EDITORIAL | IS BLACKFACE EVER OK? A Miami theatre defends, then reconsiders this outdated,
racist and hurtful practice
¿Por qué es racista pintarse la cara de negro? Un teatro en Miami defiende esta practica, y
by Herb Sosa
POSITIVE CHANGE CAN HAPPEN! I AM PROUD TO HAVE RAISED MY VOICE, PROFILE and LED THE WAY AGAINST THIS OUTDATED
AND RACIST EXCUSE FOR COMEDY, AND GLAD TO SEE TEATRO TRAIL LISTENED TO REASON. We ARE better than THIS!
UPDATE: Miami theater no longer features actress in blackface in Spanish-language play. Miami’s Teatro Trail has modified a Spanish-
language play to stop including a character in blackface and change some of the content in the show. The changes are effective this
weekend... more - www.miamiherald.com
We can justify it all we want, go on about how we are waaaay to politically correct these days, can't say or do anything without offending
SOMEBODY, and rant about how "we" don't don't see color and aren't racists... Guess what - anytime you present, mock or make a group
the punchline, especially when it IS perpetuating negative stereotypes, it is NOT OK. Sadly, our Hispanic|Latinx Arts, Radio & TV shows
are decades behind in this area.
People of color are not the first or only group that your Theater - WHICH I LOVE & RESPECT for its legacy & often wonderful work in our
community - chooses to portray in these outdated ways. The LGBT community has often been portrayed in outdated, demeaning and
offensive ways on your stage, in exchange of a few laughs on the backs of our community.The LGBT community has often been portrayed
in outdated, demeaning and offensive ways on your stage, in exchange of a few laughs on the backs of our community.
An actress with an afro wig, exaggerated lips and brown face- mimicking a Gorilla - is NOT FUNNY or RIGHT - not here, not anywhere.
COME ON, TOWER THEATER & Ms Marta Velasco... We are BETTER THAN THIS. It is definitely time to wipe off the brown greasepaint!
Podemos tratar de justificarlo todo lo que deseamos, protestar sobre cómo nos vemos obligados a corregir políticamente estos días,
que no podemos decir o hacer nada sin ofender a ALGUIEN, y despotricar sobre cómo "nosotros" no vemos el color y no somos
racistas ... Adivina qué: cada vez que presentas, te burlas o conviertes a un grupo en el enfoque de chistes estereotipos,, especialmente
cuando perpetúa elementos negativos, NO está bien. Lamentablemente, nuestros programas de televisión hispanx |latinx Arte, Radio y
TV están muy por detrás en esta área.
Las personas de color no son el primer o único grupo que han recibido este trato en su escenario - TEATRO QUE ME ENCANTA Y
RESPETO por su legado y, a menudo, un trabajo maravilloso en nuestra comunidad. La comunidad LGBT muchas veces ha sido
retratada en formas desactualizadas, degradantes y ofensivas en su escenario en cambio de unas carcajadas dañinas, en las
espaldas de nuestra comunidad.
Una actriz con una peluca afro, labios exagerados y rostro moreno, coparada a un Gorila, NO ES DIVERTIDO ni CORRECTO, ni aquí, ni
en ningún lado. VAMOS TEATRO TRAIL, el director Roman y la Sra. Marta Velasco ... Somos MEJORES QUE ESTO. ¡Definitivamente es
hora de quitarnos la pintura marrón!
This Miami parody features an actress in blackface and the audience 'loves it'
BY BRENDA MEDINA
A popular Spanish-language theater near Miami’s Little Havana neighborhood has been entertaining its audiences for months with a
parody that would spur outrage in many other cities. One of the leading actors in the play performs in blackface.
The response from most of this audience: applause and laughter.
“It has been a hit and no one has complained ... on the contrary, she is one of the favorites," said Marisol Correa, who oversees the venue
where the play is showing. “The character is typical of the Cuban theater, the negrito cubano, but the person is never discriminated.”
Tres Viudas en un Crucero (three widows on a cruise), playing at the Teatro Trail at 3715 SW Eighth St., features light-skinned Cuban
actress Marta Velasco smeared with dark makeup, exaggerated red lips, thick, drawn-in eyebrows and an afro wig. A trailer of the play
posted on Youtube shows Velasco pounding her chest, with her legs wide open while saying "Bailar, tomar y gozar como tres gorilas" (to
dance, drink and have fun like three gorillas).
