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Black Women in Post-revolutionary Cuban Theatre

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Abstract

In this chapter, several plays from post-revolutionary Cuban theatre are examined, focusing on the strategies of representation of black women characters. Through the analysis of four plays—two from the 1960s and two from the twenty-first century—Lugo Herrera compares the strategies of representation in each period and demonstrates the persistence of racism in contemporary Cuban society. One finding is the need to create new forms of affiliation, opportunity, and recognition for black women. Plays by Maité Vera, José Milián, Eugenio Hernández Espinosa, Rogelio Orizondo, Georgina Herrera, and Fátima Patterson offer us new ways to consider the sexualization of black female bodies, and the ways in which racism affects family, economic survival, and the professionalization of black women in the Cuban Revolution.

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  • DOI: 10.1007/978-3-030-43957-6_14
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Notes

  1. 1.

    See Fraunhar, Mulata Nation; Jill Lane, Blackface Cuba, 1840–1895 (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2005); Vera Kutzinski, Sugar’s Secrets: Race and the Erotics of Cuban Nationalism (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1994); Raquel Mendieta Costa, “Exotic Exports: The Myth of the Mulatta,” in Corpus Delecti: Performance Art of the Americas, edited by Coco Fusco, 43–54 (New York: Routledge, 2000); Alicia Arrizón, “Race-ing Performativity through Transculturation, Taste and the Mulata Body,” Theatre Research International 27, no. 2 (July 2002): 136–152.

  2. 2.

    Teatro bufo was a nineteenth-century theatre form that used blackface to identify its black characters. It has been considered the cradle of a Cuban national theatre, and an important milestone for the formation of a Cuban cultural identity. Some historians, such as Inés María Martiatu Terry, have criticised statements that uncritically situate the bufo as a ‘national theatre’, without considering the ways in which black characters were portrayed, and what kind of ‘nation’ this theatre was representing since there was impersonation despite no representation. Inés María Martiatu Terry, Wanilere Teatro (La Habana: Letras Cubanas, 2005): 13–14.

  3. 3.

    All translations are mine.

  4. 4.

    Morejón, Nancy. 2005. Ensayos. La Habana: Letras Cubanas and Curbelo, Alberto. 2012. La absurda realidad del ser. Tablas 3: 37-48.

  5. 5.

    Other scholars have consistently studied this problem. See Alejandro de la Fuente, A Nation for All: Race, Inequality, and Politics in Twentieth-Century Cuba (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2001); Zuleica Romay, Elogio de la altea o las paradojas de la racialidad (La Habana: Casa de las Américas, 2014).

  6. 6.

    This process of social integration was reflected in plays such as Santa Camila de La Habana Vieja, by José Ramón Brene, Andoba, by Abraham Rodríguez, and Cuban film De cierta manera, directed by Sara Gómez, among others. José Ramón Brene. “Santa Camila de la Habana Vieja.” (Re-Pasar el Puente, La Habana: Letras Cubanas, 2010), 43–132.

  7. 7.

    Today both institutions still operate under the same premises.

  8. 8.

    One of the projects related with the Teatro Nacional was Ediciones El Puente, an editorial project that aimed to promote the works of young writers and playwrights. Due to ideological conflicts within Cuban institutions, though, Ediciones El Puente ended in 1965. Two of the plays analyzed in this chapter, Las Ulloa and Vade Retro, were featured in an anthology that could not be published by El Puente during the 1960s and were finally completed by Inés María Martiatu. See Inés María Martiatu, Re-Pasar El Puente (La Habana: Letras Cubanas, 2010), 41.

  9. 9.

    Other versions of Cecilia Valdés include the novel La loma del ángel, by Reinaldo Arenas, and the plays La virgencita de cobre, by Norge Espinosa, and Parece blanca, by Abelardo Estorino. For Cecilia Valdés’ versions in post-Soviet Cuba, see David Lisenby, “Frustrated Mulatta Aspirations: Reiterations of ‘Cecilia Valdés’ in Post-Soviet Cuba,” Afro-Hispanic Review 31, no. 1 (2012): 87–104.

  10. 10.

    Mikhail Kalatozov. I Am Cuba: The Ultimate Edition. Harrington Park: Milestone Film & Video, 2007.

  11. 11.

    Vade Retro had its premiere on October 21, 1967, by the Conjunto Dramático de Camagüey, directed by Pedro Castro.

  12. 12.

    It had its premiere on April 2, 2004, interpreted by Monse Duany and Nelson González, under Hernández Espinosa’s direction.

  13. 13.

    After its censorship in 1967 María Antonia was not restaged until 2011, when Hernández Espinosa himself directed it. For him, restaging the play 40 years later was a proof that the original conditions that gave rise to the play remained essentially the same. That is, despite all the projects that had supposedly solved the dilemma of blacks in Cuba, the marginal world not only exists in Cuba, but it actually grows within the current conditions of life, and the country’s deteriorating economy, values, and education. Eugenio Hernández Espinosa, María Antonia. (La Habana: Letras Cubanas, 1979). 

  14. 14.

    For more information on this matter, see Inés Martiatu Terry Tomás González: “el autor como protagonista de su tiempo” (Tablas 3–4, 2008), 139–143. and Lillian Guerra, Visions of Power in Cuba: Revolution, Redemption, and Resistance, 1959–1971. (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2012).

  15. 15.

    See Raquel Carrió, “Teatro y Modernidad” (Tablas LXX, 2002), 33–39; Graziella Pogolotti, “El Teatro Cubano En Vísperas de Una Nueva Década” (Tablas LXX, 2002), 98–102.

  16. 16.

    It had its premiere on April 2, 2004, interpreted by Monse Duany and Nelson González, under Hernández Espinosa’s direction. Eugenio Hernández Espinosa, “Chita no come maní,” Quiquiribú Mandinga (La Habana: Letras Cubanas, 2009), 307–326.

  17. 17.

    Rogelio Orizondo, Vacas (La Habana: Ediciones Unión, 2008).

  18. 18.

    The date of its writing is unclear, but it was performed in 2004 by the Compañía Rita Montaner and the Grupo Espacio Abierto, under the direction of Xiomara Calderón. Georgina Herrera, “Penúltimo sueño de Mariana” (Wanilere Teatro, La Habana: Letras Cubanas, 2005), 277–315.

  19. 19.

    In that regard it is important to mention the works of Zuleica Romay, Roberto Zurbano, Alberto Abreu Arcia, and the group Cofradía de la Negritud, among others.

  20. 20.

    Lilianne Lugo. Museo (La Habana: Ediciones Alarcos, 2011).

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Lugo Herrera, L. (2021). Black Women in Post-revolutionary Cuban Theatre. In: Morosetti, T., Okagbue, O. (eds) The Palgrave Handbook of Theatre and Race. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-43957-6_14

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