Miami Theater Criticized After Having a Character in Blackface

A Miami theater is making changes to one of its Spanish language plays after being criticized for having a character in blackface.

The Cuban play has sparked controversy just a couple weeks before its run ends because of the actress in blackface.

Hispanic actress Martha Velasco paints her face black with thick painted eyebrows and an afro wig in “Tres Viudas en un Crucero” or “3 Windows on a Cruise.”

“Her makeup wasn’t proper, her hair wasn’t propert. It’s implying that she’s so ignorant that you know that this is how all people of Afro descent are,” said Gil Rodriguez.

Rodriguez is an afro-Latina activist working to improve race relations. She watched the play and said she finds the character unnecessary and offensive.

“There are parts of it that are funny, but then other parts of me, it was like going back in time,” said Rodriguez.

Some have argued that the use of black face is cultural in Latin American countries and that the character is a nod to the Bufo character of the Negrito Cubano. But Gil disagrees.

“It might have been cultural 70 years ago, 80, 100 years ago, but not in 2018,” said Rodriguez.

The use of blackface became popular in minstrel shows to represent a caricature of a black person, but has been considered racist in the United States since the rise of the civil rights movement.

Rodriguez is questioning why the theater couldn’t just hire a black actress.

“Had an actual Afro descent person gone and participated and been part of the show, that person would have never portrayed themselves as a mockery.”

She says she’s surprised that the play was performed for months before concerns were raised.

“This production went on for four months and people attended and its as if nothing is happening. That tells you a really deeper issue of the state of things,” said Rodriguez.

In a statement, the organizers of the Teatro Trail Theater said in part, “When the controversy was created with one of the characters in the show “3 Windows on a Cruise,” a work conceived without the intention of offending any race, creed or social condition, its director and writer, Pedro Roman, the actress Marta Velasco and the Trail Theater, made the decision to change the appearance of the character, modify texts and thereby avoid misunderstandings, keeping consistent with our mission.”

The theater says it also organized a conference for next month, led by an afro Latino heritage group to discuss cultural sensitivity in theater. 

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