderlands of the 1930s, and the root of today’s Latina and Latino performance arts.

Still a work in progress, the performance-poem embodies Herrera’s own journey over the last two years after meeting the 92-year-old Cuca at a flea market in El Paso in 2010. While on a personal project to learn more about his uncle Roberto Quintana, a leading figure in Juarez’s El Barco de la Ilusión radio theater group, Herrera met Cuca. He quickly realized that she, Eva and Elvira — known as Las Tres Chatitas — were central and seminal figures in the burgeoning Juarez Border Arts Renaissance of the 1930s. Herrera also suggests that the characters “El Pachuco” and “La Pachuca” originated in Juarez and not Los Angeles as some have  claimed.

Herrera, who was named California Poet Laureate in March and holds the Tomás Rivera Chair in Creative Writing, was inspired by his interviews with Cuca Garcia, the late Eva Amezcua and her husband, Francisco Amezcua (from Riverside).  He set out to embrace their lives and render them in a manner similar to their own creative journey in the ‘30s — as a poetic variety-show:

“I wanted to be there with both of them,” he said. “To be part of their lives since they had become part of mine.”

This evening is dedicated to the García and Amezcua families. Although based on true stories, the characters and incidents in this performance are fictional. Photographs are, in part, from the García and Amezcua family archives.

The performance will be followed by a special collaborative dance-recitation between Juan Felipe Herrera and choreographer Hannah Schwadron. Herrera will read his new poem “Dancing Me,” a meditation on his experiences while writing Stars of Juarez.” During his reading, four dancers will perform a complementary series of movement-reactions to the poem, choreographed by Schwadron with creative input from the dancers. The dancers are Hannah Zisman, Cydney Watson, Alyssa Burton, and Crystal Sepulveda.

The performance will be held, in the Arts Building’s Performance Lab 166 at 7 p.m., Friday November 2. Admission is free. Limited RSVP seating is available. To inquire about RSVP seating, send a message to with the subject line: “RSVP for Cuca and Eva.”  Parking will be $5 cash in Lot 1.


Don Francisco, Eva’s husbandCesar Ortega
 singer and dancerErika Martinez
 Cuca’s older sister, singer and dancer: Gisella Padilla
 Cuca & Eva’s niece: singer and dancer: Miriam Arredondo
Tin Tan, Radio anunciador, singer and dancer: Freddy Lopez
Cuca’s Old Boyfriend: Freddy Lopez
Roberto Q.,
 Radio anunciador, poetCesar Ortega
 Cuca and Eva’s motherVickie Vertiz
 Manager and producer of Radio Juarez: Cesar Ortega
El Poeta
Juan Felipe Herrera

Stage Manager: Michael Singh
Guitarist: Victor Martinez

Juan Felipe Herrera — Book and Director
Shane Shukis & David Campos — Producers
Christine G. Leapman — Gluck Program Coordinator
Hannah Schwadron — Choreographer
Nicelle Davis — Announcement Designer
Bruno Louchouarn — Composer
Joe Powers — Blocking Coach
Yassi Madadi — Dress

Juan Felipe Herrera is the Gluck Artist-in-Residence for 2012–13. This production is part of his outreach residency for the Gluck Fellows Program of the Arts at UC Riverside, and part of his two-year appointment as California Poet Laureate. Learn more about the Gluck Fellows Program of the Arts at UC Riverside at

Media Contact

Tel: (951) 827-7847
Twitter: bettyemiller

Additional Contacts

Christine Leapman
Tel: 951-827-5739

Archived under: Arts/Culture, Inside UCR, , , , , , , , , , ,

Top of Page