With the recent transgender military ban and the tensions surrounding immigration policy, there’s no denying that these two topics are making big headlines. But we don’t often see how the two areas are connected. Repertorio Español is changing that with their latest play and winner of the Metlife “Nuestras Voces” National Playwriting Competition, Blind Spot. Released earlier this month at the Spanish language theater in New York, this play by Gerardo Cardenas serves as a poignant depiction of how strongly the military and immigration are in fact linked—and the bleak outcomes that many immigrant service men and women are forced to confront.
The crux of the story lies in the military’s recruiting programs in immigrant communities—with programs for a fast track to citizenship after completing basic training. This has served as a huge incentive to increase immigrant populations in the military. However, these promises go unfulfilled far too often—service members return from the army without citizenship and with few job or education prospects that they hoped to receive prior to joining.
Blind Spot examines just how uncertain this citizenship through service gamble can be—on top of an already turbulent stint in combat. As the main character, Ramon (Pedro de Leon), transitions from carefree teen to staunch soldier and veteran, he becomes quickly entrenched in a complex web of post war hardships and a cataclysmic turn of events that most of us can only try to imagine. Post-traumatic stress is compounded by broken relationships, fear, and disappearing dreams. But the story is actually much more than that, and can only be told with the help of the rest of the cast—most importantly Ramon’s father, Daniel (Alfonso Rey).
As Daniel must come to terms with his own understanding of war, national identity, and family honor and acceptance, his struggles both mirror and compound the adversity his son must face. The on stage dynamic of this father son duo serves as the core backbone of the play, which would be incomplete without their impassioned, interconnected performances.
The play might not leave you feeling warm and fuzzy, but it will leave you with a crucial and thought provoking message that needs to be heard. Its nonlinear narrative pushes the viewer to question how each of Ramon’s decisions—sometimes carefully calculated and other times rushed—come together in one climactic yet unsettling moment as the story concludes. And while the military’s immigration policies are coming under increased scrutiny, that doesn’t mean that there is no sense of hope for the future. The diverse backgrounds of the soldiers in the play highlight how the military can be more of a melting pot than society at large, free of racial tensions.
Located at Lexington Avenue and 27th Street, Repertorio Español is your source for Spanish language theater in New York City. Blind Spot (Pedro de Leon, Zulema Clares, Alfonso Rey, Gerardo Gudiño, Hannia Guillen, Sandor Juan, and Gonzalo Trigueros) is performed in Spanish with in seat subtitles and will be running through October 20. Don’t miss it—its message is something that we can’t afford to stay blind to.