High school students recently learned that theater can teach history.
The experience for about 66 Santa Maria High School Chicano/Latino studies students involved watching the PCPA Theaterfest performance of The San Patricios. Parents, community members and staff also attended the show at Allan Hancock College.
The talented PCPA cast authentically documented the struggle of Irish Americans who fought along side Mexicans during the Mexican American War of the mid-1840s. The political drama revealed personal stories submerged in a conflict where Manifest Destiny met Conscientious Objection. This conflict literally shaped the future of both nations, setting the stage for America's coming Civil War and resonating in our world today.
Chicano/Latino studies/AVID teacher Ricardo Valencia believes history lessons shouldn't just come from textbooks.
"The powerful, true story did an outstanding job of teaching history from multiple perspectives — as seen through the eyes of men and women soldiers, recent Irish immigrants, Mexicans and Americans,'' Valencia said. "It really brought history to life for all of us.''
Senior Felipe Cruz found the change of academic pace engaging.
"It was a great educational experience — instead of just reading and writing about The San Patricios,'' Cruz said. "It was an incredible performance.''
Senior Azucena Salas agreed.
"It wasn't what I thought it would be; it was better,'' Salas said. "I learned many new things that I hadn't known about the war between the U.S. and Mexico. I am glad I went because I got to see both sides of the war and understand what the soldiers felt during that time.''
Valencia, his students and the Santa Maria Joint Union High School District would like to thank Kelly Stegall from the PCPA for reaching out and the sponsors including the Santa Barbara Foundation and The Foresters for generous grants that provided many students their first opportunity to see a stellar production.
— Kenny Klein is a media affairs coordinator for the Santa Maria Joint Union High School District.