Anthony J. Garcia on Ludlow: El Grito de Las Minas
Amongst the striking coal miners and their family members murdered by the Colorado National Guard during the Ludlow Massacre were five Mexican-American children. To commemorate this almost-forgotten chapter of history, Su Teatro's Anthony J. Garcia wrote Ludlow: El Grito de Las Minas (The Cry of the Mines); he's directing a production of the play that will open tomorrow, March 13. In advance of the opening, Westword spoke with Garcia about the Ludlow Massacre, Chicano history and Su Teatro's new show.
Valeriana Sloan Yolanda Ortega, Magally Luna and Debra Gallegos rehearse for Ludlow: El Grito de Las Minas.
Westword: Talk about Ludlow: El Grito de Las Minas.
Anthony J. Garcia: The piece is called Ludlow: El Grito de Las Minas (The Cry of the Mines). This year marks the hundredth anniversary of the Ludlow Massacre in southern Colorado. Ludlow was just a railroad station between Trinidad and Walsenburg. In 1913, the United Mineworkers of America started to organize the miners there. It was a pretty rough kind of exchange. The biggest coal-mine operator down there was John D. Rockefeller. The Rockefeller family owned all the mines there under the name Colorado Fuel & Iron. They don't run mines there anymore, but they still had that foundry in Pueblo for years.
In September 1913, the miners went on strike and the company kicked them out of their houses, so they set up tents outside Ludlow Station. They suffered through that whole winter. Tensions grew between the company and the miners, and the company brought in a group called the Baldwin-Felts Detective Agency, a hired security force. The miners asked the state to serve as a buffer between themselves and the security company. The state sent in the Colorado state militia. Little by little, as the guys from the militia came back to Denver, they were replaced by Baldwin-Felts' guys. They were given the authority of the Colorado state militia, and the animosity continued.
The company developed a piece of equipment called the "Death Special." They mounted a machine gun on the back of a Model-T Ford. They used it to shoot down on the miners and their tents. The miners dug pits underneath their tents in order to hide their families. They had women and children there. When the shooting would start, they would hide in the tents. On April 20, by then the militia was pretty determined to end the strike and to get rid of this obstacle. They started firing on the tents, and eventually they come down and set the tents on fire. In the fire, something like nineteen people were trapped underneath, and eleven of them were children -- five of them were Mexican children. For us, as Mexican-Americans, there is a definite connection to it. Although not everybody that died that day was Chicano, a lot of our families worked in those mines. So that's the history of it. This happened on April 20, 1914. This April will mark the hundredth anniversary.
For me, I wanted to tell the story of our families. It's a fictional story. It's about a family stuck in the crossfire of that strike and how that kind of tragedy shapes so many things and is still a part of our history, a part of our memory. I'm always about wanting to hear those voices of our past that were silenced and give them an opportunity to be heard.
There is a lot of information out there now about Ludlow. The state has created this Ludlow Commission. There have been events happening up and down the state since last September.
Keep reading to find out more about Ludlow: El Grito de Las Minas.