A Miami parody features an actress in blackface. This is the promotional video the theater posted on Youtube Sala Cataris
The show is about three older women who live in a condominium in Hialeah and save up money to go on a cruise. The plot revolves
around their plans to go on the cruise and their anecdotes upon their return.
Elsewhere in the United States such a presentation might spark outcries of racism. In Miami, the performance has sold out every
weekend and the audience "loves it," Correa said.
The play, characterized as a comedy, also got a favorable review, published in el Nuevo Herald. The only mention of the character in
blackface says: The "female version of the classic negrito cubano of the Cuban vernacular is interpreted masterfully by Marta Velasco.”
Velasco and the play’s director, Pedro Roman, also shrugged at the notion that the character might be offensive. They said the characters
of a black, a mulatto and a gallego (a Galician immigrant) are part of the Cuban tradition and that their intention was not to hurt anyone.
Velasco said she has played similar characters for years in Miami and there has never been an issue.
“Now people protest for everything. I believe people should start worrying
about more important things. There is nothing discriminatory about it. It was
just created to make people laugh and have a good time,” Velasco said of her
character, whom she describes as "genuine, funny, vivacious and the loudest
Tres Viudas en un Crucero (three widows on a cruise), a show playing in Spanish at a theater in Miami, features light-skin Cuban actress
Marta Velasco (right) smeared with dark makeup, exaggerated red lips, thick, drawn-in eyebrows and an afro wig.
Blackface, defined as a form of theater makeup used by non-black actors to
represent a caricature of a black person in minstrel shows that became
popular in the 1830s, has long been considered offensive and racist across
the United States. The theater was a place where white actors in blackface
mocked African Americans and made light of slavery and racism. That kind of
performance helped perpetuate stereotypes about black people and excluded
blacks from performing arts for more than a century.
The blackface style of performance ended in the U.S. in the 1960s with the rise of the Civil Rights movement.
But in Latin America, the so-called bufos characters of vernacular theater have prevailed in plays and television. Even as they portray a
caricature of black Latin Americans, it isn’t rare for local TV stations in Miami to show comedians in blackface.
For those involved in the Teatro Trail play, characters like the one Velasco is interpreting are "normal" and a testament to actors' “excellent
skills" and "adaptability," Correa and Velasco said.
“To say that a light-skinned actress painting herself [black] is discriminatory is like saying that an actor cannot play the Cat from [Cat in the
Hat] because he is not a cat. Or that an actor cannot interpret a Chinese person because he was born in the United States,” said Correa.
“This character was conceived as a black [Cuban] woman who lives in a condo in Hialeah and gets along with her two neighbors.”
Asked why they couldn’t simply hire a black actress to play the part, Correa said that Velasco was chosen because she played a similar
character before and is “such an excellent actress.”
Velasco said that she doesn’t know any black Hispanic actresses in the Spanish Miami theater world. Roman, the play's director, said
that no dark-skinned actresses showed up to the casting call.
But for Sarah Prieto, 53, a local social science teacher who recently went to see the play, it wasn’t clear why the actress had to be in
blackface at all.
“I was shocked. I didn’t understand why she needed to be black. What’s the point?” said Prieto, a Cuban American who was born and
raised in Miami.
More shocking, Prieto said, was the fact that the people she went to see the play with said she was exaggerating when she raised her
A few days later, she showed promotional videos of the play to her colleagues — both Cuban-American history teachers — and their
reactions were much different.
“Like me, they were outraged. They can’t believe this is going on here,” Prieto said.
Roman, the director, said he understands why the character can be offensive, and “justifiably” so, in American culture. However, he said,
that approach doesn’t apply to Cuban culture, where vernacular theater has continued to be a tradition.
Yet, he conceded, if people are offended, “I accept the criticism, just know that [the character] was not created to be offensive in any way,”
he said. "As I said before, most of my very good friends are black. I don't see [skin] color.”
Tres Viudas en un Crucero is showing Saturdays and Sundays, according to Teatro Trail’s website.
POSITIVE CHANGE CAN HAPPEN!
I AM PROUD TO HAVE RAISED MY VOICE, PROFILE and LED THE WAY
AGAINST THIS OUTDATED AND RACIST EXCUSE FOR COMEDY, AND
GLAD TO SEE TEATRO TRAIL LISTENED TO REASON.
We ARE better than THIS!
UPDATE: Miami theater no longer features actress in blackface in Spanish-
language play. Miami’s Teatro Trail has modified a Spanish-language play to
stop including a character in blackface and change some of the content in the
show. The changes are effective this weekend... more - www.miamiherald.com
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