Vol.16 No. 1-2, 1995, Spring and Fall/ Printemps et Automne



Guillermo Verdecchia's Fronteras Americanas, a very successful one-person show which premiered in Toronto in 1993, deals with two kinds of borders: those within the American continent, which result in stereotypes of the south; and those within the individual, which bring about a personal struggle to find home. In this essay I look at how Fronteras both reproduces and subverts what can be called "the ideology of Multiculturalism, " an ideology which has instituted acculturation behind a liberal discourse of integration. The negotiation between ideological compliance and challenge is found in the content of the play as well as in some of its means of production, such as venue and language. Fronteras's most powerful ideological subversion, however, is its final suggestion for a new way to imagine Canada.

Dès sa création à Toronto en 1993, Fronteras Americanas de Guillermo Verdecchia fut un grand succès. La pièce traite de deux sortes de frontières: celles qui se trouvent à l'intérieur du continent américain-et qui donnent naissance aux stéréotypes du Sud-et celles qui habitent les individus et qui entraînent des luttes personnelles pour en arriver à trouver son identité. Dans cet essai, j'analyse la façon dont Fronteras reproduit et subvertit ce que l'on peut appeler << l'idéologie du multiculturalisme>>, une idéologie qui a institué l'acculturation sous couvert d'un discours libéral d'intégration. La négociation entre la complaisance idéologique et le défi se trouve dans le contenu de la pièce tout autant que dans certains de ses moyens de production, comme le lieu du spectacle et la langue utilisée. La subversion la plus puissante de Fronteras réside dans sa proposition finale d'une nouvelle façon d'imaginer le Canada.

"Here we are. All together. At long last". With these words, Guillermo Verdecchia, author and performer of Fronteras Americanas, welcomed his audience to the Tarragon Theatre's Extra Space in Toronto on a cold winter evening of 1993. The same words served to welcome audience members -to a larger space, a metaphorical one perhaps, one whose name has been misused and abused, and in which people are still alienated from one another. Welcome to the Americas, the continent of borders, of fronteras.

Fronteras Americanas, perhaps one of the most successful one-person shows in Toronto in recent years, is a humorous but poignant look at the Latino stereotypes which have been created in North America and which serve to deepen the alienation between North and South, an alienation which in economic and political terms translates into exploitation. But the play is also about the personal story of one of those Latinos, Verdecchia himself, born in Argentina and living in Canada from an early age, on the border between two cultures without fully belonging to either one of them. Thus, the borders explored in the play are those within the continent and within the individual.

Fronteras, originally performed by Verdecchia himself, was extraordinarily well received by Toronto audiences and critics alike and was an impressive box-office success. Since then it has been produced in other parts of the country, and it has won Verdecchia a 1993 Governor General's Drama Award and a 1994 Chalmers Award for Best Canadian Play. The explanation of this outstanding success might seem to be quite simple at first. The play is well-written and Verdecchia is an inspiring performer. The text is funny, witty and profound, all in the right doses. The original production was sponsored by a well-established theatre in Toronto with a long tradition of workshopping new Canadian scripts and supporting new playwrights, and it was put together by a winning team of professionals. Finally, being easy to produce and tour, the text has caught the imagination of other artists and audiences across Canada.

However, there are more profound reasons for Fronteras' success, reasons which cannot be found in its literary and production values alone. At some level, I believe, it has brought to life some profound contradictions latent in Canada as a country and in Canadians as individuals. These contradictions have to do with the way Canadian society is shaped by the federal policy of Multiculturalism.

Elsewhere 1 I have argued that all aspects of Canadian life, but most obviously the arts, have been affected by what I have called "the ideology of Multiculturalism", an apparently liberal discourse of "integration" of and respect for all cultures underneath which lies a reality of acculturation into a mainstream. My main argument in this discussion has been that this ideology was established and is continuously recreated by both the official and the popular use of the terms "cultures" and "ethnic groups" to describe the different inhabitants of Canada. In my work I have attempted to analyze how Canadian cultural policy as well as the work of minority 2 artists in Toronto is affected by the subtle workings of this ideology of acculturation. Whether they reproduce it or attempt to consciously subvert it, they are bound to be framed by it, and often they comply with it and challenge it at the very same time. As a play dealing with relations among cultures, both inside and outside Canada, Fronteras Americanas is also framed by the ideology of Multiculturalism, and it also serves to reproduce it and subvert it in different ways.

