Tuesday, September 2, 2014

A Sister’s Loss, Enduring Love and Hope Inspire Core Story of "The Long Road Today/El Largo Camino de Hoy"

by Melody Gonzalez

Melody González, her husband, Hector Luis Rivera and their son, Tonalli. Rivera is a cast musician in The Long Road Today/El Largo Camino de Hoy. Photo: Gallo Studios.
NOTE: Santa Ana resident Melody Gonzalez participated over a two-year period with South Coast Repertory’s Dialogue/Dialogos project, which collected the stories of community residents, trained them in theatre craft and resulted in a new play inspired by Santa Ana. The new play is called The Long Road Today/ El Largo Camino De Hoy. Gonzalez shared her personal story of loss during the project and it served as the core of the play—the death of a child that brings a community together. What follows is her personal essay about the experience.

“Atropellaron a Sandy!”

I can still hear that cry from 20 years ago—the cry that made my heart stop and that changed my family’s lives forever: on June 24, 1994, the day of my fifth grade promotion, my three-year-old sister was hit by a car while she attempted to cross the street alone in our neighborhood.

Six days later, my sister transitioned, leaving behind a wealth of memories from her short life, but also a huge void and pain for my mother, father, brother and me. For 20 years, I have honored my sister and kept her alive in my life as my greatest inspiration and guardian angel.

Never would I have imagined that the central story in The Long Road Today/ El Largo Camino De Hoy would be so connected to my family’s story. I was shocked and honored.

I remember when we first learned about the Diálogos project. My husband, Hector, and I have always seen the arts and culture as essential tools for our communities to tell our stories, to celebrate our victories and to heal our pains.

We knew we wanted to participate in the first story circle. A few months later we were contacted as part of the many interviews Diálogos did throughout Santa Ana. We mostly shared about how we met organizing and doing street theatre in Chicago working alongside the Coalition of Immokalee Workers and about all the music, dance, and community work that sustains and heals us.

Rehearsal for The Long Road Today/El Largo Camino de Hoy, with cast member Angela Apodaca portraying El Diablito (The Little Devil), foreground. Photo: Laura Bustamante.
I also shared how my sister’s accident and transition, right outside our home, was the main reason my parents decided to not move from Santa Ana. We shared about our own son’s birth and our decision to have a home water birth. After our meeting, I sent José a piece I wrote about our home birth. One of the things I highlighted from the experience was feeling my sister’s presence in the final moments of Tonalli’s birth. With each contraction, I screamed and wailed. In part from the pain, but also I had stepped outside of my body and could hear myself—my 10-year-old self—releasing pain held back since my sister’s transition. It was a very healing experience. Sharing my story through writing has been a large part of that healing as well.

I was able to participate in one of the last staged readings of Jose’s play, The Long Road Today/ El Largo Camino De Hoy and it was the first time I had read the play since sharing my stories with José.

I cried through most of it—going back to that tragic day 20 years ago—but it also was a very liberating experience. It helped me embrace the pain, the longing, the memories, the love, the healing journey and all the lessons that tragedy has taught me.

As Luz, the sister of the young boy who is hit by a car in the play, was introduced, I couldn’t help but see myself in Luz. Luz—light—bringing to light our stories is what this project has done.

The Long Road Today/ El Largo Camino De Hoy is created from the stories of hundreds of people in Santa Ana who have participated in this project and I applaud and honor this important cultural work.

Through a play—through the arts—is how our community can heal, as well as celebrate. Together bringing our stories to light.

Find out more about The Long Road Today/El Largo Camino De Hoy and buy tickets 



  1. Melody, thank you for sharing your story, your life and your light with all of us. Your community loves you very much.

  2. Reading your story brought tears to my eyes!! Your words are beautiful and inspirational!! Thank you Melody for sharing your testimony with us!! We sure do love and appreciate you very much:)!!

    Sonia Rios

  3. Now many in the community will be connected to the memory of your sister. Thank you for sharing.

  4. It's awful to go through so much pain at a young age. Melody, your work and energy continues to inspire me. I too, have suffered from my aunt's death. La atropellaron en Junio de este año. I am glad you share your dedication, determination and story with us. Un abrazo fuerte!