Politics and Violence in Cuban and Argentine Theater


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P \b\t\n V \t \t C\f\r\b\t \b\t\n
A \t\t T \b 
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Katherine Ford
For Rufino
Contents
Preface: Understanding the Place of Theater in Spanish America
Acknowledgments
xxi
Introduction: Difficult Times: Considering Dramatic Violence 1
1 Whos Afraid of Virgilio Piñera? Violence and
Fear in
Dos viejos pánicos
(1968)
25
2 Cobwebs of Memory: History Made with
Violence in Abelardo Estorinos
La dolorosa
historia del amor secreto de don José Jacinto
Milanés
(1974)
57
3 Filming the Bourgeoisie: Defining Identity with
Violence in Eduardo Pavlovskys
La mueca
(1970)
4 Disorderly Conduct: The Violence of Spectatorship
in Griselda Gambaros
Información para
extranjeros
(1973)
137
Conclusion: Transforming Spectacles
175
Notes
181
Bibliography
205
Index
215
Preface: Understanding the Place of
Theater in Spanish America
Spectacle and performance are defining elements of human existence and
no geographical or historical context is free of theater and its characteris-
tics. Spanish America enjoys a rich tradition of theater written and pro-
duced from the days of the colony up until the present. While this theater
has often been in dialogue with European traditions, it is a mistake to dis-
miss it as simply a copy of theater from other regions. By introducing here
some of the tendencies that have defined Spanish American theater up to
the middle of the twentieth century, this preface introduces the reader to
what was happening onstage and around the theater of this region.
While not much is known of the theatrical texts that may have existed
before the arrival of the Spanish to the Americas, we can speak of the role
of spectacle and performance in some indigenous cultures. Spectacle
formed a central role in these early encounters and helped the Spanish gain
control over the indigenous people that they subjugated. Adam Versényi in
Theatre in Latin America: Religion, Politics, and Culture
discusses the
importance that spectacle played in Hernán Cortés actions as he arrived to
the New World, both with the indigenous groups he conquered and the
Franciscan friars sent by the Spanish crown to evangelize, underlining the
role that spectacle played in gaining control in the Spanish colonies.
For
Cortés, conquering New Spain was not simply a military feat but a politi-
cal one as well that would be won by manipulating images and perfor-
mances. Indeed, as Diana Taylor outlines in
Theatre of Crisis
, for indigenous
cultures such as the Aztec, the Maya, and the Inca, Spectacle was power.Ž
This meant that the creation of spectacle„both political and theatrical„
took center stage in the unfolding drama of the creation of a colony. In the
religious realm, intertwined with the political in the early days of the col-
ony, the Church took advantage of the existing use of spectacle and theat-
ricality of the Aztec world to Christianize the indigenous peoples. Dating
to before the arrival of the Europeans, Aztec warfare was composed of rit-
ualized activities whose object was to capture prisoners who would be
sacrificed in another regulated ritual. These ritualized activities allowed
the Church, another proponent of ritual, to come in and evangelize through
the use of religious representations in which the vanquished indigenous
would participate. Spectacle and theater, then, defined the past and laid
out the future of the people and the land of the Americas.
Later on during the days of the colony, the majority of theater was often
that of the Spanish baroque masters, such as Lope de Vega, Calderón de la
Barca, and Tirso de Molina. This was not the only theater since Spanish
America did produce its own playwrights who often blended European tra-
ditions with elements of the indigenous cultures that surrounded them. Sor
Juana Inés de la Cruz (1651…1695) is, without a doubt, the foremost Spanish
American playwright of the colonial time, though she is equally well-known
for her poetry and her essays. Born in Mexico, she entered the convent early
in her writing career in order to ensure her right to study. The breadth of her
theatrical work is large and her work is among the best. Sor Juanas theater
is both within the Spanish baroque tradition and a challenge from the
periphery to the dominance of the center, because she is a woman writing
when men controlled cultural production and for the fact that she wrote
within the Spanish tradition from a convent in Mexico City.
