Petrona de la Cruz (Photo by Israel Gutierrez)

Indigenous writer and playwright Petrona de la Cruz will be honored by the League of Professional Theatre Women (LPTW) on Tuesday, Oct. 10, at Lehman College (250 Bedford Park Blvd. West, the Bronx) from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. 

De la Cruz has won the 2023 Gilder/Coigney International Theatre Award (GCITA), a prize that celebrates the work of important female playwrights from around the world. It’s one of many honors de la Cruz has received over the years for her work. 

De la Cruz writes plays and stories that portray the lives of people in Mexico’s Indigenous communities—and specifically zeroes in on the lives of women and children. In 1992, she became the first Indigenous person to win Mexico’s Rosario Castellanos Prize for literature. 

In 1994, she formed the FOMMA (Fortaleza de la Mujer Maya/Mayan Women’s Fortress) collective to educate and build strength among the local Mayan community. 

“Without theater,” de la Cruz has been quoted as saying, “we could not understand why we must continue dreaming despite the pain, sorrow, corruption, and other beasts that are eating away at our civilization; we must bet on art to break these stigmas.” 

In talking with the Amsterdam News, Joan D. Firestone, co-director of the GCITA program and a past president of the LPTW, called de la Cruz an “extraordinary Mexican artist who is both a playwright and an educator, and––interestingly enough––she also sits [as a local congresswoman] in Chiapas, Mexico.” 

The GCITA program, which started in 2011 and was named in honor of legendary theater women Rosamond Gilder and Martha Coigney, names a new honoree every three years. GCITA specifically focuses on women theater artists who are also social activists or change agents. De la Cruz fits the bill: “She started a program called Damas, which addresses the gender disparity that she grew up with and that exists in Mexico as in many other places of the world,” Firestone said. “And she works very, very closely with women and children, educating them and freeing them through her work.”

De la Cruz will be celebrated during a ceremony sponsored by the Mexican Studies Institute at CUNY (CUNY MSI). Attendees will also learn about the work of the 18 other female playwrights from 16 different countries who were up for the award: The event is designed to celebrate the work of these theater professionals who are also, essentially, social activists.

In addition to the October 10 celebration for de la Cruz, the LPTW will sponsor “Women on Stage and in the Streets,” a free week of in-person and virtual panel discussions about women and theater. The series of four panel discussions is co-hosted by the La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club and takes place from Monday, Oct. 9–Friday, Oct. 13, at La MaMa Community Arts Space (74 East 4th Street, Manhattan). The schedule for the panel discussions can be seen at Free tickets for the celebration for Petrona de la Cruz can be reserved at For more information about the GCITA program, email

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