In Fronteras, the negotiation between ideological compliance and challenge is found in the content of the play as well as in some of its means of production, such as venue and language. In each of these means of production this negotiation is firmly grounded in an ongoing shift among the two kinds of borders present in the script, borders within the continent and within the individual. But Fronteras also manages to go a step further, as the issues which result from the exploration of these borders are transferred to Canada itself. I would like to suggest that the image of Canada presented toward the end of Fronteras is the play's most powerful ideological subversion.

In 1967, the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism established by Prime Minister Lester Pearson published Book 1 of a Report which defined Canada as a "bilingual" and "bicultural" country, the home of two cultures-British and French (already known as "Charter cultures" since they are recognized by the British North America Act of 1867)-each with its respective language. Groups which were neither British nor French were dealt with in other books of the Report, which classified them all together under the rubric of "ethnic groups".

The Report defined culture as "a way of being, thinking, and feeling ... a driving force animating a significant group of individuals united by a common tongue and sharing the same customs, habits and experiences" (1:xxxi). This definition seems to be in line with others put forward by modem social scientists who see culture as "a way of life that a group of people develops in order to adapt to a set of external and pre-existing conditions" (Li 8). What matters in these definitions is that culture is a notion which denotes material practice, since it seems to make reference to a social system of customs, norms, and institutions, a system which can change and can be chosen.

The Report's definition of "ethnic group" also seemed to be in line with those offered by modern social science, which has defined it as a group "bound together by common ties of race, nationality, or culture, living together in an alien civilization but remaining culturally distinct" (Ware 607).

As much as modern social science has been successful in revealing the notion of race as a social construct, it has failed to approach the notion of "ethnic group" in the same fashion. The essence of the definition of an ethnic group lies in the fact that it lives in an "alien civilization", that is, it is a minority within a majority, its social and political position being constructed in relation to others. In Canada, the British and the French are called "cultures" because they have a social impact, being the creators and safeguards of the material practice of this country. Other groups are simply "ethnic groups", because their material practice has a limited influence outside their own communities. In Canadian society at large, they have a merely symbolic function. Their presence is recognized but they are not necessarily allowed to influence the overall cultural practice.

Although in the 1970s Pierre Trudeau's policy of Multiculturalism introduced an apparently new vision of Canada- not with two but many cultures- the ideology remained the same, for the new policy included no discussion of how these groups would have an impact on the practice of Canadian society. It simply encouraged all Canadians to honour their ancestors and their own ways of life, as long as they affected their communities alone. "Cultural pluralism" simply meant to regulate "equality of opportunity for all within the existing system" (Hawkins 11; emphasis mine). Instead of allowing for pluralism, the policy of Multiculturalism continued to frame Canada's peoples as "cultures" and "ethnic groups", perpetuating the division between their spheres of influence, and thus re-instituting acculturation.

If ideology can be defined as ideas which help to "legitimate a dominant political power" (Eagleton 1) and if this political power may legitimate itself, among other ways, "by naturalizing and universalizing such beliefs so as to render them self-evident and apparently inevitable" (5), the ideology of Multiculturalism in Canada has re-instituted the power of the British and French cultures (already self-granted in 1867), keeping other groups unable to influence the material practice of the country as a whole. Furthermore, it has served to promulgate this status quo as the natural way things are in this country. This is the ideology which shapes modem Canadian society and all practices within it. It is also the context in which I wish to look at Fronteras Americanas. 3

As I suggested in the introduction to this essay, Fronteras deals with two kinds of borders, which for the sake of clarity I would like to call the "continental border" and the "individual border". The continental border divides the Americas into North and South and is grounded in colonial relations which translate into stereotyped representations of the "other", representations which, in turn, legitimate hegemonic relations of power. This border, Verdecchia argues, using Carlos Fuentes' words, is a "personal frontier" which "can be nourished by ... knowledge ... [or] can be starved by suspicion, ghost stories, arrogance, scorn and violence" (30). Verdecchia discusses well-known stereotypes (the "Latino lover", the "Latino dancer" or the Colombian "drug lord") and performs some others (the Mexican "bandito"4 and Wideload, a Chicano immigrant in Canada) as a strategy to make those who have created the stereotypes laugh at them. This strategy works quite effectively, for at many times during the course of the performance it is not clear whether the audience is laughing at the stereotype or at themselves laughing at it.

