Caridad De La Luz as Betsy

Caridad De La Luz and Ron Short developing script in Norton, Virginia, February 2015.
Photo by Zhivko Illeieff.

[Editor’s Note: Throughout the month of April, Art of the Rural will share a series of new writing and multimedia from HowlRoundabout the twenty-one-year artistic collaboration between Pregones Theater and Roadside Theater. The collaboration bridges two vast geographies and cultures, Puerto Rican and Appalachian, and two distinct aesthetics. Curated by Imagining America’s Jamie Haft and Dr. Arnaldo López of Pregones Theater/PRTT, the series explores the creation of BETSY!, a musical about a Bronx singer and performer uncovering the secrets of her family’s history. The musical premieres off-Broadway THIS WEEK, April 9-26, 2015 (purchase tickets by clicking here).

BETSY! offers an important lens on a long-term rural-urban exchange and the many threads of commonality along America’s rural-urban continuum. This series is part of a strategy to develop new scholarship and multimedia about the vision, values, practice, and complexities of intercultural artistic collaboration, which will eventually be digested into a learning guide for teaching BETSY!. We’re proud to share the work of HowlRound, Imagining America, Roadside Theater, and Pregones Theater.]

Caridad De La Luz Spoken Word Piece On BETSY!

Today we share excerpts from Caridad De La Luz’s essay chronicling her journey as the actress playing the role of Betsy, where she describes “the past embracing the present for the future and forever without shame, answering the age-old question: “Y tu Abuela donde esta?” “And your grandmother? Where is she?”

“The play begins in Ireland where a fourteen-year-old Irish milkmaid is seduced by a sailor. She sails with him to America in 1794, and upon arrival in Philadelphia—the shining beacon of freedom—is promptly sold with her just-born child into indentured servitude. I’ve always felt—not even knowing that much of the history—that the Irish were the Puerto Ricans of Europe. Island to island, and now mountain to mountain.”

“On this trip, I met Ron Short in person, and he played his music—it was his family story and one-person performance that launched BETSY!. I am brought to tears several times, not even just by his singing, but by his spirit and authenticity. It’s been a beautiful experience. Being in these mountains has inspired so much creativity.”

“Now as the plane climbs over the mountains pointed toward the Bronx, I feel my grandmother, all my grandmothers, right here with me. We are all together, all the spirits, all my ancestors within me. We are all together, and together, like Betsy, we want to be free.”

 To read Caridad De La Luz’s full essay, visit:



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