Noches en el Pueblo de Dios or Nights in the town of God by Raelis Vasquez
One short sentence. Two small words. Often used when we are simply trying to get by. However, for the characters in Sanctuary City, these two words took over their lives. Through this new drama staged earlier in the season, Arena Stage continued an ongoing conversation regarding immigration status. Sanctuary City is a journey filled with endurance, passion, and struggle that truly makes you think. Two friends, identified as only B and G, show how immigration can affect anyone—physically, emotionally, and mentally.
In 2019, more than 44.9 million immigrants lived in the United States. That’s about 13.7% of the total U.S. population. Immigrants from all over the world have to check the same items off their list in order to become a citizen or receive a visa. The process of trying to receive their citizenship, green card, or even a visa, is brutal. It can take up to 2 years to be finalized and cost up to $725 in total. Not only do you have to prove to the U.S. that you belong, but you also have to face the cruelty that lies outside your door. Oftentimes a label like “Immigrant” or “Alien” sticks to you; the judgment, the inequality, the assumptions. That was not the case for Raelis Vasquez. Rather than let that one word define him, he used it to drive him. What better day to tell his story than World Art Day?
Dominican-American artist Raelis Vasquez has beautifully brought attention to the Afro-Latinx community through his art. Born in the Dominican Republic, Vasquez is from Mao Valverde in the countryside, or “el campo” as the locals call it. Mao Valverde is a small town with barely any electricity or running water, but an immense amount of love, as his art shows. In 2002, when he was only 7 years old, he immigrated to the United States—a new country with a totally different culture. Vasquez thought the immigration process was a normal thing that everyone had to go through; the paperwork, the tests, even the cost. Little did he know that this was one of the most strenuous processes that one could go through, especially at such a young age.