Los Tequileros draws on a Mexican folk ballad to recount the deaths of three tequila smugglers at the hands of American law enforcement during Prohibition. The play provides historical context to the Brown Lives Matter movement, offers a local perspective on border security, and complicates tropes existing in the Latino community by humanizing the Texas Rangers as working class men and more than “pinches rinches.”
Incited by the murder of a fellow agent, FRANK SMITH (30s) and the Texas Rangers (CAPTAIN WRIGHT (50s) and JESSE PEREZ JR (30s)) are intent on bringing the killers to justice in Prohibition-era south Texas.
However, the case has gone cold and Frank Smith is desperate. He hasn’t slept well since losing his friend and he fears that MARIA RUMSEY (30s), his friend’s widow, will do something dangerous in an attempt to find the killers unless he finds them first.
As Frank and the Texas Rangers search for leads, the widowed Maria does the same. She invokes the help of her Mexican cousin, RAUL (30s), an ex-tequila smuggler, to help find her husband’s killers and bring them to justice. When he refuses, having left that line of work years ago, she assures him that she is prepared to pull the trigger herself.
Meanwhile, GERONIMO (30s) and SILVANO GRACIA (50s), two tequila smugglers (known as tequileros), make their way from Guerrero, Tamaulipas into Texas with an especially large shipment. They stop to ask LEANDRO (20s), estranged cousin to Maria, to accompany them on their run.
Sick and against his mother MARCELLA’s (60s) protests, he accepts their offer, but the trip goes bad when he is too ill to continue the journey, forcing the three to set up camp in a canyon in plain sight.
Maria and Raul discover the three tequileros near nightfall, while Frank Smith and the Texas Rangers do the same on the opposing side of the canyon. Neither party can be sure if the tequila smugglers they’ve come across have played any part in the murder. However, their positioning is precarious and both sides face a decision: whether or not to engage the tequileros and learn more, or take advantage of the high ground and shoot first.
As morning breaks, Maria and Raul recognize their cousin Leandro. Realizing that Frank Smith and the Texas Rangers have taken aim, Raul shoots a warning shot in the air, but it is too late. The three tequileros are murdered and neither Frank nor Maria ultimately find the peace they seek.