Historical Musical Theatre in the US and Mexico

Paulina Guerra Yerena

Musical theatre in both American and Mexican cultures has turned around and showed us that historical musical theatre can succeed. America has productions like "Hamilton and in Mexico's case, we have "Josefa".

"Josefa" was created by the author, composer, and producer José Dolores Gonzalez in 2010. This musical shows the story of Josefa Ortiz de Dominguez, a woman that gave her life for the independence of Mexico. The website of the production describes it as follows:

"It recreates the cultural, social and political events and contradictions of New Spain, when a group of rebellious and anxious people organized the civil war of 1810, which aim to make New Spain, now Mexico, independent of the Spanish Empire. Among the people who participate in the organization of the war, Josefa Ortiz stands out, a beautiful woman of wealthy class, wife of the Corregidor and mother of family, in whose house the main meetings of the conspiracy take place."

Some people tend to compare both musicals, but in fact, the only thing they have in common is that they both talk about our history, besides that, both are completely unique. 

So why has "Hamilton" flourished in America and "Josefa" had such a short run in Mexico?

After comparing both musicals, I have realized that it is not the production or the actors, but it is the public, and it's sad to realize that the musical theatre culture in Mexico is not valued the way it should be.

Most of the people who go to see a musical in Mexico do it because of the social status that it gives you, instead of the message you might get. When "Josefa" was in theaters their first obstacle was that "The Lion King" was playing at the same time, and even though they both were great musicals, Mexican people preferred to go see "The Lion King" instead, since it was much more expensive and therefore it gave them a higher social status.

Still, we see that on Broadway they have many successful shows at the same time with long-lasting runs for many seasons, so why would "Josefa" be affected by this big obstacle?

Well, I have seen that people do not appreciate our history as much as they should, why? Because they simply do not feel interested in a show that talks about history, since it instantly makes them think that it will be boring. The problem here is not whether the production is better or worse, or if the actors are known or not, but in our culture. In the education we are giving to our children we need to show the importance of theatre, the high impact it can have, and most importantly show the new generations that our history is beautiful.

"Josefa" as well as "Hamilton" do that. They tell us our story in a 2 hour show, and they make it captivating with their amazing music, actors,  and production. 

So we need to stop in our tracks and realize if we want a change, then we need to act. We need to stop doing things just because the society says so and act the way Hamilton or Josefa would.