Playwright, Chef, Educator, Activist and So Much Morecsudhbulletin October 10, 2020 0 COMMENTS
Josefina Lopez, author of Real Women Have Curve. Photo courtesy of Josefina Lopez.
By Melany Ruiz, Assistant Opinion Editor
Once undocumented, battling mental illness and cultural differences in her Latinx family, Josefina Lopez is now an award-winning playwright best known for her play and film, Real Women Have Curves. Lopez’s a destined and naturally gifted writer from a young age challenges gender and sexuality, topics deemed “taboo” for her family. Not only a writer, but a chef, restaurant owner and an activist Lopez and her work is coming to CSUDH. Lopez recognizes the CSUDH theatre department due to producing one of her plays Confessions of Women From East L.A. She will be hosting a webinar on Oct. 13 to talk more about her play that CSUDH will be producing in November.
Lopez just celebrated 30 years of Real Women Have Curves in San Francisco Playhouse, where the story originated. The play tells the story of Ana who longs to go to college but is stuck working in a sewing factory.
The play is set in 1987 East Los Angeles and touches on topics based around gender, immigration, and body image. Lopez wrote this story from her personal experience by writing this play at only 20 years old.
Lopez was born in San Luis Potosí, Mexico then emigrated to Los Angeles, Calif. at the age of five and was granted amnesty in 1987 after being undocumented for 13 years and became a U.S. Citizen in 1995. Lopez was aware from a very young age of the gender differences she faced in her Latinx family. Lopez saw the “machismo” from her father transcend into other women in her life and inspired her to write about her life experiences.
“He just had really old fashion beliefs about women,” Lopez said. “So really it was hard to grow up in a household where you just had to accept that women were second-hand people and you couldn’t challenge that.”
Being undocumented, Lopez became depressed as her wish is going to college was fading away, due to her hesitant father not allowing it and financial setbacks. Growing up with ADD [Attention Deficit Disorder] Lopez was angry at her situation and with her father’s beliefs, she longed for an outlet to express herself. And so, writing became her form of therapy. Writing became a way to manage excessive emotions that took a toll on Lopez and even helped her combat her suicidal thoughts. As an empath, as Lopez calls herself, she wanted to tell stories and represent the Latinx community after becoming aware of the discrimination and racism she saw at such a young age.
Like her character Ana in Real Women Have Curves, Lopez longed to go to college and worked at a sewing factory at an early age. Many scenes from the play and film were directly from her personal life.
“Women would tell all these jokes,” Lopez said. “My mother was there; my sister was there. We basically laughed a lot, that’s what made it bearable,” Lopez said. “It was so hot in the factory. It just got too hot that I actually, one day, decided to take off my clothes.”
A lot of the events that took place in Lopez’s play overlap her personal life. The play was one of the first productions to bring these themes to the table in the Latinx community. Lopez wanted to celebrate the accomplishment and work of women who get paid very little in this country. The movie, adapted after the play, also touched on new themes that were not in the original story, such as the concept of virginity and sexuality.
In the movie, we get to see Ana have her first sexual experience, related to Lopez’s own empowering experience with a man.
“A woman having a positive sexual experience can be really empowering if she does it for herself,” Lopez said.
“Growing up it was always, ‘oh no if you have sex you’re a whore’ and to me, I wanted to challenge that. You can love your body, and your body be whore’ and to me, I wanted to challenge that. You can love your body, and your body belongs to you, that you dont have to be in love with a man to have sex. You just have to be in love with yourself.”
After not seeing many Latinx actors on the big screen or in the media, Lopez wanted to be the voice and example for the community. Lopez owns a theatre in Boyle Heights, Casa 0101, to provide a space that she didn’t have growing up for aspiring Latinx actors in the community she grew up in.
Now, Lopez is a well-accomplished author, teacher, activist, and even owns a restaurant. Lopez always associated cooking food for men as her mom raised her to serve the household.
“I would always be upset because it would be like, “oh, the men don’t have to do anything? They can just sit down, get fed, and they’re kings just because they have a penis?’” Lopez said.
The restaurant’s idea came from driving more attention to her theatre in Boyle Heights, Casa 0101; she wanted to have a place where people could keep the conversation going after a show produced in her theatre. Casa Fina, her restaurant, was inspired after Donald J. Trump was elected President in 2016. Lopez became depressed and realized that negative thoughts attract negative energy; Casa Fina became a form of protest to publicize her pride in her identity and culture of being Mexican.
“No matter what Trump does, I can choose to love my day; I can choose to love my life. I can choose love,” Lopez said.
Casa Fina has become a cultural center of expressing her culture through food for the community around her and allowed folks who came to watch her shows in her theatre, a space to converse after the matter.
Now, Lopez continues to write, teach, and produce her stories by sharing her creativity with others. Lopez’s play that CSUDH is producing, Confessions of Women from East L.A., consists of nine stories told by Latinx, women in the United States, specifically East Los Angeles, that challenges Latinas’ stereotypes as “virgins, mothers and whores,” composed with humor and poetry. Lopez is also currently working on a play regarding spiritual realms and the root of phobias, inspired by her hypnotherapy studies and training to be a “Curandera.” “We are going to be able to create a new world, and sometimes in order to create a new world, the old world has to be destroyed.” Lopez said, “So right now we are in the process of deconstruction so rather than reacting from fear we have to see what is the opportunity, what is the blessing that’s happening here?”
Lopez’s play produced by CSUDH will be livestreamed for students to watch for only $5 dollars on November 12,13 and 14 at 7 p.m.
Lopez will host her webinar at CSUDH on Oct. 13 at 7:00 p.m.
For more information please refer to the CSUDH Theatre and Dance Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/csudhtheaterartsanddance/
Contact: Stefani Baez, director of Confessions of Women for East L.A. for the CSUDH production. email@example.com