Sor Juana, however, is not the only colonial to penetrate the center of
Baroque theater. Juan Ruiz de Alarcón (1581…1639) is considered one of
the major dramatists of the Golden Age in Spain, the country to which he
emigrated from Mexico as a young man. Though he wrote in and set his
plays in Spain rather than the New World and is often for that reason
included in the names of peninsular playwrights, he was born in the New
World. He is most known for
La verdad sospechosa
, published in 1634.
Ruiz de Alarcóns inclusion in the canon of the Spanish Golden Age is
often not questioned. However, some critics also include him within the
list of Colonial writers, an issue that Alberto Sandoval Sánchez argues in
his essay on Ruiz de Alarcón.
Whereas seventeenth-century theater mostly continued a peninsular
tradition (though with New World innovation) the eighteenth century,
marked by neoclassicism in the literary realm, began to see independence
movements throughout Latin America, most especially towards the end of
the century. In theater, this can be seen in the increased use of indigenous
elements on the Spanish American stage. There is one particularly impor-
tant example of this from Peru. The play
Ollantay
was originally written in
Quechua and early manuscripts date from the eighteenth century. It was
performed in 1780 for the indigenous leader Condorcanqui and recounts a
love story between a warrior and an Incan princess, the warriors punish-
ment and his consequent rebellion. After his defeat ten years later, the
warrior and the princess are pardoned and reunited with their daughter.
P \b
There are links between this play and an indigenous rebellion against the
Crown that suggest growing social tensions. In the realm of theater, the
play integrates elements from the Spanish and the indigenous worlds.
In a more officially sanctioned move, in the second half of the eigh-
teenth century, numerous large theaters were built in the important cities
throughout Spanish America, such as Buenos Aires Teatro de la Ranchería
or Casa de Comedias (which opened in 1789 but was destroyed by fire in
1792). This gave both traveling theater groups and local playwrights a new
professional space that was dedicated to theater production, though this
was not necessarily available to all, both in terms of financial access and
political connections. Nevertheless, these new spaces legitimated these
destinations and the theater within them. This can be seen as a move
towards independence and national definition that would mark the nine-
teenth century.
Theater of the nineteenth century continued the tendency that con-
nected European traditions with elements that were distinctly American.
Theater and performance were extremely popular and not limited to the
traditional idea of the stage. Instead, we also see spectacle centered around
spaces such as the circus and more popular places, such as the
chingana
in
Chile, an inn, restaurant or café with singing and dancing that was often a
site that promoted new republican sentiments.
In addition, the theater of
many of the countries of Spanish America began to distinguish itself and
take on specific national characteristics. In Cuba, this can be seen in the
teatro bufo
, a definitively Cuban genre of theater which emerged in the late
1860s. It used the figure of the
negrito
and was influenced in part by the
traveling minstrel shows from the United States. The
negrito
was a white
performer in black face who became a beloved figure on the stage and
came to represent Cuba and Cubanness. Jill Lanes
Blackface Cuba, 1840…
1895
details how the
negrito
, blackface, and
teatro bufo
contributed to the
evolution of the Cuban stage in the nineteenth century and beyond. She
asserts that this humor functioned at two levels: that of controlling black-
ness and of negotiating whiteness within the colonial hierarchy.
In the middle of the nineteenth century in Cuba, José Jacinto Milanés
(1814…1863) (whose work will be discussed in chapter two) premiered his
El conde Alarcos
(1838) in the Teatro Tacón in Havana, considered by many
to be the beginning of the Cuban stage. This play, as we will see, like much
of the theater written at the time, had strong nationalistic characteristics.
Along these same patriotic calls for independence, José Martí also wrote
and published the one-act play
Abdala
in 1869, with a black soldier in the
role of hero. Both the themes and the hero of Martís play make it dis-
tinctly Cuban and show the innovation that marked the theater and how
theater aimed to change the societies from which it came.
