So maybe Superman can fly and change his clothes with lightning speed, even in the cramped confines of a public telephone booth. Big deal. And who cares if Spiderman can spin a web with magical thread that inexplicably shoots from his gloved palms? And what’s so special about Batman? Just because he’s got a score of unbelievably impressive gadgets and a few clever sidekicks doesn’t mean much in real life. But on Sunday, at their 22nd Annual Three Kings Celebration, El Puente introduced eager Brooklynites to a new super hero: Latinoman, Defender of The Barrio.
El Puente Academy, along with all three of their leadership centers, put on two shows of their original production,” Latinoman: Defender of the Barrio,” for an eager audience of community members, supporters and elected officials, who filled the rows of the Grand Street Campus’ majestic auditorium. Each year, on January 18th, El Puente puts on an original play in honor of Three Kings Day, which is traditionally observed two weeks prior, or January 6th. Three Kings Day, also known as the The Epiphany, celebrates the Biblical story of the three kings, Melchior, Caspar and Balthazar, who followed a bright star of Bethlehem to bring gifts to the Christ child. Three Kings Day is traditionally celebrated in Latin American countries, and is the day on which children typically receive their Christmas gifts.
Each year, El Puente students and faculty members write an original play for the occasion. This year’s production dealt heavily with themes of gentrification, cultural identity and the preservation of tradition in Williamsburg.
The play opened with a teenager named Ray, angrily announcing that, despite the excitement of his grandparents, he had no intention of celebrating Three Kings Day. Ray explained that observing The Epiphany only set him apart from his non-Hispanic friends, and he resents the tradition. After storming off to his roof, Ray’s father approaches the dejected teen and offers him an early gift: An old comic book entitled, The Adventures of Latinoman: Defender of the Barrio. Before he knows it, Ray is transported into the comic book world, where he appears at the center of something of a dance-off between the punks, representing North Side Williamsburg gentrification, and the Latinos, exemplifying South Side Williamsburg tradition. He is approached by Mayor Palinberg (a not-so-subtle jab at conservative politics), clad in Joker-esque makeup and costume, who informs Ray that he must find Latinoman, a renegade superhero dedicated to preserving Latino culture, heritage and tradition, and “bring him to justice!”
Ultimately, as expected, Ray comes to his senses, realizing that Latinoman, and Latino culture in general, is something to fight for and not against, learning to love and appreciate his roots.
Over 60 actors and dancers of all ages graced the stage throughout the course of the production, in addition to forty additional volunteers lending a hand at the event. Among the hundreds of attendees was Councilmember Diana Reyna, who attended the evening show with her entire family, hugged, congratulated and posed for photographs with the stars of the play.
In addition to a few hours of entertainment, children were treated to complimentary goodie bags and children’s books, a gift from Reyna and the Hispanic Federation.