The individual border acknowledges the presence of two cultures alive within an individual, as he struggles to find his 5 "identity", his "Home". Verdecchia, born in Argentina, is going back home "after an absence of fifteen years". He repeats the words to himself: "Going Home . . . I am going Home-all will be resolved, dissolved, revealed, I will claim my place in the universe when I Go Home" (36). But once he is "Home", he is as confused as he was when he left Canada, and he feels he needs to go ... home: "[B]ut I'm already there aren't I?' (50).

On the border between the two cultures, Verdecchia feels "different", "wrong", "out of place", "not nowhere", "not-neither" (51). Pressured by an Argentinian friend, he goes to visit "El Brujo", a medicine man (presumably Argentinian as well) who also finds himself "on the border" (El Brujo himself thinks this border is in Mexico, but Verdecchia knows they are just near Bloor and Madison, in Toronto). "El Brujo" asks Verdecchia to "remember" the pieces of his life and finally tells him he has "a very bad border wound" (70). He also tells him that the wound, the border "is . . . home"(48).6 With "El Brujo", Verdecchia finally discovers his "problem": "I'm not in Canada; I'm not in Argentina/ I'm on the Border/I am Home ... Je suis Argentin-Canadien! I am a post-Porteño 7 neo-Latino Canadian! I am the Pan-American Highway!" (74).

The exploration of the continental border serves to debunk myths about the supremacy of English-speaking cultures in the Americas. In the context of Canadian society, however, ruled by the ideology of Multiculturalism, the use of stereotypes as a performative strategy necessarily re-inscribes the binary opposition "we and them" established by the hegemony of this ideology. The use of stereotypes might allow "Canadians" (those who occupy this subject position) to realize that their understanding of the "other" is deeply grounded in ignorance and prejudice, but it also allows them to see the "others" still as "foreigners" who come to Canada as "immigrants". In this sense, the final point of the play for "Canadians" might still be that "they" must change their prejudicial view and "accept" "others" as they are, in which case the final action is still one of containment.

The exploration of the individual border, however, begins to challenge this binary opposition by acknowledging the existence of two practised and living cultures (as opposed to one of them being a "symbolic" ethnic background) in a person. The individual who experiences two cultures defies acculturation, as he searches for a place where two cultures interact with one another equally, creating an identity which is "not-neither" (51). When he is finally able to look at his "border wound" not as a "problem" but as the potential to find "Home", he has found a third space where he is truly himself. The personal border is the site where this interaction takes place.

In the non-linear expositional mode which he uses to shift time and space, Verdecchia also shifts from border to border in his performance. The means of production used by the play both reproduce and subvert the ideology of Multiculturalism as a result of this negotiation of emphasis among borders. To illustrate this idea, I will focus on two of those means of production: venue (Tarragon Theatre) and language (English versus Spanish), paying special attention to the use of stereotypes as a performative strategy.

One of the first alternate theatres to appear in Toronto during the height of Canadian nationalism in social and cultural life, the Tarragon Theatre was founded by Bill Glassco in 1971 with the goal of achieving "production excellence for contemporary Canadian plays, in order to build an appreciative audience" (Johnston 150). Although the Tarragon has consistently pursued its policy of presenting Canadian work, it could be argued that its understanding of the word "Canadian" has been rather narrow until quite recently. This is perhaps explained by the history of the theatre, founded during the years in which to be "alternate" meant to be "national", that is, Canadian, and in which a lack of awareness about cultural diversity in the arts (despite the fact that the policy of Multiculturalism was released also in 1971) resulted in "Canadian" theatre in Toronto being largely English Canadian.8 In the following decades, the "alternate" theatres-Tarragon, Passe Muraille, Factory Lab and Toronto Free,9 for instance-came to be part of the establishment of Canadian theatre, if not because of their economic structure certainly because of their institutionalization of English Canadian culture.