P \b
In the Río de la Plata area, during this same period, immigration and
the tension between the metropolis and the country were some of the top-
ics that defined the area and its art. In the second half of the nineteenth
century the representations of the gaucho and his troubles dominated the
stages.
Juan Moreira
, originally a novel (1884/1886) by Eduardo Gutiérrez
(1853…1890), was adapted for the circus. Its immense popularity led to its
introduction onto the stage, arriving in Montevideo in 1889 and Buenos
Aires in 1891. As Versényi points out, this marked the beginning of the
end of the
teatro gaucho
but signaled an important contribution to Spanish
American theater.
The Uruguayan Florencio Sánchez (1875…1910), on the other hand,
turned his attention to the complexities of the changing world and the
shift to modernity in plays such as
Barranca abajo
(1905), another com-
mon topic in the theater of the
ríoplatense
area. In
Barranca abajo
, Sánchez
highlighted the ending of a lifestyle and a shift from the rural to an
increased focus on an urban world. The play is a Latin American tragedy
where don Zoilo loses his land through the courts and his family to death
and changing morals, all leading to his suicide.
Innovations continued to occupy an important space in the theatrical
production of the 1920s and 30s in Spanish America, and highlighted the
role of political thought and artistic innovation through theater.
Popular
theater groups and playwrights played a pivotal role in bridging traditional
paradigms with new forms of theatrical production and political debate,
like their predecessors. The tension between the old and the new is defined
even more sharply in the work of Armando Discépolo of Argentina (1887…
1971) and the
grotesco criollo
. His play
Stefano
(1928) is a particularly per-
tinent example of the innovations of theater found in Argentina in the
1920 and 30s. The
grotesco criollo
focused on the new immigrants that
were forming a part of Buenos Aires and on the social hardships and eco-
nomic poverty that they suffered. It is closely identified with the lower
classes, often comprised of immigrant communities.
Stefano
portrays a
family of Italian immigrants in Buenos Aires who come looking for a bet-
ter life but are unable to find it due to economic and social conditions.
Discépolos work focused on the contribution of immigration to national
identity and the ways that the city and the nation fail these people, factors
that would define Argentina in the years to come.
These questions and crises of identity and the self were not limited to
South America.
El gesticulador
(1938) from Rodolfo Usigli of Mexico
(1905…1979) questions the roles of men within the new ideal created by the
Mexican Revolution. This play about a supposed imposter of a revolution-
ary hero highlights the struggles of the new society and reveals the fissures
of where reality falls below the ideals. This canonical example shows how
P \b
theater entered into the public debates about this new Mexico and what it
meant to be Mexican and how far the country had deviated from its revo-
lutionary goals.
Xavier Villaurrutia (1903…1950) of Mexico is another central contribu-
tor to a theater that was exerting its own new, national definitions.
Villaurrutia is an important figure in the formation of theater groups, hav-
ing founded the group
Ulises
(with Celestino Gorostiza (1904…1967)) in
1928 and then
Teatro Orientación
in 1932. Both of these groups wanted to
transform the idea of theater by breaking its connection to earlier, outside
models. In both his work with these groups and in his own dramatic writ-
ing, Villaurrutia contributed to an innovation in the idea and definition of
Mexican theater. Both he and Usigli would have a profound effect on the
work of the future playwrights of their country, such as can be seen in the
work of Emilio Carballido (1925…2008), whose extensive work defies sim-
ple classification.
