CHICAGO (CBS) — A Latino theater fest in Chicago is going on this week without one of its big productions.
As CBS 2’s Tim McNicholas reported Thursday, a group of Mexican performers were denied visas by the U.S. government.
The play “La Tia Mariela” was scheduled to run in Chicago for Destinos, the third annual Chicago International Latino Theater Festival. Instead, much of the cast is still in Mexico City — including one of the lead actresses, Alejandra Ley.
“We wanted to go to Chicago to show our work for the Latino community,” Ley said.
Back in July, the Chicago Latino Theater Alliance invited the cast and crew to perform at their international theater festival.
Ley and her colleagues would need P3 visas, which are granted to performers conveying culturally-unique art.
The theater alliance filed a petition for the visas in August.
“We submitted over 100 pages of documents, press releases, letters of testimonials talking about how there’s Mayan mythology (in the play), traditional folkloric dance,” said Christine Perez of the Chicago Latino Theater Alliance.
A couple weeks ago, the U.S. government denied their request.
An attorney for the theater alliance provided CBS 2 with a copy of a letter from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, stating: “The evidence you submitted is insufficient. You submitted fliers or programs from an unknown source, articles, reviews and web page printouts.”
The theater alliance’s attorney tells CBS 2 they submitted the best evidence available, which included theater blog posts and regional newspaper articles.
The government’s denial also said the group did not translate all of their evidence into English, but the theater alliance said the vast majority was in English.
“It’s very time consuming to translate all of that,” Perez said. “But they had sufficient evidence in English.”
The theater alliance said a total of nine cast or crew members were denied the visas.
“We are all said,” Ley said. “We are all kind of mad because we don’t understand.”
The letter also said the group could appeal the decision, but the attorney for the theater alliance said the process could take months.