While this institutionalization was taking place, the work of minority artists in Canada (which has often been referred to as "immigrant" art), was considered "amateur". This classification, which is still being fought by cultural activists across the country, meant, among other things, that this work did not need to be judged by professional standards of quality, because it was only relevant to a reduced community, to an "ethnic group", not to society at large (see Harney and Government of Metropolitan Toronto).10

The fact that the Tarragon became the home for Fronteras- not only the work of an Argentinian Canadian but also a theatre piece dealing with intercultural relations-can be read in two different ways. On the one hand, it could be argued that the play was co-opted and contained by a symbol of the English Canadian cultural establishment, de facto giving in to the power of acculturation coming from the official culture. Perhaps many Latin American artists and members of the audience wondered why the show was not done in a place which would be recognized as "Latino" or at least Spanish-speaking. Alternatively, it could be argued that to have produced it in a Spanish-speaking venue would have re-established the "ghettoization" of non-Anglo-Saxon artists, for such a place does not exist as part of the professional theatre in Toronto and it would have made the production to be seen as "amateur".

I would suggest this question is far from being an either/or proposition, for each venue would have made Fronteras reproduce and subvert the ideology of Multiculturalism in different ways.

Produced at the Tarragon, Fronteras was mostly about the continental border, where an Anglophone audience received the play as a criticism of the way North Americans have constructed stereotypes of Latinos. 11 Presumably, the audience followed Verdecchia's strategy to make them laugh at the stereotype first and then have them consider (however reluctantly) what it was they were laughing at. At moments this strategy worked extremely well, as when Verdecchia/Wideload admitted he had been calling Anglo-Saxons "you", "painting [them] with the same brush" and finally asked his audience in quite a cunning tone: "Is it starting to bug you yet?" (75). The most common response to this question has been an uneasy silence.

This focus on stereotypes reproduces the ideology of Multiculturalism by re-establishing the dichotomy "we-them", as I have already suggested, but it also subverts that ideology by making the audience aware of it, since it is a strategy to bring the audience's attention to the construction of stereotypes. In order to bring their awareness to the creation of "Latino" stereotypes, Verdecchia makes his audience experience the position of victim themselves, making them a target of how Latinos would see a stereotyped Anglo-Saxon. One of such stereotypes is the "Saxon" dancer, who, Verdecchia/Wideload argues, makes "a big effort to move his hips independently of his legs" and flaps his arms "like a flamenco dancer" (40).

This strategy, however, contains a double bind; in the first place, because it still depends on the creation of a stereotype; more importantly, however, because, although it might reveal the absurdity of the stereotyped Latino dancer, it might also re-inscribe it. After all, to suggest that a "Saxon" is a bad dancer, even acknowledging that this is a stereotype, only re-inscribes the notion that Latinos are born dancers themselves.

The strategy to disclose the creation of stereotypes, however, is strengthened to some extent when Verdecchia/Wideload points out the way "Saxons" re-inscribe their cultural supremacy by referring to every other cultural group as a "community". To do this, he only needs a single line, uttered casually in the middle of an intervention about the song "La Bamba": "Like sometimes, I'll be out with my friends from de [sic] Saxonian community and we'll be out at a bar. . . " (39-40; emphasis mine).

What further strengthens Verdecchia's strategy, I would argue, is the way in which his stereotypes function as self-reflexive tools, for, ultimately, Verdecchia himself seems to be quite conscious of the double bind in which he is caught, not only by dealing with stereotypes but also by presenting them humorously. Toward the end of his piece, he unveils his strategy and the heart of its contradictions:

It doesn't really matter what I say does it? Cause it's all kind of funny, cause I'm just a clown. Well, dat [sic] has been my mistake. For some stupid reason, I want you to like me-so I've played the clown. Well, no more. Because de [sic] times are tough and when the going gets tough, clowns get dead. (51; punctuation as in the original)12

