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Caribbean Negritos: Ramn Rivero, Blackface, and Black Voice in Puerto Rico
Unformatted Document Text:  5 U.S. scholars have situated minstrelsy and blackface as a ‘white’ working class vernacular theatre which embodied racial hatred and fears, cross-dressing and sexualized desires, interracial/class solidarities, and grotesque racial constructions of the ‘black’ ‘Other’ (Lott, 1995; Roediger, 1991; Rogin, 1996; Sollors, 1986). Minstrelsy represented “the emergent historical break between high and low culture” and served as a symbolic whitening-melting pot space for 19 th and 20 th century Irish and Jewish immigrants (Lott, 1995, p. 8). Minstrelsy was a product of an independent nation-state which redefined ethnic, class, racial, and gendered citizens, allowing certain groups to become ‘American’ (Rogin, 1996, p. 45-58). On the other hand, Bufo was a product of Cuba’s colonial period and became a symbol of the anti-Spanish colonial sentiment that characterized the island’s political turmoil during the late 1860s. 6 The 1868 bufomania, similar to U.S minstrelsy, represented a detachment from bourgeoisie high culture theatrical genres such as Italian Opera and melodrama, most of the performers came from marginal sectors of the population (poor ‘white’ and ‘mulatto’ Cubans), and actors performed a stereotypical construction of ‘blackness.’ However, contrary to U.S. minstrelsy, Bufo and more importantly, lo negro --blackface and Afro-Cuban music-- became political icons and represented the emergence of Cuba’s identity and culture (Moore, 1997). 7 Bufo developed into the first Cuban vernacular theatre and, as Leal (1982b) argues, this genre represented the birth of racial marginality on Cuba’s stage. Through political satire, Bufo theatre companies and performances became emblems of the fight for independence. Due to their political innuendos, criticisms of colonial authorities, and the popularity of Bufo companies, the Spanish colonial government banned Bufo theatre from 1869 to 1878. After 1878, Bufo theatre companies continued to perform in Cuba until the late 1930s. Although the political connotation of Bufo was transformed after Cuba’s

Authors: Rivero, Yeidy.
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5
U.S. scholars have situated minstrelsy and blackface as a ‘white’ working class
vernacular theatre which embodied racial hatred and fears, cross-dressing and sexualized desires,
interracial/class solidarities, and grotesque racial constructions of the ‘black’ ‘Other’ (Lott, 1995;
Roediger, 1991; Rogin, 1996; Sollors, 1986). Minstrelsy represented “the emergent historical
break between high and low culture” and served as a symbolic whitening-melting pot space for
19
th
and 20
th
century Irish and Jewish immigrants (Lott, 1995, p. 8). Minstrelsy was a product of
an independent nation-state which redefined ethnic, class, racial, and gendered citizens, allowing
certain groups to become ‘American’ (Rogin, 1996, p. 45-58). On the other hand, Bufo was a
product of Cuba’s colonial period and became a symbol of the anti-Spanish colonial sentiment
that characterized the island’s political turmoil during the late 1860s.
6
The 1868 bufomania, similar to U.S minstrelsy, represented a detachment from
bourgeoisie high culture theatrical genres such as Italian Opera and melodrama, most of the
performers came from marginal sectors of the population (poor ‘white’ and ‘mulatto’ Cubans),
and actors performed a stereotypical construction of ‘blackness.’ However, contrary to U.S.
minstrelsy, Bufo and more importantly, lo negro --blackface and Afro-Cuban music-- became
political icons and represented the emergence of Cuba’s identity and culture (Moore, 1997).
7
Bufo developed into the first Cuban vernacular theatre and, as Leal (1982b) argues, this genre
represented the birth of racial marginality on Cuba’s stage.
Through political satire, Bufo theatre companies and performances became emblems of
the fight for independence. Due to their political innuendos, criticisms of colonial authorities,
and the popularity of Bufo companies, the Spanish colonial government banned Bufo theatre
from 1869 to 1878. After 1878, Bufo theatre companies continued to perform in Cuba until the
late 1930s. Although the political connotation of Bufo was transformed after Cuba’s


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