Play written for Philly butcher shop a lesson in Mexican-American history

Chris Davis (right) performs his one-man play about the Mexican-American War in a butcher's shop in the Italian Market. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Chris Davis (right) performs his one-man play about the Mexican-American War in a butcher's shop in the Italian Market. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Every night this week, a short play will be performed in front of the meat cases of a butcher shop in Philadelphia’s Italian Market. The historical play about the Mexican-American War is an experiment in retail.

Los Amigos Food Market, at 9th and Christian streets, offers cuts of beef, pork, and chicken as well as fresh homemade tamales, carne asada, lamb barbacoa, and a sought-after chorizo. Raul Aguilar and his wife Beti have been running the shop since 2009.

Theater artist Chris Davis has been a loyal customer since the beginning. He wrote a one-man show about the Mexican-American War to bring a little business into the store.

“It’s to combine theater and philanthropy,” said Davis, standing near the meat case watching the Tuesday evening audience come into the tight, tiled space (six people came). “Raul is a good friend. I’ve known Raul for six years. I think it’s exciting — I mean, look at all the meat.”

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Davis wrote the play, “Juan-Winfield Escutia-Scott, or the Mexcian-American War, a Butcher’s Play,” specifically for this space, but so far has only been able to perform it in city parks, at a backyard party, and the SoLow Festival, a small festival of solo theater in Philadelpha.

“I didn’t feel comfortable in the beginning,” said Aguilar. “It’s something new for me. I try to sell my stuff. We never did something like this.”

Davis plays the American general Winfield Scott during his campaign to conquer Mexico City. Today Scott is largely forgotten in favor of the valor of teenaged military cadet Juan Escutia, who protected the honor of his country by wrapped himself in the Mexican flag and throwing himself of the walls of the city’s Chapultepec Castle.

He is now honored as one of the Niños Heroes — the boy heroes.

“In the end, no one remembers Winfield Scott. In Mexico, Juan is a national hero,” said Davis. “The one who sacrificed his life, who lost the war, is the one who history, at least in Mexico, reclaimed and they are very proud of. The loser won.”

The play is not just to generate business for the shop, but to educate people about the Mexican-American War. Davis, who grew up in California and lived for years in Mexico, admits even he had a spotty knowledge of the 19th century war before beginning this work.

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