Local theatre troupe teaching children about Spanish culture, literature

Hispanic Heritage Month

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) —  If you stop and watch him for just one moment, you know that theatre and community are the heart and soul of Jose Miguel Hernandez Hurtado.

What you’re witnessing is 20 years in the making and it’s not just a dress rehearsal. We’ll get to that later. 

But let’s start from the beginning. In 1999, Hurtado started this theatre group for young people in the Syracuse area. Its called La Joven Guardia Del Teatro Y La Danza Latina.

“It’s part of my life,” Hurtado said. “La Joven Guardia is like my family, so I don’t have family in this country, only you guys.”

Hurtado studied theatre in his home country of Cuba before he moved to Syracuse a little over 20 years ago. When he got here, he noticed there was a need to expose young people to the arts, the Spanish language, and culture.

“I said ok, we need to start from zero here, like me, when I came here, no english at all, so I had to start little by little learning a few words and some of them they don’t even know what theatre was,” said Hurtado.

Over the years, he started introducing his students to classic and contemporary Spanish literature and plays.

On top of his day job with little funding, he would spend months teaching them plays, all in Spanish, for them to perform at the end of each year.

“We write plays for them and put them together on the stage and then little by little, I try to find different stories from the golden age, Jose Marti and all these stories have a message behind,” Hurtado said.

Which brings us to today. A full circle moment.

These kids are practicing “Los Zapaticos De Rosa” by Jose Marti, the very first play this troupe performed 20 years ago. These students even had the chance to get some inspiration from old photos and videos.

Hurtado said, “Some of them come in and see video, we have videos and everything and we are watching to review the plays we do many years ago, and the kids say, ‘oh my gosh, this is my dad’ and they criticize the parents and say, ‘papa you do that, you make a mistake here,’ so its amazing.”

Especially for this fourth grader, Michael Alberti, who just joined the troupe.

“I wanted to inherit my dad’s place since he was here for three years,” Alberti said.

We won’t give the play away, but it involves the gift of love as it relates to the human experience through the lens of a young girl.

During each rehearsal, Hurtado sees his students improve, build confidence and gain a stronger appreciation for the theatre.

“My favorite part is seeing the process and the evolution. These kids come in and it’s like a little flower and then it starts to open and open and then you see the expression,” Hurtado said. “Our mission is exactly the same, Jennifer, from 1999 to 2019. We have the same mission and the mission is to help kids and create a good and safe environment and helping them increase self-esteem and believe in themselves.

If you’re interested in seeing the play, you can catch it October 10-13th at the Community Folk Art Center in Syracuse.

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For more local news, follow Jennifer Sanders on Twitter @JSandersNC9

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