Before Ugly Betty, there was Josefina Lopez.

By Daisy Hernandez Oct 24, 2008

You probably know the Chicana feminist Josefina Lopez as the writer behind the play that went on to become the hit movie Real Women Have Curves starring America Ferrera. Lopez, like her lead girl character, came to be known by many of us as a mujer bold enough to criticize our patriarchal culture while celebrating Latina sensuality. In short, Lopez taught more than a few of us about what was possible on the page and on stage. Now, the playwright has turned to los viejos. Her new play Trios Los Machos chronicles the lives and friendships of three men who first meet during World War II as guest workers under the bracero program. As young men, Nacho, Paco and Lalo suffer the humiliations of being sprayed with DDT before being sent to work the fields. They find refuge in the music of Trio Los Panchos and start their own band, singing for the other braceros and embarking on careers as musicians. When the play opens, the men are in their 70s. They’re grouchy, eating too many tacos and on the verge of breaking up the band. The play was shown last night in San Francisco at the Brava Theater Center just days after a court here announced a $17.3 million legal settlement for braceros. The settlement will give former guest workers, who worked between 1942 and 1946, about $3,500 in compensation (the government took 10 percent from the wages of the workers under the guise of providing them with savings later on). The guest worker program, however, lasted until 1964. Josefina’s father was a bracero, one, who like so many of his generation, didn’t share much about his experiences with his daughter. The playwright acknowledged last night that Trios Los Machos is a love story about her father. After writing so much about patriarchy, she said, it was time to write about the tenderness between men. But she has also succeeded in creating a play where men are confronted with their mortality, their longing for intimacy and the bitter realities of aging in a country where many immigrants have no access to even Social Security. For more about Lopez and her work, check out her website,