Presented as part of Destinos, the second annual Chicago International Latino Theatre Festival, the midwest premiere of American Jornalero offers a tiny glimpse into the world of Mexican-immigrant day workers. Set on a New York street corner with a broken chain-link fence, this labor-centric take on Waiting for Godot follows a group of men as they wait day after day for the chance to be selected for a job. Unfortunately the benign action of a group of men of color standing on a street corner causes alarm. Writer Ed Cardona Jr. introduces the audience to another group of men on the same corner, unemployed white Americans who linger there for the sole purpose of harassing and intimidating the immigrants. Tensions flare and confrontation between the groups is inevitable, revealing the bravery and desperation of men willing to persist in their search for work even with the ever-present threat of physical harm or ICE.
Director Nate Santana artfully uses the chain-link fence to highlight the acute class divide. All the men portrayed are concerned with being able to care for their families. On the one side we see recently unemployed Americans who own homes and are collecting unemployment; on the other side, we see the immigrants pooling pocket change for a cab and waiting at a pay phone for a call from wives they haven’t seen in years. American Jornalero recognizes that life may never be equal or fair for immigrants in America, but asks if perhaps it might one day be humane. v