Around 400 people gathered at the Barrett Ballroom on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. for "Zapatista," a bilingual play by Teatro Milagro (Miracle Theater in English), bringing to life the tale of sub-commander Marcos and the history of the revolution in Mexico in the 1970s.
"The play is about the uprising of the Zapatista movement," said Gilberto Martin del Campo, 37, who plays the character of Subcommandante Marcos.
The Zapatistas are an armed group of resistance fighters in Chiapas, Mexico's poorest state, del Campo said.
"It's based in the real facts of how the uprising happened," del Campo said, "and the relationship between Subcommandante Marcos and the indigenous groups."
The play condenses 20 years of Chiapas' history into one hour and 20 minutes, following the day-to-day lives of six characters who try to inform the world about their existence through their actions and beliefs.
"My character is a philosophy professor," del Campo said, "that through studies of Buddhism and the outrage of some branches of the church, started to work in the very poor communities."
Del Campo, who has been working with Miracle Theater for three years, said that through learning each other's languages and communities, the indigenous Chiapas started an uprising to gain recognition by the rest of Mexico.
"It's very important that young people have as much information as possible and as many points of views so that they can create their own ideology," he said about the opportunity of performing for SJSU students and community.
Omar Vargas, 42, plays the character of an old, indigenous man who seeks building peace without killing people and bringing the community closer to their ancestral people.
"From my point of view, the indigenous has been exploited for many, many years," Vargas said, "and I'm happy for the Zapatista movement to gain attention in all the countries that have indigenous (people)."
The play was brought to SJSU from Portland, Ore., where the theater is based, through the efforts of the Mosaic Cross Cultural Center, Cesar E. Chavez Community Action Center and the Student Advocates for Higher Education.
The Chavez Center also helped by sponsoring the event in paying half of its expenses.
"I think that the Zapatista struggle is a great example about communities coming together and advocating for their rights," said Maribel Martinez, program coordinator from the Chavez Center. "We have similar struggles happening right now with students advocating for no fee increases, students working on rebuilding (Educational Opportunity Program)."
Rodrigo Jimenez, a junior sociology major, said, "There are oppressed people all over the world. This play wasn't just relevant to Mexico in 1994. It's relevant to today – unfortunately, it hasn't gotten better."
Ezequiel Deniz, a senior Spanish and liberal studies major, said seeing the play was a great opportunity because it addressed issues he thinks should be in the news but aren't.
"I think art is one of the best ways to learn about social problems," he said, "and I think that theater is one of the big ones. All you have to do is listen carefully because the message is there and very clear."