The production of Fronteras at the Tarragon further subverted the ideology of Multiculturalism by refusing to have the play "ghettoized". This, I think, has to do with Verdecchia himself. As a theatre artist in Toronto, he has rarely been identified with the "Latin American theatre community", and, therefore, has never been seen as "amateur". He has worked with other well-known Toronto theatre artists like Daniel Brooks or Jim Warren, and has performed at the Tarragon several times before. His reputation in the Canadian professional theatre community grew even stronger when his play The Noam Chomsky Lectures, co-written with Brooks, had an extremely successful run at Theatre Passe Muraille's Backspace. Their production won a Chalmers Canadian Play Award in 1991 and the published script was a finalist for the Governor General's Award for Drama in 1992.

By being produced at the Tarragon, Fronteras made a statement about not being only for Latinos, about being "professional" theatre and not "amateur", about not being "ethnic" theatre for a reduced "community", of no interest to Canadian society at large. Yet the fact that Verdecchia's career cannot be "ghettoized" as that of an "ethnic" does not necessarily mean he has been "co-opted" or "embraced" by the English Canadian artistic "norm", as is proven, I believe, by the stylistic and conceptual distinctiveness of works like Fronteras or The Noam Chomsky Lectures.

There is always a double bind, however, for it is also important to consider Verdecchia's position as an "ethnic". He is a Latin American of European (Spanish) descent, is white, speaks "unaccented" English and has been in Canada for most of his life. In sum, many might see him as a "non-ethnic" Canadian. It is unlikely that a newly-arrived Latin American Canadian of mestizo or mulatto blood and speaking with an accent would have been "accepted" in the same way.

If Fronteras had been produced in a Spanish-language venue in Toronto, the use of stereotypes as a performative strategy would not have re-established the binary opposition "we-them" in the same way as at the Tarragon, but it would have still re-established the "truth" of the stereotypes themselves. Indeed, Verdecchia did seem to give in to what appeared to be an implicit acknowledgement of the "essential truth" in the stereotypes he performed. For instance, he (as Wideload) first said that "Latinos are no sexier dan [sic] Saxons", but then he added in playful conspiracy: "well maybe just a little" (42); the difference being, of course, that "we like it. A lot. And we practice. A lot" (ibid). Latinos laughing at this stereotype in a theatre venue considered "their own" would re-inscribe a sort of "essential" truth about themselves. For, a Latino would perhaps think, it is the "others" (the "Saxons") who see "us" the wrong way and make fun of "us", but that is because "we" are better than "them"; the truth is that "we" are better lovers, because "we" like it. Thus the dichotomy "we-them" would hardly disappear. It would simply be redrawn, with the Latinos occupying the subject position (that of sexier lovers), while at the same time adding more weight to the Latino stereotype created by Anglo-Saxons in the first place.

In fact, even at the Tarragon, Verdecchia/Wideload reinscribed this "essential truth" when he talked about the "fact" that "whenever a Latin and a Saxon have sex it's usually a mind-expanding experience porque Nosotros sabemos hacer cosas que ni se imaginaron en la Kama Sutra porque nosotros tenemos un ritmo, un calor un sabor un tumbao de timbale [sic] de conga de candomble de kilombo. Una onda un dos tres, un dos" (41; punctuation as in the original), 13 acknowledging that the Latinos' "rhythm" and "heat" are essential attributes which make them better lovers.

In the performance of Fronteras Americanas, language also served to negotiate the play's compliance with and challenge of the ideology of Multiculturalism. Produced in a Spanish-language venue, the play would have emphasized the individual border more than the continental one, for presumably the audience would have identified with Verdecchia's experience as a first-generation Canadian. Although the exploration of this border would have subverted the ideology of Multiculturalism in its acknowledgement of two living cultures, such a message would have been contained by virtue of the venue, for it would have framed that issue as one of concern only to a particular "ethnic group".

It would have also re-inscribed the notion of Latinos as an "ethnic group" (a totalizing category, at best), separated from Canadian society at large, exploring an issue which is of concern only to them, and one which could not have access to the "professional" theatre venues or be of relevance to Canadian society at large.

