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‘Mexpatriate’ explores our need to discover just where we fit in

SANTA FE, N.M. — Raul Garza hopes the title of his one-man play doesn’t deter people who have little interest in Mexican culture.

While “Confessions of a Mexpatriate” features a Texan with Mexican roots ricocheting between corporate America and grass-roots Mexico, the feelings and thoughts in the play are something anyone can identify with, he said.

It’s about feeling you don’t fit in. It’s about plumbing the depths of your own identity. It’s about pushing outside of your comfort zone. It’s about being the new kid on the block.

Actor Mical Trejo presents the one-person show “Confessions of a Mexpatriate” by Raul Garza at Teatro Paraguas this weekend.

Actor Mical Trejo presents the one-person show “Confessions of a Mexpatriate” by Raul Garza at Teatro Paraguas this weekend.

And while Garza wrote the play and the story sounds a lot like his own, he doesn’t perform it. Actor Mical Trejo, directed by Ken Webster, is the Mexpatriate.

“He’s fantastic,” Garza said of Trejo, adding that the actor has performed the work for all but one showing as it traveled from Austin to San Antonio, Chicago and San Miguel de Allende. It’s coming to Santa Fe this weekend at Teatro Paraguas.

“Santa Fe is a wonderful example of the melding of cultures,” Garza said. “I can’t think of a better place to tell this story.”

The playwright is also co-founder and creative director of TKO Advertising, through which he splits his time between Austin and Albuquerque. He has written for other stage productions, including his first full-length play, “Fantasmaville,” which won the 2007 National Latino Playwriting Award from the Arizona Theatre Company. He got his start writing sketch comedy with the Latino Comedy Project, he said.

He said he hopes this performance might lead to some of his other works being seen in the City Different. “I’m hoping it opens the door for future collaborations here,” he said over a cup of java recently at Betterday Coffee.

Garza said people often ask him if he is the Mexpatriate and if events in the play actually occurred.

Yes and no.

“He’s definitely a character. I see less of myself the more I see it (performed), because I discover that these are universal things,” he said. “But it’s all inspired by reality.”

In fact, the play demanded to be written when Garza was on a residency in Oaxaca with the intention of writing another play based in Chicago.

Something about being in Mexico and exploring the neighborhoods triggered the questions of Mexican identity, he said.

Growing up in culturally and racially diverse Dallas and San Antonio suburbs, his first language was Spanish and his cultural traditions were Mexican, but his upbringing was all-American, Garza said. His parents were white-collar and he attended private school.

Spending time in Mexico, it was tempting to assume that everyone there would welcome him as “one of us,” he said.

“But there’s a divide in the distinction between Mexican and Mexican-American identity,” Garza said. “The line is invigorating, challenging and scary to cross.”

While he had traveled in Mexico before, this was his first extended stay and first chance to really develop friendships with people there. “The culture and the people were willing to share more from the heart than what I am used to,” he said.

That time in Mexico also taught him that the roots he thought were embedded in him were “not as strong as I thought,” he said. “I never really explored them to a full extent.”

Like most Americans, he viewed Mexico through the border culture and desires by immigrants to come to this country. That changed after spending time in the heart of the country.

“They love their roots, their traditions. They don’t want to trade places with us,” Garza said. “They just want a better life.”

As the Mexpatriate takes a personal journey in search of his identity, he asks of Mexico: “What if I run away and stay there forever? Do I belong there?”

“Everybody wants to escape,” Garza said.

While the Mexpatriate came up with his own answer, Garza advised, “Nobody should wait to experience something that could give you a different way of looking at your life.”