Friday was supposed to be the opening night of “Perra de Nadie,” a dance theater piece by acclaimed Spanish artist Marta Carrasco, but instead the Latino Theater Company stage was dark. Carrasco and her team had been detained and then deported by U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents, leaving her Los Angeles host “horrified” and an 11-day run of performances canceled.
Carrasco and three colleagues were flying from a festival in Colombia to Los Angeles with a change of planes in Seattle. After landing in Seattle, Carrasco said her group was detained and not allowed to use its phones.
“The atmosphere was hostile, especially in the first hours when they took us each to different rooms to question us,” Carrasco wrote on Twitter. The interrogation lasted for five hours, she said.
The Barcelona-based Carrasco said she and her team provided passports, paperwork showing they had been hired by the Latino Theater Company and documentation on their trip including where they were staying, but Customs officials said their visas were not valid. (Carrasco would later contend “that statement was a lie according the American Embassy here in Barcelona.”)
The four were forced to sign a document agreeing to deportation, Carrasco said. She said Customs told her group, “If you don’t sign, you will not be allowed to enter the U.S. for five years.” The artist added that they were “accompanied like criminals by five immigration officers all the way to the airplane door.”
Customs and Border Protection in Seattle did not respond to The Times’ requests for comment.
Carrasco’s group was not allowed to make phone calls, but each person could request one phone call to be made by Customs officials on his or her behalf. One call went to the artistic director of the Latino Theater Company, José Luis Valenzuela, who described the conversation as “a little bit unbelievable.”
“She told me she was calling on behalf of Marta Carrasco and to let me know that they were being sent back to Barcelona,” Valenzuela said. “They were already on a plane on their way back.”
When Valenzuela saw Carrasco’s posts about the experience on social media, he said, “I was horrified.”
Citing “extraordinary circumstances” out of its control, Latino Theater Company was forced to cancel the production, whose title translates as “Nobody’s Bitch.” All ticket sales will be refunded.
Valenzuela lamented the theater’s monetary loss but was more disappointed that Los Angeles audiences will miss out on “Perra de Nadie.”
“I was very excited to expose her to everyone,” Valenzuela said.
Valenzuela likened the deportation to censorship.
“I never imagined our country being like this,” he said. “That is not who we are, that is not what the United States is. This is very frightening to me. Here we are, the people who can create dialogue, who can bring a community together, being kept out. It’s scary, and I’m very disappointed.”
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