Local performer Anna De Luna doesn’t believe in God. But she has no choice but to pray the rosary whenever her mother does because if she doesn’t, she’ll get a scolding. De Luna tackles this and other kinds of issues in her upcoming one-woman show ¿Chicana Atheist? Having performed the piece since almost two years ago at the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center’s Teatro Fest, De Luna says that the show is a work-in-progress that deals with the problems that arise with being a Chicana woman living in an immensely spiritual city and responding to questions of whether she’s still just confused about her faith (or lack thereof).
Has this performance been in the back of your mind for some time now?
I’ve always wanted to do a one-woman show before because I would see other people do it and I thought “Wow, I might give that a shot; it looks like a real good challenge to have one actor on stage doing everything.” If an actor could do that, that’s sort of a rite of passage into being a real performer. I never knew what I wanted to do, so I had no idea. What I realized was that I would always tell people a lot of stories about my childhood growing up in a very religious, Catholic household and there were a lot of funny stories with that, because in my heart and mind I knew that I was not a believer, but I still had to go through all these rituals and events for my family. There was some comedy in that. Especially with women, if we don’t go to church, y’know, every Sunday — to have a Latina that’s not spiritual — it’s kind of unusual. So I thought maybe this is my angle. I could go do something different.
How long have you been an atheist?
When I was a little girl I remember sitting in church, really little, probably five years old, or six and thinking “Oh my gosh, do people really believe in this? I mean, that’s what I thought when I was little. I felt very strange for being a non-believer. I felt that way and nothing could explain it. Something drastic didn’t happen for me not to believe in God. I had a nice upbringing, very happy family life, and it’s just something that I don’t accept. As a child growing up there were times when I did believe mainly out of fear, but then I realized that I really don’t believe.
After coming out as an atheist, how did that affect your life?
I felt better that I could be honest with myself and sort of establish who I was, but it’s always been difficult because a lot of people can’t understand it and my family is accepting of it. But I think there’s still some ambiguity of it all. I think they `my family` feels that I’m still confused and that I still believe. And sometimes I’m still confused. I always tell people I go to church more than any atheist I’ve ever known because sometimes I go with my mother, and I feel bad about her going to church by herself (laughs). And when we go to a funeral and she starts doing the rosary, and if I don’t do the rosary with her I’m a terrible daughter, so here I am doing the rosary with her.
Its been difficult sometimes. I was in a relationship. I was falling in love with this man, but he was a very spiritual guy and so we broke up for various reasons, but that played into it as well. And sometimes my friends … they’re all very spiritual and they can’t wrap their minds around it and they’re convinced that I do believe somehow.
It’s not anything really difficult, only there’s some difficulty when you don’t believe, it’s hard not to believe when something tragic does happen. Because it’s like, “How do I handle this?”
Since you’ve lived in Belgium, New York, and other locales … how does San Antonio compare to other places’ acceptance of atheism?
I’ve lived in New York and Europe and there are a lot of atheists there and nobody has a problem or anything about it. Here it’s different; yes, there’s not as many, so yeah I would say that people have a little bit more difficult time wrapping their minds around it. I try to find atheist groups and it’s kind of hard. Not that I need to go to an atheist support group, but just so I could try to find people to come see my show (laughs).
Want to share a little more about the show?
It’s not anti-God, it’s not anti-religion, and my friends (who believe in God) were able to relate to it because it hits on a universal theme that anybody who’s gone through something, or they’re different, and they’re trying to fit in and they’re asking all these questions about society I think they all can relate to that. It’s funny too. Religion can be very comedic. •
SAY Si Black Box Theatre
1518 S. Alamo