[PICTURED: La-Lengua-by-Michelle-Castillo-@neonicreative-5 — Cast of Las Azurduy. Photo: Michelle Castillo]

South American warrior and hero, Juana Azurduy de Padilla — who played a pivotal role in Bolivia’s fight for independence from Spain in the 1800s — is synonymous with women’s empowerment. 

But her story is hardly known. 

For more than a century, Azurduy has been denied the recognition she rightly deserves and her story is still one that isn’t taught widely in school. But her story is now being brought to life and will be showcased in San Francisco.

La Lengua Theater and the Brava Theater Center are presenting the play “Las Azurduy,” showing from Aug. 19-28, which not only showcases Azurduy’s story, but also the legacy of resistance of women in Latin America. 

Juana Azurduy, oil on canvas. Unknown author. Museo Histórico Nacional.

The project, which involves a Latina women ensemble, playwright and creative team, hopes to shed light on how women have been historically erased, minimized and silenced. 

Virginia Blanco, founder of La Lengua Theater and one of three performers embodying Azurduy’s spirit in the play, said Azurduy was a key figure in the armed fight for South American independence from Spanish rule in the early 19th century.

“[Azurduy] fought side-by-side with her male counterparts and many of them have their monuments and are in history books, but we didn’t know about Azurduy or what she looked like,” Blanco said. “And now just seven years ago, then-president of Argentina, Cristina Fernández, decided to put a statue of her in Buenos Aires, built on top of a former memorial of Christopher Columbus.” 

Virginia Blanco, founder of La Lengua Theater and one of three performers embodying Azurduy’s spirit in the play, Las Azurduy. Courtesy Photo.

This year, the Central Bank of the Republic of Argentina added Azurduy to its 200-peso note alongside military leader Martín Miguel de Güemes, according to a May 25 Buenos Aires Times article.

The Juana Azurduy Monument stands in the Plaza del Correo, opposite the Kirchner Cultural Centre in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Photo: Dennis Jarvis

“And that is why we are making this play because in a time where Latin American women are not getting the fair credit, we are speaking up against machismo,” Blanco said.

Playwright Florencia Aroldi said Azurduy represents a feminine collective of Latin American women from around the world. 

“Writing this, I was inspired by [Azurduy’s] bravery at a time where women were not seen in battles and she fought alongside her husband Manuel Ascencio Padilla and other male soldiers,” Aroldi said. “She was a pioneer and innovator and told her husband that she didn’t need to stay at home simply because she was a mother.”

Aroldi said just as Azurduy was a mother and warrior in her time, women now can be mothers and successful professionals.

“This is why the play is called ‘Las Azurduy,’ and three actresses are embodying her character because it shows how we are all Azurduy,” Aroldi said. “I wish all women see the play.”

Director Eugenia Arbol said her goal is for the audience to realize Azurduy’s light is alive within each and every one of them and the fight for a better community and world continues to get stronger. 

“Just looking back in history, women didn’t have a prominent visibility and this play tries to make visible what was invisible for many years, which is the presence of women socially and historically,” Arbol said.

Blanco said the play will be in Spanish but include the indigenous languages Aymara and Quechua with English supertitles. 

“I want the public to be exposed to different kinds of emotions, gestures, inflections of the voice because we actresses don’t speak Quechua or Aymara but those voices are included in the narrative,” Blanco said. “We are working toward the decentralization of English in the arts. People go to the opera and it’s not in English and they read supertitles, so why not see a play in Spanish or in native languages. It’s about equity.”

For tickets, visit brava.secure.force.com/ticket/#/events/a0S2M00000O553hUAB

Tickets scale:

● $25 general admission

● $50 La Lengua supporter (priority seats)

● $100 La Lengua Mecenas (priority seats + 1 free drink)