Fronteras was conceived, written and delivered in English with a few interventions in Spanish. The use of the English language was a necessary strategy for a performance which aspired to criticize the way "Saxons" have constructed Latinos.

At the Tarragon theatre, Verdecchia/Wideload seemed to be mistakenly referring to all Anglophones as "Saxons", apparently unaware that for many people in the audience English was a second or third language, and that perhaps most of them were "immigrants" like himself and might have no Anglo-Saxon blood at all. This might have temporarily contradicted the effect of his earlier speeches in Spanish, which acknowledged the presence of Spanish-speakers in the audience and seemed to be a conscious refusal on Verdecchia's part to construct his audience in a monolithic subject position.

I would suggest that this "mistake" was another performative strategy. In this strategy, the word "Saxon" meant more than just an ethnic origin,14 it meant a cultural system which has not only created stereotypes about Latinos but has also effaced difference and instituted acculturation.

When Verdecchia admitted that the thought "stupid drunken Mexican" (72) crossed his mind when a man bothered him in the park, he was acknowledging he had "adopted" the view of the cultural system in which he lives; he was admitting he had been "co-opted" by a "norm" which discriminates against that Mexican man. When the entire audience was addressed as "Saxons", many people from other cultures could also relate to that word and could think of how they believe those stereotypes as well, or of how they themselves create others. In other words, although the use of the word "Saxon" might have suggested that the performance was effacing difference in the audience, it was really pointing at the reality of acculturation into the Anglo-Saxon cultural system which the many "ethnic groups" in Canada have experienced to different degrees. 15

The use of Spanish in the title, I think, suggests as well a possible subversion of the widely-spread identification of the word "America" with English-speaking or Anglo-Saxon culture. During the first few minutes of the show, Verdecchia said: "Somos todos americanos", first in Spanish, and after that in English: "We are all Americans" (20). The audience who repeats a title like Fronteras Americanas in Spanish will come to understand that the word "America" also exists in the Spanish language (in fact, it is a Latin word) challenging the notion of America as an Anglophone culture, 16 and, as a result, challenging the power which North America has granted itself to control the South politically and culturally.

As it approaches its end, Fronteras makes a sudden shift. The play nolonger seems to be about Latino stereotypes or about the Argentinian Canadian who struggles to find his home on the border. Suddenly, the play is about the entire country, about all those Canadians who live on borders. The Argentinian Canadian is no longer in the "backyard". He, says Verdecchia, is now "flesh and blood": "I am across the street. It's me ... your neighbour" (76). In a very emotional speech, Verdecchia urges his audience to "[c]onsider the English . . . the Russian, Polish and Hungarian Jews . . . those from the Caribbean . . . the Irish . . . the Chinese . . . the Latin Americans ... Consider those here first. Consider those I have not considered. Consider your parents. Consider the country. Consider the continent. Consider the border" (52-3). 17

I would suggest that in this final shift Fronteras is effectively moving the personal border, proposing that it affects all of Canada. Consider the country, made out of individuals within whom cultural practices are alive and struggling to fuse, to find new identities. If that struggle could be extended to Canada, it would mean that all cultural practices would perhaps be able to participate in the creation of a new country-not one with two official "cultures" and many symbolic "ethnic groups", but one with ever-changing cultural formations in a continuous search for a new personality.

This is not simply multiculturalism, a notion which seems to imply static, unchanging cultures, living side by side without touching one another. Instead, it might be called interculturalism, as it is grounded on the interaction among living, practised cultures. 18

Although Fronteras focuses on the continental border-the exploration of stereotypes-and the individual border-the exploration of a personal struggle-I believe its greatest subversion of the ideology of Multiculturalism is to suggest that these two borders must affect the way in which we think of Canada.

In considering these borders, in considering a new vision of this country, we begin to break away from some borders, while acknowledging the possibilities others have to offer. Once we do that, we might all be able to say with Verdecchia: "Here we are. All together. At long last".