While these examples of theater considered topics specifically focused
on their respective countries, their and others innovation on and around
the stage continued as the century progressed and the theater of these years
can be characterized as diverse and wide-reaching. This diversity can be
seen in the influence of the Theater of the Absurd, a movement that orig-
inated in Paris in the 1940s and 1950s. The Theater of the Absurd was
born from a desire to reform theater in the wake of the destruction of
World War II and its aftermath. The notion of the absurd as a way to
understand the post-war situation of humankind originates out of Albert
Camus (1913…1960) and Jean Paul Sartre (1905…1980), who believed that
Man should accept the ultimate lack of meaning to the world. Antonin
Artaud (1896…1948) and Martin Esslin (1918…2002) shed light on what
they saw as the absurdity of the world. Artaud, whose Theater of Cruelty
exchanged many ideas with the Theater of the Absurd, and Esslin share
the belief that theater should provoke the spectator beyond his/her expec-
tations and to innovate what happens both onstage and offstage.
Theater
of Cruelty is a concept from Artaud that describes a type of theater where
traditional authority vanishes. The cruelty to which the name refers, is
not the cruelty we can exercise upon each other by hacking at each others
bodies [. . .] but the much more terrible and necessary cruelty which things
can exercise against us.Ž
Theater, for Artaud and the absurdists, was not to be an escapist expe-
rience that took one away from daily concerns, but had as its mission to
awaken the spectator to the world and its realities. This disillusionment
with theater was manifested in opposition to the classics such as
Shakespearean and Romantic theater and attempted to uncover the ulti-
mate absurd nature of a world rendered inexplicable by contemporary life.
P \b
Eugene Ionescos
The Bald Soprano
(1950) and Samuel Becketts
Waiting
for Godot
(1953) are classic examples of how the Absurd portrayed the anx-
iety towards life and death and the ultimate irrationality that these writers
believed characterized the world.
The ideas that the playwrights and theorists of the Theater of the
Absurd in Europe put forth were quickly adapted by many dramatists in
Latin America, as will be explored in Chapter one in reference to Virgilio
Piñera. George Woodyard, in his 1969 essay The Theatre of the Absurd
in Spanish America,Ž explores the employment of ideas from the European
Theater of the Absurd in the context of 1960s Spanish America. For
Woodyard, the use of the Absurd and the number of absurd plays in the
Americas differs given the change of context, though the focus on irratio-
nality and fragmentation remains central. He identifies the most impor-
tant elements of the Spanish American Theater of the Absurd as the
following: plays with two characters, anti-heroes, physical violence stem-
ming from feelings of contempt and hatred, and an insistence on
fragmentation.
While there is a rich history of the Absurd influencing Spanish American
theater, it is unquestionable that the theater artists in Latin America have
innovated the Absurd to make it their own and tailor it to their unique cir-
cumstances. Woodyard details many of the important voices that were writ-
ing at the time who were influenced by the Absurd. These names are also
ones that would remain in the forefront of theater in subsequent years and
some that will be studied in more detail later in this book, such as Virgilio
Piñera of Cuba and Griselda Gambaro of Argentina. In addition to these
two, Woodyard highlights the particularly Absurd identifications in the
theater of Elena Garro (1920…1998) of Mexico, Cubas Antón Arrufat
(b. 1935), and Jorge Díaz (1930…2007) of Chile. Díaz is considered, with-
out a doubt, one of the central names of the Absurd in Spanish America,
particularly with his
El cepillo de dientes
, first produced in 1961. In this play
we see various characteristics of the Absurd, such as a cyclical structure,
irrational dialogue, generic characters, and a gratuitous violence.
While Woodyard uses the term Absurd to talk about this theater, some
critics have preferred to call this theater Absurdist in order to mark the
differences between the European examples and those of Spanish America.
The main difference between these two that has been identified by such
critics as Daniel Zalacaín and Raquel Aguilú de Murphy is in the political-
social topics, though the same alienation is explored on both sides of the
Atlantic.
Woodyard and others, such as Terry Palls and Eleanor Jean
Martin, have not seen the need to differentiate between the two manifesta-
tions, though they do recognize the strong social-political aspect of the
Spanish American plays.
