Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Look to the Snow and Flowers

Posted by Bruce Miller
We all come from somewhere. And that somewhere is not just a place. It is an identity and a heritage made up of people and spirit. It is language, culture and music. Religion and dance.

My late father grew up in the small Amish / Mennonite farming community of Springs, PA, about 200 miles west of its sister community in Lancaster, and 100 miles southeast of Pittsburgh. Springs is located on the Appalachian Plateau at the foot of Negro Mountain, so named to honor the heroism of a freed slave who died in battle during the French and Indian War.

Springs lies in the snowiest populated area of the United States, receiving on average 200 inches of snow per year.
My grandfather was the Mennonite minister in Springs. In accordance with custom, he was not paid in cash. Instead, the farming community provided for my grandfather, grandmother and their six children. One year, when the weather was particularly bad, none of the families had crops to share with their pastor, and so with a heavy heart my grandfather moved his family 100 miles southeast to Inwood, WV, where he found a job at the new Musselman’s apple processing plant.

Mr. Musselman, also a devout Mennonite, hired my grandfather to engineer, build and maintain the equipment that Musselman’s used to make applesauce. One of my grandfather’s inventions was a new, more efficient apple coring machine. This invention transformed Musselman’s into the industry leader it is today.

The mother of Jose Rivera, playwright of Boleros for the Disenchanted, grew up in the small Puerto Rican village of Miraflores (translation: look to the flowers). Puerto Rico is popularly known by its people as La Isla del Encanto – The Island of Enchantment.

The Puerto Rican economy traditionally thrived on agriculture and small family farms. In the late 1940s, a series of U. S.-led projects codenamed Operation Bootstrap transformed Puerto Rico from an agricultural to a manufacturing society, causing the economic collapse of many farm communities. As men and women could no longer support their families, they migrated from Puerto Rico to the Continental U. S. Emigration peaked in 1953, when 75,000 Puerto Ricans made the journey north.

Today, the U. S. Census Bureau estimates that more people of Puerto Rican birth or ancestry live in the 48 contiguous states than in Puerto Rico itself.

The hardships that prompted my father and Rivera’s mother to leave their very different lands of enchantment also enabled their two families to find a different magic forged in love, heritage and faith.

Boleros for the Disenchanted is based on the true story of Rivera’s parents. It is a story of love tempered by time, heartbreak and change. I love this story; it reminds me of my own.

I hope you'll join us at the theatre.

--Bruce Miller

1 comment:

Janine Serresseque said...

I was lucky enough to have a brief glimpse at a reheasal yesterday morning and I was transfixed! I can't wait to see this play!