This essay is a revised version of a chapter from the M.A. thesis "Shifting Borders: A Project of Interculturalism in Canadian Theatre," which in turn was a revised version of a paper read at the Conference of the Association for Canadian Theatre Research in Ottawa in 1993. I am indebted to Prof. Richard Paul Knowles, chair of the Drama Department of the University of Guelph and my thesis supervisor, for his invaluable support in the writing of both the paper and the thesis. I am equally indebted to Guillermo Verdecchia, author and performer of Fronteras Americanas, who in February 1993 gave me permission to read and quote from the production script used for the Tarragon performance in Toronto. Fronteras Americanas has since been published by Coach House Press and this essay has been modified to show page numbers from the published version unless otherwise noted.

1 See my Master's Thesis, "Shifting Borders," and the essay "Coming Together in Lift Off '93."
Return to article

2 I use the word "minority" here for lack of a better one. What I mean is artists, like myself, whose ethnic background is neither British nor French. Other terms which attempt to describe these artists as one group-"multiculturaI," "allophone," or even "non-British, non-French"-are extremely problematic. "Minority" is also problematic, but seems to me the least so.
Return to article

3 The analysis of Fronteras Americanas I offer in this essay is, primarily, of a performance. Although I have read several versions of the script, both unpublished and published, my ideas are based on observations made about the effectiveness of certain performative strategies the three different times I saw the show, which were during different runs. I first saw Fronteras during its run at the Tarragon's Extra Space in Toronto, where the audience was culturally diverse; the following June, I saw it as part of le Festival de Théâtre des Amériques in Montr6al, where the audience was mostly French speaking, although with some English and Spanish speakers as well. Finally, I saw it a third time during its second run at the Tarragon the following October, this time in the Main space, where the audience was again quite diverse.
Return to article

4 This is probably Verdecchia's conscious appropriation of a stereotyped use of Mexican culture in North American television. "Bandito"-which is really "bandido" (bandit, 'outlaw)-is misspelled and mispronounced in order to rhyme with "frito" (fried), for a television commercial for corn chips.
Return to article

5 In the context of Fronteras, I choose to refer to the individual as "he" for the sake of simplicity, since the writer/performer is male.
Return to article

6 The page number indicated here is that of the production script, in which the word "home" actually appears. In the published version, this passage reads: "The Border is your. . . " (p. 73).
Return to article

7 "Porteño" is Argentinian slang for a man born in Buenos Aires.
Return to article

8 The best known exception to this has been the Tarragon's historical support of Québécois playwrights, especially Michel Tremblay. Even so, the term still means Canadian as belonging to the two Charter cultures. This, of course, is not symptomatic of the Tarragon alone, but of all theatres---commercial and alternative-in Toronto. In recent times the Tarragon seems to have expanded its understanding of "Canadian" culture to include the work of artists of other cultural backgrounds, although this is done mostly in the Extra Space and through a rental agreement. I can think particularly of the 1993 production by the CanAsian Theatre Company of Dance and the Railroad about the life of two Chinese railroad workers in Canada, and the celebration of Lift Off! '94, a festival of plays written by playwrights of diverse cultures, produced by CahootsTheatre Projects, a local intercultural company. The recognition of work by artists of other cultures is also taking place in institutions like Theatre Passe Muraille and the Theatre Centre.
Return to article

9 Toronto Free joined CentreStage in 1988 to become the Canadian Stage Company.
Return to article

10 Recently the work of many committed cultural activists and artists across the country has served to introduce a new definition of "professional" in the arts councils.
Return to article

11 In recent years, the word "Latinos" has been used in progressive circles as a term of empowerment to describe the people of Latin America. In this way, it has taken the place of other terms such as "Spanish" Americans, "Latin" Americans or "Hispanic" Americans, terms which emphasize the imperial connection to Spain (and Portugal, in the word Hispanic). Recognizing the need for such an attempt and agreeing wholeheartedly with its political goal, I would like to point out some problems with the use of this term. In Spanish, the word "Latino" means anything related to the Latin language and the countries where Latin languages are spoken, and therefore has historically been used to refer to countries like Spain, Portugal, France and Italy. It is only because the southern part of the Americas was conquered by the Latin peoples of Spain and Portugal that Latin America ("Latino" América, in Spanish) was given that name. In the English language, "Latino" might be a different word from "Latin," but the connection to the meaning in Spanish is, I believe, too strong to be ignored. In this way, the imperial connection is not erased, I would argue, but further re-inscribed. Second, "Latino" is often used as an all-embracing term which serves to identify any inhabitant of South America and is often used as if it were a race. Within the "Latino race," however, there are four different races: indigenous, white, mestizo and mulatto. Certainly an indigenous Guatemalan individual has little to do with a Chilean whose parents are from Spain. I believe that a true term of self-empowerment needs to abandon all connection to the Latin cultures, but also needs to account for the variety of races and cultures in the continent and for the colonial relations which exist among them.
Return to article

