Ciudad Juárez sounds like an urban legend. It’s informally known as “the capital of murdered women” due to the hundreds (potentially thousands) of women who have disappeared from its streets, many later found mutilated in the desert. But the place is very real—it’s just on the other side of the Rio Grande from El Paso, Texas—and women flock to it, despite the danger.
Juárez is a city of industry, where women can find work in the factories (the maquiladoras) and make their own money. It’s also a place with very little worker protections, where women are forced to accept dangerous conditions that exhaust them and break their bodies.
Playwright Isaac Gomez has sewn all of this complicated horror and promise up into his play La Ruta (the route), which refers to the bus line the women ride to work, but also the path of grief two mothers, Yolanda (Cristi Miles) and Marisela (Diana Burbano), must traverse in their tireless search for their missing daughters.
La Ruta opens with a performance from the enigmatic Desamaya—played by She Shreds Magazine founder Fabi Reyna—who thanks a cheering audience, and then begins her journey through time. She scores important moments surrounding Brenda (Marissa Sanchez)’s disappearance, beginning with her mother's increasing concern when Brenda doesn't return from the night shift. The narrative then jumps back to Brenda's first day at the maquiladora and her new friendship with Ivonne (Naiya Amilcar).
All the performances in La Ruta are excellent, but Amilcar makes it impossible to look away from the tragedy of Ivonne. La Ruta isn’t a play that satisfies. It’s a play that stirs and inspires. Much of the play is presented bilingually, but I did okay with my high school Spanish. “Ni Una Más,” the women cry. This means, "Not one more!"
(Through Sun Dec 1, Tues-Sat 7:30 pm, intermittent Sat & Sun shows at 2 pm, Hampton Opera Center, 211 SE Caruthers, $30-60)