The girls portraying “Las Marthas” —named after the original First Lady—take part in the exclusive celebration by invitation only and go through a rigorous, grueling preparation for many months. In the movie they’re represented by cocky Laura Garza-Hovel and shy Rosario Reyes, now a student at Trinity University. The elaborate gowns they wear cost between $15,000 and $30,000 and just being able to curtsey in them is a superhuman task. The dresses are so heavy that “you can’t breathe and your back and knees hurt,” said Garza-Hovel, who seemed to relish when Reyes broke down in tears during one of the rehearsals. “You should know what you’re getting into.”
To answer Garza-Hovel’s above question (“Why do we do this?”), Reyes cites tradition and the fact that “this presentation really gives you the sense of belonging to Laredo.”
Whatever your personal feelings on the celebration, Las Marthas is so expertly told that at the end of the movie you’re at the edge of your seat, wondering whether any of the debutantes (especially Rosario Reyes, the one you’re rooting for) will perform well or fall down the steps when they’re introduced at the ball.
“From the moment I first saw a Mexican-American debutante dressed as a Colonial heroine, I was immediately captivated,” Ibarra told the Current via email. “Growing up along the border myself, I am always looking for ways to explore the contradictions of border life. From the outside, this might look like ‘just pretty girls in pretty dresses,’ but when we look at the bicultural ways this event is celebrated we uncover multiple layers of meaning that deepen our views of the Latino experience in the United States.”
The discussion following the screening is worth staying for and will feature all the movie’s major players: Garza-Hovel and Reyes, dressmaker Linda Leyendecker Gutiérrez, director Ibarra and producer Erin Ploss-Campoamor.
7pm Thu, Jan 16
Santikos Embassy 14
13707 Embassy Row