P \b
While this difference of terminology is not, in my opinion, a strong
point of contention in interpretation, it does underline the importance of
the Absurd and its influences in Spanish American theater, an importance
that goes beyond those playwrights that are strictly identified as Absurd.
Woodyard identifies five other playwrights that, though perhaps not
strictly Absurd, were unquestionably influenced by the avant-garde move-
ments of the time, the Absurd one of them. These playwrights include the
names of Osvaldo Dragún (1929…1999) of Argentina, Puerto Ricos René
Marqués (1919…1979), Carlos Solórzano (b. 1922) of Guatemala, Agustín
Cuzzani (1924…1987) of Argentina, and Mexicos Emilio Carballido. The
Absurd can be seen to permeate the work of countless playwrights, includ-
ing many of those studied here and will be examined further in the chapter
on Virgilio Piñera.
Bertolt Brechts innovative theories on theater similarly helped to revi-
talize theater and influence dramatic production in Spanish America, as
Fernando de Toro details in his
Brecht en el teatro hispanoamericano
Perhaps the two most important concepts from Brecht that informed
Latin American playwrights at this time are
Verfremdung
(known as
alienation or distancing) and
episches Theater
(epic theater). Brechts goals
were to awaken the spectators to the situation before them and to moti-
vate them to rationally consider what was happening. He saw theater as
the means to inspire the spectator to new thoughts that would in turn
renovate theater itself as well as the outside world: We need a type of the-
atre which not only releases the feelings, insights and impulses possible
within the particular historical field of human relations in which the
action takes place, but employs and encourages those thoughts and feel-
ings which help transform the field itself.Ž
This transformation of the
field and the community in which it interacts was brought across through
the use of alienation. Brecht considered that when the spectators are dis-
couraged from identifying with the main characters they would be able to
reflect more freely on the material before them: A representation that
alienates is one which allows us to recognize its subject, but at the same
time makes it seem unfamiliar.Ž
Both influenced by and shaping German and international theater in
the 1920s and beyond, Brechts epic theater is concerned, in the words of
John Fuegi, with rawness, with facts, with bringing the whole world into
theater in order to give the public lessons on political and economic ques-
tions of the day.Ž
Three of the central initiatives of epic theater were the
use of new and different materials, a production style that underscored
reason over emotion, and the creation of a new type of spectator who would
be able to coolly appreciate this theater.
Brecht advocates with these ideas
a renovation of theater that calls for a stronger and more engaged spectator,
P \b
one who will carefully consider the represented material in the light of his-
torical and political events.
In the 1950s and especially the 1960s, the increased production of these
types of experimental theater highlighted the connection between popular
theater groups and the political and social context in which they operated.
Nora Eidelberg explores the manifestations of experimental theater in her
Teatro experimental hispanoamericano, 1960…1980: La realidad social como
manipulación
Along this same time period, Nuevo Teatro Popular (New
Popular Theatre) was starting to consolidate its definition into one that
could be connected across various countries of Latin America. Its peak can
be seen around 1965…1975, according to
Latin American Popular Theatre:
The First Five Centuries
from Judith A Weiss, et al. While theater that can
in retrospect be defined as popular has existed throughout the modern
history of Spanish America, the emergence of what is referred to as Nuevo
Teatro Popular materialized in connection with other social and political
developments of the 1960s and 1970s, a time of tumultuous change and
innovation that contributed to this New Popular Theatre. Both grass-roots
initiatives and more professionally trained, New Popular Theatre tended
to be organized around groups or collectives more than exclusively indi-
viduals that came together and apart based on the event. Nevertheless,
these groups were often closely identified with a founder or director, such
as Enrique Buenaventura (1925…2003) and the Teatro Experimental de
Cali (TEC) of Colombia, perhaps the most well-known experimental the-
ater group from Spanish America. The topics tended to be wide-ranging
and tied to class and cultural identity, themes that would empower their
audiences. These groups connected with one another through festivals
dedicated to popular theater and helped to create this genre into a move-
ment that spanned national and cultural borders. Buenaventura, best
known for his play
A la diestra de Dios Padre
(1960), turned his attention
to collective creations and formed the TEC around the time the Absurd
was gaining popularity.
