"La Chata Noloesca"
Pioneer of Mexicana women in theater
Beatriz Escalona Pérez, also known as “La Chata Noloesca” was a comedienne who toured throughout the United States and Mexico. She was a talented performer and manager who created and sustained her own company for over two decades. In 1975 she was honored by the Mexican National Association of Actors in San Antonio. Her epitaph in San Fernando Cemetery simply and eloquently describes her legacy: “Artista sanantoniana que con su arte hizo sonreír al mundo.”
Pérez was born in San Antonio on August 20, 1903. She was the daughter of Escalona and Simona Pérez, both originally from Galeana, Nuevo León, Mexico. They lived in a small house on Medina street, near the Missouri Pacific Railroad Depot. Her father died when she was very young, and so to support the family her mother established a popular business selling hot food for train passengers passing through the city. Beatriz also spent much of her childhood with family in Monterrey, Nuevo León, near the Teatro Independencia. Here is where Beatriz became enthralled watching tandas de variedad, vaudeville-shows that incorporated song, dance, satire, parody and humor. She would make small flower bouquets from her relatives’ garden to sell, just to afford a cheap seat in the galería.
At the age of fifteen she began to work as an acomodadora, an usher in San Antonio’s 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. Beatriz left San Antonio to travel with his company, 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 this point, she took the stage name Noloesca, an anagram of her last name. She married Areu, and had a child, Belia (who later also became a successful performer), 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. As Tomás Ibarra-Fausto writes in a profile of her: “La Chata honed her natural comic talents in the highly charged, participatory context of performances before working class audiences. Responses to her routines might be contagious approval or boisterous disapproval but never indifference.”
In 1930 she left the company, ended her marriage, and formed her own variety company, Atracciones Noloesca, Variedades Mexicanas. For the next six years she managed and acted with her company and periodically contracted to perform with other companies. Noloesca met and married her second husband, 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.