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Miami Through its Spanish Performing Arts Spaces

Lillian Manzor, Author
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Añorada Cuba (Yearning for Cuba)

Añorada Cuba
The show that perhaps best represents the attitude of the first decade of exile and of the older generation of theater artists was Añorada Cuba (Yearning for Cuba). Performed by teenaged Cubans, traditional Cuban music, dance, and vignettes attempted to alleviate the pain of exile through a shared nostalgic experience while teaching Cuban cultural traditions to younger generations. Pili de la Rosa and Demetrio Menéndez were the artistic directors.

In this interview, Pili de la Rosa, one of the founders of Añorada Cuba, describes its beginnings as an effort of the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Hialeah. Their first show was advertised as a fundraiser to help needy Cubans. Entrance was 50 cents and they sold 7500 tickets in three days. Pili de la Rosa designed the dramaturgy based on staged estampas or cultural skits in which children and adolescents dubbed famous singers. The first part included "The Havana of Yesteryears," "Zarzuelas and Operettas," "Afro-Cuba," and "Danzones, among others. The second part was composed of musical numbers which included a comparsa, a music and dance number typical of Afro-Caribbean carnivals. They always finished with a staging based on the Virgin of Charity, patron saint of Cuba.

Demetrio Menéndez joined in the effort to launch Añorada Cuba as its set designer. In this clip, he describes how he started building stages and sets for the show. The Jackie Gleason’s workshops were close to his house. He became friends with the workers and they gave him pieces of left-over lumber and materials with which he designed and built the first stages of the show.

Their first productions were done in Hialeah's Municipal Auditorium, today the Milander Auditorium. However, by August 1964, given the success of the show, they decided to rent Dade County Auditorium. Thus, the premier cultural venue in Miami which "spoke" Spanish for the first time with their fourth show. By September 1964, their original monolingual program grew from 3 pages to 8, and it also became bilingual.In 1965, they had done 42 presentations with a total of 96,000 spectators. Ads in the program clearly demonstrate an “ethnic enclave” that already had its own schools, press, restaurants, pharmacies, accounting services, etc.

At the end of the decade, Carteles Internacional magazine dedicated an issue to Añorada Cuba in which they included photographs from all of their productions during this first decade of exile. The editorial stated that the show was "an instrument for the sentimental unity of Cuban people in exile. Sixty percent of its earnings are invested in aiding the Cuban colony and the orphans or children whose parents are subjugated by the red barbarism in an enslaved Cuba [sic]." It is complicated to evaluate the role of Añorada Cuba in the development of the Cuban exile community in Miami  and of Spanish theater in the city. On the one hand, the show served to coalesce different sectors of the Cuban community and to maintain alive cultural traditions. On the other, they were selective in the traditions they chose to preserve. In many ways, they kept alive an upper class version of Cubanness that was characteristic of the previous Republican period. As Alberto Sarraín has noted, these shows were a performance of the “frozen culture . . . of a ghetto in which only the past is meaningful.”FN
Así es Cuba (This is Cuba) and Nuestra Cuba (Our Cuba) followed the footprint of Añorada Cuba with variety shows that included dance, music and short sketches.
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