Remembering the Ludlow Massacre

Anthony J. Garcia brings historical story back to stage

Courtesy photo by Valeriana Sloan
Yolanda Ortega and Magally Luna perform in “Ludlow: El Grito de las Minas,” a play written by Anthony Garcia to observe the 100th anniversary of the Ludlow Massacre in Colorado, playing at Su Teatro.
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Along the highway between Walsenberg and Trinidad, there is a grassy open area set aside with a tall monument and parking spaces.

Those history buffs that stop will read that it commemorates the Ludlow Massacre, an event that affected people from many cultures who were working in Colorado's coal mines — as well as affecting the state more widely.

On April 20, 1914, the Colorado Coalfield War that had started in September 1913 turned into a skirmish between striking miners and the Colorado State Militia.

Twenty-five people lost their lives, including women and 11 children. It was an important moment in the history of Colorado and in the development of the American Labor movement.

A year ago, Gov. John Hickenlooper established the Ludlow Centennial Commission, which includes historians, academics, union and National Guard representatives and a librarian. Together, they scheduled events at various locations to commemorate the Ludlow Massacre and events surrounding it.

Included in interpretative events is a production of Anthony J. Garcia's play, “Ludlow: El Grito de Las Minas (The Cry of the Mines),” presented at El Centro Su Teatro through March 30. It's an update, with new music, to a play Garcia wrote some years ago while visiting his sister in Walsenberg and studying the area's history. (Some original cast members are also in this production.)

The play, with musical direction by Daniel Valdez, traces the history of a fictional Hispanic family, from the viewpoint of Amelia (Megally Luna), who visits Trinidad to sell her grandmother's old house.

That grandmother was Sara Martinez (also played by Megally Luna) who is modeled on Garcia's strong mother, he writes. After the family loses its New Mexico ranch, the husband goes to work as a miner and loses his life in a cave-in. Sara and her two sons, Pepe and Jesus move to southern Colorado to work for Colorado Fuel and Iron, owned by John D. Rockefeller.

Scenes move between 1991, 1905, 1913, 1914 and back to 1991. A large cast tells the miner's story and several parallel more personal ones.

Garcia's characters represent the Mexican portion of the coal miners, but they talk about the wide variation of nationalities and races found in this community: Greek, Italian, Eastern European, Black, Norwegian and more — and they also talk about the distrust between them — the atmosphere was volatile in more ways than just the labor/management tension.

Music is always part of Garcia's plays and here it varies from Mexican folk music to a Chilean miners song to Garcia's new “April Mourning Song.” The live band is a fine addition to the production, placed to the edge just below the stage.

While acting is a bit uneven, many cast members have strong voices and the ensemble tells a compelling story of an era in Colorado history.

If you go:

“Ludlow: El Grito de las Minas (The Cry of the Mines)” plays through March 30 at Su Teatro, 721 Santa Fe Drive in Denver, with performances at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and one matinee at 2 p.m. Sunday, March 30. For tickets: www.suteatro.org, 303-296-0219.