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Play reflects on immigration issues at the border

Alejandra Molina
Jesús I. Valles performs his play (Un)Documents at the Wise Family Theater Friday, Oct. 25, 2019.

Jesús I. Valles, critically acclaimed actor and poet, performed for the first time in El Paso his play “(Un)documents, a story of his struggle in becoming a U.S. citizen Oct. 25, at UTEP’s Wise Family Theater 

Written in 2018, the play tells the story of Valles’ life since his birth and the subsequent struggles he faced as a migrant 

Valles switches from Spanish to English to resemble the two worlds he lived in while growing up: the struggle of trying to assimilate to America’s language and culture 

Originally from Ciudad Juárez, Valles moved to El Paso when he was nine years old. Valle’s poetry beginnings take root in his middle school years but decided to pursue later in life a college degree from UTEP in communications with a minor in English American literature.  

“You know, I always saw poetry as a hobby. ‘Te vas a morir de hambre, el arte, ¿qué es eso?’ Siempre esuchamos ese tipo de frases y pues no le ponemos atención,” Valles said. 

After graduating from UTEP, he moved to California to enroll in a master’s program at California State University, Long Beach. 

(Un)documents’ intensely emotional scenes left an audience in tears throughout its duration. 

Genesis Hernandez, 22 -year-old UTEP graduate studentsaid she had a mix of emotions during the play.  

“Every experience he shared were events in my life. I also had to translate for my parents. Family members were deported,” Hernandez said.  

Adriana Dominguez, director of audience development for UTEP’s Department of Theatre and Dance, mentioned that she saw the play last year at The Vortex Theatre in Austin, Texas.  

“I was very impressed, and I thought we needed to bring this to UTEP. I had the chance to speak to Jesus and learned that he was also from El Paso and a UTEP alumnus,” Dominguez said. 

Dominguez added that various departments including: Communication,Leadership Studies, Women’s and Gender Studies, Chicano Studies, the Center for Interamerican and Border Studies, and the department of Theatre and Dance collaborated to bring this event to the university and community for free. 

Aldo Portillo, a 30-year-old UTEP student majoring in design, attended the play with his friends.  

“I was impressed that (Valles) wrote the story and that he was the actor too,” Portillo said. “I think he picked a very good topic to create this art performance. Especially here where we are a border town. My grandparents were illegal at some point. It reflects our community.”  

Valles mentioned that he finds a sense of community in the art scene of his current city of residence, Austin, Texas. 

“I started to bring theatre back into my life to cope with stress and it also helps me to find a sense of community in Austin, a city that is very diverse,” Valles said. “Sometimes it can be very difficult to find people with who we can share our stories, struggles and our joys. Writing and performing this show helped me to find ‘mi gente’, Valles said. 

After the play a Q&A was held, followed by a reception for the audience.  

Maria Ramos Pacheco may be reached at [email protected]

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Play reflects on immigration issues at the border