Out of the Wings

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Yo también hablo de la rosa (c.1965), Emilio Carballido

English title: I Too Speak of the Rose
Date written: c. 1965
First publication date: 1965
First production date: 1966
Keywords: morality > punishment, identity > class/social standing, family > adolescence, history > change/revolution, history > memory, history > narrative

One of Carballido’s most well-known and critically acclaimed plays, I Too Speak of the Rose, tells us there is never just one version of the story.  Set in Mexico City of the 1960s, two delinquent teenagers, Toña and Polo, play truant from school and end up derailing a freight train when they roll a barrel filled with cement onto the train tracks before an oncoming train.  No one is hurt, but they could have been.  From here it’s up to the audience to understand why they committed this potentially destructive act and what it means.


It’s Mexico City in the 1960s and two young teenagers, Toña (a girl)  and Polo (a boy), play truant from school, roaming the streets in search of amusement. They tamper with a phone box, the fruits of which they gamble away or spend on street food.  These small pleasures compensate for a lack of privilege in life.  When the two wander into a dump, they find old discarded objects, including a metal barrel which Toña fancies as a plant pot.  They soon discover, however, that the tub is filled with cement , and begin to roll it along the ground until they push it down an embankment and onto the railway tracks below, before an oncoming train.

This train, a freight train, is derailed.  No one is hurt, but they could have been.  Was it deliberate?  To what extent should these two adolescents be punished?  From this point forward the play is structured by reactions from all corners to the teenagers’ deed.  A school teacher sees the teenagers as practising anti-establishment anarchism; their mothers see their children’s crime as a response to being fatherless; a Freudian psychologist views the teenagers’ actions as the result of repressed libido; a Marxist economist views the event as the proletariat reacting to years of subordination.

During some of these scenes Polo and Toña become the actors who re-enact their own actions with whichever slant their interpreter chooses to give them.  Carballido offers us a prismatic lens through which to view the same event.   But the moments of truth do not come from the characters who attempt to rationalise the teenagers’ actions with their various recognisable and digestible explanations; it is la intermediaria, the intermediary, who opens the play with her dense and symbolic monologues and who prises open the meaning, splitting it into a complex and occult pattern of resonances and inflections which we are compelled to believe in.

  • Carballido, Emilio. 1983. Te juro Juana que tengo ganas. Yo también hablo de la rosa. Fotografía en la playa. México, Editores Mexicanos Unidos

Entry written by Gwendolen Mackeith. Last updated on 9 August 2011.

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