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Caribbean Negritos: Ramn Rivero, Blackface, and Black Voice in Puerto Rico
Unformatted Document Text:  1 Caribbean Negritos: Ramón Rivero, Blackface, and ‘Black’ Voice in Puerto Rico From the late 1930s through the 1950s, Puerto Rico’s media representations of ‘blackness’ were located in an ambiguous geographical space. While some blackface and ‘black’ voice characters addressed local political, cultural, and social issues, negritos and negras were mostly described as caribeños/as [Caribbean] not as Puerto Ricans. This ‘black’ Caribbeanness had its origins in Puerto Rican and Cuban cultural, social, and business relations. The influence of Cuba’s Bufo theatre tradition and its negrito characters as well as the pattern of buying radio scripts from Cuba were key in Puerto Rico’s media translations of a Caribbean negritud. 1 While locally produced radio and television shows in Puerto Rico depicted ‘black’ voice and blackface ‘Caribbean’ negra characters, these earliest racialized representations--unlike the negritos--did not become iconic cultural symbols of Puerto Ricanness. 2 The negritos, and specifically, the characters created by Ramón Rivero (Diplo) from the 1930s until his death in 1956 embodied ‘Caribbean’ mediated ‘blackness’ and became an ambivalent symbol of the oppressed sectors of the population. 3 Beginning in the late 1930s, Ramón Rivero’s blackface and ‘black’ voice negrito characters, Diplomacia and Calderón became one in Puerto Rico’s popular culture, merging the actor’s creations and his public and private personae into a single signifier: Diplo. It was a symbiotic relationship--Rivero symbolized el pueblo and el pueblo venerated Rivero. From the early stages of his theatre and radio career to contemporary newspaper stories, radio, and television shows, Rivero has been characterized as a “very talented and highly professional actor,” a “Divo,” “a great colleague and human being,” a “symbol of the Puerto Rican people” and as a “true Puerto Rican who loved his island deeply.” 4 A self-identified

Authors: Rivero, Yeidy.
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1
Caribbean Negritos: Ramón Rivero, Blackface, and ‘Black’ Voice in Puerto Rico
From the late 1930s through the 1950s, Puerto Rico’s media representations of
‘blackness’ were located in an ambiguous geographical space. While some blackface and
‘black’ voice characters addressed local political, cultural, and social issues, negritos and negras
were mostly described as caribeños/as [Caribbean] not as Puerto Ricans. This ‘black’
Caribbeanness had its origins in Puerto Rican and Cuban cultural, social, and business relations.
The influence of Cuba’s Bufo theatre tradition and its negrito characters as well as the pattern of
buying radio scripts from Cuba were key in Puerto Rico’s media translations of a Caribbean
negritud.
1
While locally produced radio and television shows in Puerto Rico depicted ‘black’ voice
and blackface ‘Caribbean’ negra characters, these earliest racialized representations--unlike the
negritos--did not become iconic cultural symbols of Puerto Ricanness.
2
The negritos, and
specifically, the characters created by Ramón Rivero (Diplo) from the 1930s until his death in
1956 embodied ‘Caribbean’ mediated ‘blackness’ and became an ambivalent symbol of the
oppressed sectors of the population.
3
Beginning in the late 1930s, Ramón Rivero’s blackface
and ‘black’ voice negrito characters, Diplomacia and Calderón became one in Puerto Rico’s
popular culture, merging the actor’s creations and his public and private personae into a single
signifier: Diplo. It was a symbiotic relationship--Rivero symbolized el pueblo and el pueblo
venerated Rivero.
From the early stages of his theatre and radio career to contemporary newspaper stories,
radio, and television shows, Rivero has been characterized as a “very talented and highly
professional actor,” a “Divo,” “a great colleague and human being,” a “symbol of the Puerto
Rican people” and as a “true Puerto Rican who loved his island deeply.”
4
A self-identified


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