Since moving from Puebla, Mexico, to New York City, Paola Poucel has been busy. She’s been in the short film Text Amy (directed by her husband and with a cameo by Arturo Castro), she’s the Spanish voice of Kmart and Cricket Wireless, she’s had roles in Dora the Explorer and Dora and Friends, and she performs with the educational theater company Houses on the Moon and the bilingual children’s theater company Society of the Educational Arts, Inc.—all while taking care of a seven-month-old baby.
Paola Poucel: We had our first audition on Friday, mommy and baby for Johnson & Johnson.
Hip Latina: How did that go?
PP: He was a natural. For me it was weird because I was auditioning for the first time as a mom, with somebody else. I tried to put all the focus on him, not to block the camera. So when they said, “Interact with your baby,” I was like, Uh…yes…What should I do? [laughs]
HL: What made you come over to the U.S.?
PP: Musical theater. Broadway was my dream—well, it’s still my dream. Back in Mexico there are no schools that actually have musical theater as a major or as a postgrad degree. And in Puebla there’s nothing. All the musicals are recordings, or really bad acting and of course they don’t buy the rights—it’s totally illegal. [laughs]
I just wanted to go somewhere else. And my now-husband (he was my boyfriend at the time) he applied to Columbia University to study an MFA in directing, so everything came together.
HL: Had you guys been abroad ahead of time?
PP: Yes, we had a study abroad, each of us. I was in Salamanca, Spain for a year.
HL: I was in Spain for two years!
PP: Oh cool! Where?
HL: Huelva for eight months, Granada for two and a half months, Málaga for a month, and Madrid for a year.
PP: That’s awesome.
HL: You stayed for a full year though?
PP: For a full year. I mean, you go to study. To be honest, Salamanca’s known for the party. [laughs]
You do that, and you travel, of course, because everything is so close. You can just take a train. Although the airplane tickets are so cheap.
HL: I know, I miss that so much. I don’t know if you’ve had a chance to travel around the U.S. much or if you’ve stayed more in the New York area, but I have been to more countries outside of the U.S. than I’ve been to states inside the United States.
PP: I’m the same. I mean, I’ve traveled with a theater company that I work with called Houses on the Moon.
HL: What kind of work have you been doing with them?
PP: It’s a nonprofit, and what they do is give voice to the voiceless. That’s their motto. We do an immigration play called De Novo. (It’s a legal term—basically revisiting the case of an indicted person.) We tell the story of Edgar, this boy who came to the United States fleeing from Guatemala.
It’s very powerful. We travel to Colorado; Arizona; Pennsylvania; Connecticut; we’re trying to go to California, because his mother is in California so we want to bring the play there; and there are plans to go to Mexico. We went already to El Salvador, two years ago, it was really cool—scary, but cool.
HL: What was scary about it?
PP: We had to cancel some shows because we were really close to where the Mara Salvatrucha was, so they didn’t want us to say bad things about them. Of course everybody knows they are criminals. But this is a larger issue, and the United States is very involved with the creation of the gangs in Central America.
So that’s what this company wants to do.
HL: Spread awareness about the issues that immigrants face coming to the U.S.
PP: It’s not only immigrants. It’s gun violence, eating disorders, psychological problems, LGBT issues. They’re a really cool company.
For more of HL’s conversation with Paola, look out for part two.