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Tu Vez Blast-From-The-Past Truck: Man of La Mancha

Marty McFly and Doc Brown had the Delorean to go travel through time; We have the Tu Vez Blast-From-The-Past Truck. Every week, we’ll hop in our time traveling machine, gun it to 88 MPH, and go back in time to bring you the best from the good ol’ days. Will it be a clip from an old telenovela? An old school music video? Stick around and find out!

The English have Shakespeare, the French have Moliere, Americans have Danielle Steele, and we Spanish speakers have Cervantes. It’s not much of a surprise that the greatest work of Hispanic literature is a satire. Spanish is a language set up for being a smart ass. How can a chair be feminine? It’s weird. Miguel de Cervantes’ magnum opus, “Don Quixote”, tells the tale of an old man suffering from some kind of geriatric dementia who thinks he’s a knight. He takes along his faithful servant Sancho Panza on a series of misadventures where the crazy in his head clashes with reality. We Hispanics had known how awesome this story of senile old people and fat peasants falling off horses was for centuries. White American audiences “discovered” Don Quixote in 1966 when it was adapted for the stage as the musical “Man of La Mancha”.

La Mancha is not the name of a new stain fighting laundry spray, but rather the area of Spain where Don Quixote hangs out. The show is basically a Cliff’s Notes version of the book, with some stuff the playwright Dale Wasserman and songwriter Mitch Leigh made up with. Don Miguel de Cervantes and his stage manager are imprisoned by the unexpected Spanish Inquisition for something or other. The prisoners want to burn Cervantes’ manuscript of Don Quixote and steal his stuff, but he demands to put forth a defense. So, they do a mock trial, like they did that time on the “Cosby Show” when Theo and Cockroach came home late from football practice. His defense is to make the heretics, Jews, and midwife/witches in inquisition jail act out the show as a musical. Now, we don’t know what prison was like in the 1600’s, but we’re pretty sure that would get you shanked today. They then tell the familiar story of Don Quixote mistaking windmills for giants, thinking the hooker Aldonsa is the virtuous maiden Dulcinea, and that a shaving bowl is a magic helmet. Wow. Writing that sentence made us realize suddenly where all the werid goings-on in our modern telenovelas comes from.

“Man of La Mancha” is now considered a classic musical. It won a truckload of Tonys, has been revived on Broadway 4 times, and has been performed in dozens of different languages including Uzbek. Uzbek, people. In 1972 it was made into a film starring drunk old Peter O’Toole as Don Quixote and smoking hot Sofia Loren as Aldonsa. It’s pretty good, in spite of Peter O’Toole’s pronouncing the name of his character as “Dawn Migwel De Servantees”. The break out song from the show, “The Impossible Dream”, has become a standard of high school marching bands everywhere. Even Elvis had a hit version of it in his pork grease covered sequin jumpsuit days.

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