by Roger Calderon, Seydi Rosales, and Katherine Espinoza (FAREM-Carazo TEFL Major)
“El Güegüense”, originally composed in a mixture of Spanish and Nahuatl, is one of the oldest and most representative theatrical works in Nicaraguan culture. The play shows the rejection of Spanish domination by mocking and ridiculing colonial authority.
At UNAN-MANAGUA, FAREM – CARAZO a group of freshman and junior students of the English major adopted this play as a learning tool and incorporated it into their classroom activities. The experience enabled them to improve their pronunciation and their communication skills both verbally and non-verbally. Besides, the students learnt how to work in groups and interact with people of different ages and opinions. Xiomara Valverde, the head of Educational Sciences and Humanity Department, took the initiative to produce the theatrical play and delegated all the responsibility to Kennya Ortiz, who was in charge of inviting all students of the English degree program to participate and promote creativity and fellowship among students as well as inject new dynamism into the aforementioned program. .
Fifteen students, most of whom were freshman, participated in the performance of the play. Their participation posed a great challenge because of the low level of English proficiency and their lack of skill at dancing. However, encouraged by their instructors and classmates, the acting students rose to the challenge and successfully performed the play. For junior students the theatrical piece also presented a great challenge because it was the first time ever they were going to act out a play that was originally created in Spanish, but that had now to be performed in English.
Fortunately, to give life to the play through the performance of each member and convey the intended message, the group of acting students were assisted and guided by Mr. Francisco Espinoza, a drama teacher who with his great work and experience, helped students to improve their corporal expression. To perform “El Güegüense” dance, the students received training from the dance instructor Wilmer Guevara, who taught students the different steps and routines they had to perform in the choreography.
During the dance rehearsal of the play, there were some inconveniences for students because of the different schedules, late arrivals to the rehearsals and reluctance to accept their respective mistakes, yet they managed to create a positive working environment.
Speaking English in public and being afraid of making mistakes are some of the main factors that prevent students from developing their speaking skills , but by performing the play they learned that as future English teachers, they should be able to learn from their own mistakes so as to grow professionally.
In terms of pronunciation, the students who partook in the play were able to improve because of the constant feedback they received from their instructors. The acting students could also enrich their vocabulary because they had to use new words that convey the intended message of the whole play. Additionally, the learners enhanced their fluency, and were able to overcome their fear of speaking in public because they gained more confidence and became less inhibited.
The play was presented on November 11th 2015, to commemorate the XXIV anniversary of FAREM-Carazo, at the “Eliseo Carranza” auditorium. Local education officials, teachers, and students from the same campus attended the event which included different types of activities such as opening ceremony, speeches, cultural performances, folkloric dances and “El Gueguense” play, divided into five scenes.
The repertoire of characters included three governors, four Gueguenses, four sheriffs, one Don Ambrosio, one mister royal secretary, four Don Forcicos, three ladies, Doña Suche Malinche among them and four male mules that were played by the same actors. Some of the members had to play more than one character because the scripts were too long and memorizing them would be easier. Members of the dance group of the faculty performed cultural dances between scenes transitions.
“El Gueguense” is not just a play but a cultural representation of Nicaraguan idiosyncrasy that has stood the test of time. The students are sure that with their performance they will be able to remember the cunning and ingenious way “El Gueguense” mocked at the establishment. Briefly, this particular group of students have the iconic theatrical play not only written in their books, but it is also etched in their minds and hearts.