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Miami Through its Spanish Performing Arts Spaces

Lillian Manzor, Author

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Teatro Martí - 420 SW 8th Avenue, Miami, Florida

     In 1967 Ernesto Capote, head light technician in Havana's Tropicana from 1950 to 1961, transformed a former boxing arena that had been the home of the Miami chapter of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1930s to Miami's into Teatro Martí. The building was located between 400 and 430 SW 8th Avenue and it was known as the Circuito Cineteatral Capote (CCC). It is recognized as the meeting place for the first generation of Cuban exiles in the U.S, and as one of the rare places in which recently-arrived artists could find work.
     When he arrived to Miami, Capote worked in a factory during the daytime and then as a busboy at the Flamenco Supper Club until the show started when he would do their lights. Capote explained in a newspaper interview how he bought the theater: "Soy como los artistas que no pueden estar sin el escenario. Como toda la vida estuve en el giro del espectáculo tenía que seguir en eso. El dueño del Flamenco, Pepe Currais, ya fallecido, me ayudó mucho. Un día me ofreció dinero para abrir el Martí, pero le pedí que en lugar de eso, entrara en el negocio conmigo, si se perdía dinero lo perdía él. Asi lo hicimos. Todo el mundo me ayudaba. La gente del Flamenco venía a tumbar paredes, compramos las butacas en un lugar debajo de un expressway, las reparamos, las pintamos, aquello era como un fervor patriótico."FN 
     The first theatre had 1200 seats. It opened with a big production that included more than 40 actors and singers, including the comedy troupe of Leopoldo Fernández, Trespatines, in one of their first presentations in exile. The theater's trademark was comedies.
     In the early 70s, he divided it into two spaces, Martí I and Martí II with 700 and 350 seats, in which he could show films and present live theatrical productions. He later added Martí III which was only a movie theater. Martí IV and Martí V were only theaters; they were formerly called La Comedia. The building also housed a television and a radio station.FN 
     By 1988, the complex was having financial difficulties. In July 1989, it received fines for 16 counts of code violations from the fire department. It needed $200,000 to resolve the violation issues and $300,000 to remodel. In 1990, Miami city commissioners promised Capote a $500,000 loan at 2% interest and the theater is used by local politicians in campaign ads in order to attract the Hispanic voters. In 1998, the complex's ownership title passes to the city of Miami and in 2006 the complex is demolished in order to build Teatro Martí Apartments, a low-income housing condominium for seniors.

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