12 The page number given here is that of the production script. In the published version, this speech is slightly different (pages 75-76).
Return to article

13 The bits in Spanish read: "because we know how to do things that nobody could even envision in the Kama Sutra, because we have a rhythm, a heat, a taste of. . . " The rest is untranslatable, as it refers to different musical rhythms of the American continent.
Return to article

14 And Anglo-Saxon is an ethnic group, of course, despite the fact that in Canada they might absurdly be constructed as "non-ethnic," since they are the majority.
Return to article

15 Because Fronteras was created in Toronto, it deals with Anglo-Saxons as the ruling power. Although certainly Québécois culture has instituted a similar kind of acculturation, Anglo-Saxons remain as the focus here.
Return to article

16 This notion is particularly inscribed by the English language, and not necessarily by others, especially Spanish. In Spanish, the word "americano" is often used torefer to anybody from any country in the Americas, but especially Latin America; and the word "América" is often used to refer to the entire continent (as in "the Americas") but especially just Latin America. The rest of the continent is referred to as "Norteamérica." Unlike English, Spanish does have an adjective to name those who live in the United States. They are not "americanos," they are "estadounidenses."
Return to article

17 The page numbers indicated here are those of the production script. In the published version, this speech was slightly different (page 77).
Return to article

18 In my Master's thesis I explore the possibility of such a cultural system in more depth. In the last chapter I begin to explore how this might be possible in Canada. I also emphasize the difference between the way I use the word"interculturalism" and the way it is used and put into practice in intercultural performance.
Return to article


Eagleton, Terry. Ideology: An Introduction. London: Verso, 1991.

Gómez, María Teresa (Mayte). "Shifting Borders: A Project of Interculturalism in Canadian Theatre." Master's Thesis. University of Guelph, August 1993.

Gómez, Mayte. "'Coming Together' in Lift Off!'93: Intercultural Theatre in Toronto and Canadian Multiculturalism." Essays in Theatre/Êtudes Théâtrales 13,1 (November 1994): 45-59.

Government of Metropolitan Toronto. Policy Statement of the Multicultural and Race Relations Division. Toronto, 1978. n. pag.

Harney, Robert F. "Immigrant Theatre." Polyphony 5,2 (1983): 1-4.

Hawkins, Freda. "Canadian Multiculturalism: the Policy Explained." Canadian Mosaic: Essays on Multiculturalism. Ed. A.J. Fry and C. Forceville. Canada Cahiers no. 3. Amsterdam: Free UP, 1988. 9-24.

Johnston, Denis. Up the Mainstream: The Rise of Toronto's Alternative Theatres. Toronto: U of Toronto P, 1991.

Li, Peter S. "Race and Ethnicity." Race and Ethnic Relations in Canada. Ed. Peter Li. Toronto: Oxford UP, 1990. 3-17.

Multiculturalism and Citizenship Canada. The Canadian Multiculturalism Act: A Guide for Canadians. Ottawa, n.d.

Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism. General Introduction: The Official Languages. Vol. I of Report of the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism. Ottawa: Queen's Printer, 1967.

________. The Cultural Contribution of the Other Ethnic Groups. Vol. 4 of Report of the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism.

Verdecchia, Guillermo. Fronteras Americanas/American Borders. Introduction by Urjo Kareda. Toronto: Coach House, 1993.

________. "Fronteras Americanas (American Borders)." Production Script, Tarragon Theatre, 1992-93 season.

Ware, C. "Ethnic communities." Encyclopaedia of the Social Sciences. Vol. V. New York: Macmillan, 1931. 607-13.