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Caribbean Negritos: Ramn Rivero, Blackface, and Black Voice in Puerto Rico
Unformatted Document Text:  21 The first Cuban migration to Puerto Rico after the 1959 Cuban Revolution occurred during 1960-1961 when Luis Muñoz Marín, the island’s governor, invited professionals to the island (Cobas and Duany, 1997). According to José A. Cobas and Jorge Duany (1997), successive Cuban migratory influxes were influenced by language, the similarities of cultures and climate, the economic growth that Puerto Rico experienced during the 1960s, and the political, social, and economic ties between Puerto Rico and the United States. An important factor regarding this migration is that most of these individuals were part of the migratory group classified as the “Golden Exiles,” a categorization which referred to their upper socio-economic status in Cuba. Before migrating to Puerto Rico, most of these exiles’ occupations were related to business, management, or other professional enterprises (ibid., p. 26). Furthermore, racially speaking, most of them were ‘white.’ With the post 1959 Cuban migration, Cuban actors (for example, Leopoldo Fernández, the actor from whom Rivero ‘borrowed’ blackface and Tino Acosta) performed the negritos, adding another dimension to the embodiment of ‘blackness.’ Considering the social, racial, and previous economic position of the Cuban immigrants who came to Puerto Rico and the fact that the actors who donned blackface were ‘white’ middle- class Cubans, these negritos can be viewed as symbols of the ‘black’ ‘underclass’ who stayed in Cuba after the Revolution. I would like to propose that Rivero’s characters and subsequent Caribbean negrito representations during the 1950s and 1960s normalized the ‘whiteness’ of the Puerto Rican nation and the Cuban immigrant community while concomitantly reaffirming the marginal location of ‘blacks’ in Puerto Rico and the CubaRican ‘borderless’ cultural space. This interconnection of blackface as a reaffirmation of ‘whiteness’ should not be understood as an emblematic desire to ‘whiten’ the Puerto Rican nation in order to be assimilated into the U.S.

Authors: Rivero, Yeidy.
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21
The first Cuban migration to Puerto Rico after the 1959 Cuban Revolution occurred
during 1960-1961 when Luis Muñoz Marín, the island’s governor, invited professionals to the
island (Cobas and Duany, 1997). According to José A. Cobas and Jorge Duany (1997),
successive Cuban migratory influxes were influenced by language, the similarities of cultures
and climate, the economic growth that Puerto Rico experienced during the 1960s, and the
political, social, and economic ties between Puerto Rico and the United States. An important
factor regarding this migration is that most of these individuals were part of the migratory group
classified as the “Golden Exiles,” a categorization which referred to their upper socio-economic
status in Cuba. Before migrating to Puerto Rico, most of these exiles’ occupations were related
to business, management, or other professional enterprises (ibid., p. 26). Furthermore, racially
speaking, most of them were ‘white.’
With the post 1959 Cuban migration, Cuban actors (for example, Leopoldo Fernández,
the actor from whom Rivero ‘borrowed’ blackface and Tino Acosta) performed the negritos,
adding another dimension to the embodiment of ‘blackness.’ Considering the social, racial, and
previous economic position of the Cuban immigrants who came to Puerto Rico and the fact that
the actors who donned blackface were ‘white’ middle- class Cubans, these negritos can be
viewed as symbols of the ‘black’ ‘underclass’ who stayed in Cuba after the Revolution.
I would like to propose that Rivero’s characters and subsequent Caribbean negrito
representations during the 1950s and 1960s normalized the ‘whiteness’ of the Puerto Rican
nation and the Cuban immigrant community while concomitantly reaffirming the marginal
location of ‘blacks’ in Puerto Rico and the CubaRican ‘borderless’ cultural space. This
interconnection of blackface as a reaffirmation of ‘whiteness’ should not be understood as an
emblematic desire to ‘whiten’ the Puerto Rican nation in order to be assimilated into the U.S.


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