Barrio Stories Project at The Playground



The Playground Bar & Lounge is at the SW corner of N. 5th Avenue and E. Congress St. in downtown Tucson.

Contact: Jamie Manser, 621-0599
Show & Tell @ Playground: Barrio Stories Project
Wednesday, Feb. 10, 6 p.m.
278 E. Congress St.
“In the late 1960s, a culturally diverse, 80 acre residential and business district in downtown Tucson was demolished as a consequence of urban renewal and the construction of the Tucson Convention Center complex.
Over 100 years of historically significant and irreplaceable cultural spaces, shops, homes, restaurants and entertainment venues, notably La Plaza Theatre, were wiped out.
Through the work of University of Arizona faculty, Borderlands Theater and the Bureau of Applied Research in Anthropology, the Barrio Stories Project is reviving the history of this neighborhood in several public events this spring.
“The Barrio Stories Project offers an innovative approach to disseminating history and will inform audiences about an important chapter that vastly altered downtown Tucson’s physical and ethnic landscape,” said Lydia R. Otero, a UA Mexican American studies professor.
The free February Show & Tell @ Playground event is a preview and overview of “Barrio Stories” and its upcoming March 5-6, 2016 performances, which features Borderlands Theater actors bringing to life the oral histories of the residents whose homes were lost to the construction of the convention center
Otero received a 2015 Faculty Collaboration Grant from the Confluencenter for Creative Inquiry to help realize the Barrio Stories Project, and is working in partnership with Elaine Romero, an assistant professor at the UA School of Theatre, Film, and Television.

“The production of this play also speaks to the importance of academic and community collaborations and I am glad that the Confluencenter is invested in funding these types of partnerships,” said Otero, a scholar in culture, history, urbanization and the award-winning author of “La Calle: Spatial Conflicts and
Urban Renewal in a Southwest City” (published by UA Press in 2010).
Otero and Romero are working in conjunction with the Borderlands Theater, youth, anthropologists, historians and playwrights to theatricalize the narratives in order to share the neighborhood’s rich history and reclaim the voices of its community members.
“The deep work professor Otero has done with her historical research, her life in Tucson and her profound connection to our community supplies our collaboration with an authenticity that cannot be acquired by any other means,” Romero said.
“There is no shortcut to seeing a community through the eyes of someone who has lived through itschanges and reconfigurations. Indeed, ‘Barrio Stories’ will speak to a hard-earned truth of our Tucson community,” Romero said. “Not all stories are easy to tell and this one might bring a few tears. That’s the only kind of story worth telling.”
Javier Durán, director of the Confluencenter, has familial ties to the community that was razed. “My father was born in Pennington Street in 1924 so this project hits close to home, as it connects many memories. La Calle and downtown have always been a part of my family’s historical and cultural imaginary. I’m delighted to see Professor Otero tackling this subject, and that Confluencenter is
sponsoring a project that successfully captures the diverse heritage of the Tucson barrios and reminds our contemporary audience of downtown’s not very distant past.”
Details on the Borderlands performances are at
The Confluencenter for Creative Inquiry works with scholars in the Colleges of Humanities, Fine Arts and Social and Behavioral Sciences, awarding Faculty Collaboration Grants for interdisciplinary research along with supporting a Graduate Fellows Program. More details are available at