Last Thursday, Aurora Guerrero’s feature film Mosquita Y Mari was screened in the MainStage of the ’62 Center for Theatre and Dance as a part of Claiming Williams Day. The movie is a simple yet powerful depiction of two Mexican immigrant girls that fall in love. It is a twin representation of the struggle of an immigrant in the pursuit of the American dream and of a journey of self-discovery for two queer individuals. The film is set in Huntington Park, Los Angeles, Calif., a predominantly Latino neighbourhood affected by poverty, crime and environmental degradation.
Yolanda, played by Fenessa Pineda, one of the two main protagonists, is the daughter of an immigrant couple who works under difficult conditions but still manages to make a decent living for herself in the hope that she will succeed. Her excellent performance in school comforts her parents in light of their many sacrifices. However, Mari, played by Venecia Troncoso, has a much more difficult journey. Her father dies unexpectedly, leaving her undocumented mother to try and provide for her family on her own. Mari therefore has to get a job to supplement her mother’s income while also taking care of her younger sister in her mother’s absence.
It is against this backdrop that the two young women meet, and what ensues is a mutually dependent friendship. Mari needs help with her schoolwork while Yolanda needs a more fulfilling social life. Mosquita Y Mari does an excellent job of reducing the development of these feelings to small successive moments of intimacy like a sleepover and a bike riding experiment. These moments make it feel like Pineda and Troncoso are living these scenes, not merely acting them. This is best shown when Mari changes in front of the mirror as Yolanda watches her. She is overcome with silent fascination that foreshadows the sexual tension to come.
This love story is not without the usual distractions of teenage girls finding their way through a difficult life. Mari, affected by tough luck in her day job and academic life, finds solace in taking drugs. Yolanda appears too distracted by the discovery of the new life around her and her fascination with Mari. As a result her grades decline.
For a first time writer and director, Aurora Guerrero produced a high-quality result. This is an accomplishment considering the film was extremely low budget. The casting was done from the community and the process of writing and producing the film took 7 years. This is also more than a just a fictional storyline because it is partly autobiographical. The film shatters all initial expectations of the viewer who would expect to see struggling queer people living in decrepitude and overcoming all odds.
Instead, the film focuses on the appearance of normalcy in spite of the abnormal situation the girls and their families are in. The girls’ parents best show this when the local shopkeeper accuses the girls of engaging in illicit sex with older boys in cars. They pretend to be unaware and totally confident in their daughters’ ability to be responsible. However, in reality, they fret and confront their children about their possible involvement in these activities.
Incidents like these help the viewer to relate to the material in the film. Nothing was overplayed. There was no romantic verbosity or grandiose romantic gestures. There was no depiction of intense suffering from economic hardship. Keeping the subject matter down to Earth helped the audience to relate more readily. The film was also full of comic moments that kept the audience laughing throughout.
Overall, Mosquita Y Mari is an enjoyable story of two immigrant girls growing up and discovering themselves and their sexual orientations in conditions of considerable adversity.