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ESCALONA PEREZ, BEATRIZ

ESCALONA PÉREZ, BEATRIZ (1903–1979). Beatriz Escalona Pérez (Noloesca, "La Chata"), Mexican-American comedienne, was born in San Antonio, Texas, on August 20, 1903, the daughter of a man named Escalona and Simona Pérez, both originally from Galeana, Nuevo León, Mexico. She was raised in San Antonio but spent much of her childhood in Monterrey, Nuevo León, with relatives. By the age of ten she was already drawn to the theater through frequent visits to the Teatro Independencia in Monterrey. Indeed, she was so entranced by theatrical entertainment that she sold bouquets to earn admission. In San Antonio she worked part-time as an usher at the Teatro Zaragoza (see CARLOS VILLALONGÍN DRAMATIC COMPANY, and HERNÁNDEZ, CONCEPCIÓN). At the time, the Teatro Zaragoza, located in the heart of the Mexican-American community, was a showcase for entertainment in Spanish. By sixteen Beatriz had moved up to a position in the box office at the new Teatro Nacional. While working at the Nacional, she met a Cuban-born performer, José Areu, who was a member of the variety company Los Hermanos Areu. He invited her to travel with the company. Beatriz left San Antonio and studied singing and acting with the Areus. She made her first performance at the Teatro Colón in El Paso at the age of eighteen. At Areu's suggestion, she took the stage name Noloesca, an anagram of her last name. She married Areu. Her first and only child, Belia (who later also became a successful performer), was born in Mexico City on October 31, 1921.

Noloesca toured throughout Mexico and the Southwestern United States with Los Hermanos Areu. She performed in a variety of popular genres: risqué bataclán numbers (similar to burlesque), dramatic plays and comic sketches, and traditional and humorous Mexican songs. Although Noloesca had originally aspired to be a glamorous vedette (chorus girl), she discovered that she had a special gift for comedy and was encouraged by the Areus to develop her talent. She increasingly specialized in comic roles.

In 1930 she left the company, ended her marriage, and formed her own variety company, Atracciones Noloesca. Between 1930 and 1936 she managed and acted with her company and periodically contracted to perform with other companies. Most notably, she worked with Mexican entertainer Eusebio Pirrín, who was otherwise known by his stage name Don Catarino. Noloesca met and married her second husband, an immigration employee, José de la Torre, in Tijuana. Torre became her comic partner. In 1936 she returned to San Antonio, where she performed at the Teatro Nacional.

Probably in the late 1920s and early 1930s Noloesca developed the popular comic figure she maintained throughout the remainder of her career. She called the character "La Chata," an affectionate nickname that meant "button-nosed." She modeled the character on Mexican and Mexican-American maids. Trademarks of La Chata were a brightly printed, flounced cotton dress, perky little pigtails tied with big bows, and chunky men's shoes with boldly striped socks. Through her costume, gestures, and verbal wit Beatriz invented a character that was simultaneously innocent and savvy, sweet and strong-willed.

After the demise of her first company, Noloesca organized a second company, "Beatriz Noloesca `La Chata' Compañía Mexicana," in San Antonio in 1938. She, her second husband, her daughter, and four hired San Antonio natives formed the troupe. Their fare varied but generally consisted of Mexican, Mexican-American, and American song and dance numbers and comedy sketches in which Noloesca starred. These sketches, performed by La Chata and a male partner, were the highlight of the productions. From the late 1930s to the 1950s Noloesca took her company on the road and performed to a range of Spanish-speaking audiences in the Southwest, Midwest, South, and Northeast, as well as Cuba. Significant cities on the tour included San Antonio, Chicago, Tampa, New York City, and Havana. By locating Spanish-speaking audiences beyond her native Southwest, Noloesca was able to sustain her company and her career through the 1940s. She was responsible for handling company finances, hiring and training performers, developing and directing the productions, and arranging contracts and tours. She was particularly successful in obtaining performance contracts and showed remarkable self-confidence in negotiating with theater managers. Her company performed at the Teatro Hispano in New York City in the 1940s.

In the early 1950s, after an extended tour in New York, Noloesca returned with her daughter to their home in San Antonio. She married her third husband, Rubén Escobedo, a San Antonio musician. She worked in radio and continued to do live performances, including many benefits, through the 1970s. In 1975 she was honored by the Mexican National Association of Actors in San Antonio. She died in San Antonio on April 4, 1979.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Houston Post, February 7, 1982. Nicolás Kanellos, A History of Hispanic Theatre in the United States: Origins to 1940 (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1990). Elizabeth C. Ramírez, Footlights across the Border: A History of Spanish-Language Professional Theatre on the Texas Stage (New York: Lang, 1990). San Antonio Express News, December 4, 1977. Pamela A. Smith, Beatriz Noloesca, "La Chata": An Oral History (M.A. thesis, University of Texas at Austin, 1991). Tomás Ybarra-Frausto, "La Chata Noloesca: Figura del Donaire," in Mexican American Theatre: Then and Now, ed. N. Kanellos (Houston: Arte Público Press, 1983).

Pamela A. Smith and Elizabeth C. Ramírez

Citation

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Pamela A. Smith and Elizabeth C. Ramírez, "ESCALONA PEREZ, BEATRIZ," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fes26), accessed September 22, 2014. Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

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