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March 26, 2023

La Pastorela returns to stage

A bi-annual tradition returns to Mission San Juan Bautista on Nov. 24 with the longest-running presentation of El Teatro Campesino, La Pastorela, a musical retelling of the trek of the shepherds to Bethlehem for the birth of Jesus.

The Nov. 24–Dec.19 pageant offers stirring action, vivid colors, and robust humor, all presented with the live music and dance of the renowned 52-year-old San Juan Bautista theater in the mission basilica.

The Teatro’ annual Christmas play opens on the day after Thanksgiving. La Pastorela was passed down to El Teatro via oral recitation by the grandmother of one of the members.  The actors used to perform it for free on the streets in various forms including, in one incarnation, a puppet show.

The El Teatro Campesino company performed its annual Dia De Los Muertos Celebration and Procession last weekend, with dance performances by the Folkloric dance group Esperanza del Valle. An original musical play began at the playhouse parking lot and made its way through the historic town.

El Teatro founder Luis Valdez wrote La Pastorela , which just opened at Denver’s Su Teatro. Valdez first met Cesar Chavez when he was six, growing up among the migrant workers of Delano, California, where the United Farm Workers movement took root in the nonviolent strikes and grape boycotts of the ’60s and ’70s.

El Teatro Campesino was founded in 1965 as the cultural arm of the United Farm Workers with the full support of Cesar Chavez.

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