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Miami Through its Spanish Performing Arts Spaces

Lillian Manzor, Author

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The 1960s (Performing Spaces in Spanish)

Cuban theater in the early years of exile in Miami catered to the commercial tastes of a displaced audience looking for ways to stay connected to the homeland they left behind and imagined returning to very soon.  Comedies were among the undemanding entertainment this audience expected. A very popular theatrical genre in Cuba was “teatro bufo,” short comical sketches that included slapstick, blackface, music, and political commentary. Its stock characters imitated types (el negrito in blackface, el gallego- the Spaniard, la mulata, and so on). Dating back to the 19th century, it is one of the longest ongoing theatrical tradition on the island and became the most popular type of theatrical recreation for decades, well into the XXI century.  Radio, where the Latin American soup opera was established (with the 1948 broadcast of El derecho de nacer (The Right to Be Born), by Felix B. Caignet), gave way to the Television Play promoting the taste for slapstick humor and melodramatic comedies and dramas. They were both the most important sources of entertainment in pre-revolutionary Cuba and once some of its founders, promoters, and actors, were of paramount importance to the cultural formation of the community and the city when they arrived in Miami. The enclave cultural connection to the homeland was also reflected in non-commercial, more experimental sala-teatros (pocket theaters) and in the very names of venues borrowed from Havana such Teatro Martí and Las Máscaras.

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