39 Inside


Chamber ensemble, electronics, video, dancers,

(and a team of almost 30 people)!

On July 23rd, 2017 during the scorching Texan summer in San Antonio, police identified a suspicious semi-trailer parked at a Walmart. Inside, they found thirty-nine undocumented migrants, eight of them dead. Apparently, forty more left the truck before police arrived. Based on these true events, I have created a piece that tells the unheard details of this and other similar journeys. This work is created as a choreographed piece of music where the only element of scenery is an open, rectangular, aluminum structure, half the size of a real semi-trailer. The music encompasses live musicians interacting with computer-made sounds and complemented by prerecorded first-person accounts in Spanish. The video content, projected on one of the front sides of the structure, supplements this dire story, pulling from both abstract and real content. 39 Inside is a grim submersion into the issue of undocumented migration that will take the audience closer to the experiences lived only by those who dare to take this perilous journey; one that might end in deportation or death.

The narrative arch of 39 Inside is based on the actual three-hour long crossing taken by thousands of undocumented migrants in the back of a semi-trailer. However, I have decided to invert the timeline looking for a more dramatic contour, one that takes the audience from known facts to the hidden details. The piece starts at the very moment when the news outlets report the finding of the thirty-nine migrants in the Walmart parking lot. From there, we start a journey backwards that shows us bleak and obscure details of this fatal situation. We go back to the very first moment when the main character, seventeen year-old Lucía, crosses the Río Grande. During this 35-minute long show, the migrants and the audience travel north on highway I-35, crossing the intimidating Laredo Checkpoint, and together experience the distress of the journey. This project is thought as an immersive experience for the attendees and my goal is to make the audience feel as if they are inside the trailer traveling with the migrants. 

The main sources for 39 Inside are journalistic publications and first-person accounts. The close analysis of newspaper and broadcast stories yielded general details about multiple border-crossing incidents. However, first-person accounts offered nuanced details generally overlooked in journalistic reporting and often completely unknown to the general audience. Equally important in the creative process, were the diaries of unaccompanied minors compiled and translated by Professor Josué Torres from The Next Step Public Charter School in Washington D.C. These diaries offered an unheard and descriptive narrative given by dozens of migrant children. For obvious reasons, all contributors shared their stories under the promise of absolute and complete confidentiality. Based on the aforementioned sources, I created the final texts used in the work with the firm intention to truly represent the journey and the experiences of the travelers. 


Scene 1 – 39 Bodies / 39 Cuerpos


Scene 2 – Their Stories / Sus Historias


Scene 3 – Are you An American Citizen?