Flip The Script: Rasquachismo and LA ESQUINITA, USA
AUTHOR: Chloe Loos, Artistic Intern
Despite the striking set design and incredible use of sound and lights in La Esquinita, USA, perhaps the most striking feature is the unique aesthetic attitude the show maintains. As the show’s first regional production, Arizona Theatre Company was able to give the artistic team more resources than it has had before. For example, the playwright and actor of La Esquinita, USA, Rubén González, has recounted that he has toured the show with nothing more than a bench, a tire, and a trash can. In watching the show, the way Rubén interacts with and transforms objects – keep an eye on the jumper cables – brings something unique and interesting to the minimal soul of the show; this aesthetic form is known as rasquachismo.
As is common in minority and oppressed groups, words and concepts are often reclaimed by the people the word defines. For example, the term Chicano or Chicana, which refers to Mexican-Americans, had a negative connotation before the Chicano Movement of the 1960s – and even still some groups of Mexican-Americans dislike the term. Similarly, the rasquachismo sensibility has also been reclaimed. Originally, it maintained an attitude that referred to another person as having low-brow tastes and lifestyles, but now it’s used to refer to an aesthetic and attitude of resourcefulness and adaptability.
Rasquache artists use basic and simple means to create “the most from the least”; they use standard objects in new and creative ways and take pride in making something out of nothing. The form is often used to address issues directly linked to the community in a humorous and ironic way. Tools often come from everyday materials – and even what would seem to be garbage – as a reflection of resistance.
As rasquache specifically refers to Chicano artistry, the aesthetic can be viewed as direct opposition to Western and Eurocentric art styles and thus places strong focus on the identity of the artist. In order to maintain some Latino ties and cultural elements, rasquache artists use fragmentation and combinations to link their heritage to their existence in a Western, colonized America. For example, disparate elements such as American advertising or Mexican film can be weaved together or broken apart to get to some meaning. This encounter of two worlds could only be negotiated through the sensibility of rasquachismo, a survivalist irreverence that functions as a vehicle of cultural continuity.
Thus, rasquache is the compromise for artists living on the border of these two cultures. There are variations in rasquache, such as the dichotomy between urban and rural as well as masculine versus feminine, and the sensibility can be applied to not only visual arts, but also theatre and even poetry.
For more information about the rasquache aesthetic, check out this video!