Utopian projects, such as those seen in the New Popular Theatre move-
ments, attempted to renovate social and cultural production and its objec-
tives. The Cuban Revolution has been seen as the potential spark of many
revolutionary projects across Latin America„both in the arts and
outside„throughout the 1960s and 1970s.
One example of this utopian
model is Augusto Boal and his
Theatre of the Oppressed
(1974), perhaps the
most pertinent theorization on theater in Latin America of its time. Boal
aimed to transform the role of the spectator into one that is actively
involved in the spectacle. For Boal, all theater is political.
The theater, the
physical as well as its theoretical space, is where the community can debate
fundamental topics for social change. Theater is the revolutionary site, the
P \b
place from which activist movements engage in dialogue with the commu-
nity. Even more, as Boal noted, although theater had been used as a tool
for the dominant classes, theater is a weapon. A very efficient weapon.Ž
Boal proposed that the liberating future of theater lay in the total collabo-
ration between both sides of the stage: First, the barrier between actors
and spectators is destroyed: all must act, all must be protagonists in the
necessary transformations of society.Ž
The implications of Boals and others theories on theater and the com-
munity were enormous in both the 1960s and 1970s given the influence
that Boal had on Latin American theater even before his writings were
published. Attending a play assumed a level of complicity where the spec-
tator directly participated in a plays representation. For Boal, the differ-
ences in roles between actor and spectator are erased in order to be
transformed into a new model: one where a theater is in direct communi-
cation with the surrounding community through its topics and messages.
This idea of collaboration with the audience had been previously elabo-
rated by Antonin Artaud. In No more masterpiecesŽ (1938), Artaud
focuses on the importance of the spectator for a dramatic representation:
the spectator is in the center and the spectacle surrounds him.Ž
In
Theater of Cruelty, the spectator leaves behind the role of
voyeur
and
becomes the center„and therefore, an essential part„of the spectacle.
This step opens new possibilities, given that its reach can be multiplied by
the number of people in the audience that participate and are engaged in
the action„in fact, for Artaud, every spectator becomes another actor and
educator. This level of involvement in the theatrical representation is what
will influence the spectators later actions. The theatrical representation,
for Artaud, has the power to influence the spectator, to educate her/him to
a new way of thinking and being. These concepts are fundamental to
understanding the theater of the 1960s and 1970s because they reveal the
power that was seen to reside in the theatrical spectacle.
In this same second half of the twentieth century, Latin American the-
ater saw an increased emergence of women writing and publishing. Because
of the inherent difficulties of writing and producing theater, women had
not formed a strong part of the play writing community in the nineteenth
century and the early twentieth. Writing itself, as we know from Virginia
Woolf and others, is a taxing task that was not always within womens
reach. Add to that, the need to have access to money to stage plays and an
entry into the theater community as playwrights and the numbers can be
understandably low, a similar phenomenon to cinema and women direc-
tors and screenwriters. Nevertheless, this is not to say that there were no
women writing in the twentieth century and before. Perhaps the most suc-
cessful and well-known among women playwrights of Latin America is
P \b
Griselda Gambaro, who entered the theater community in the 1960s, writ-
ing her first play
El campo
in 1965. Her play
Información para extranjeros
(1973) will be analyzed here in the fourth chapter.
Gambaros is not the first or the only name that forms a part of the pan-
theon of women playwrights, though she is often the only woman included
in anthologies of Latin American theater. Elena Garro of Mexico, in addi-
tion to narrative, was also a well-known playwright, producing and writ-
ing plays for the theater group
Poesía en Voz Alta
. Many of her plays
appeared in the late 1950s and 1960s and a number can be found in the
anthology
Un hogar sólido
(1958). Earlier still, Aflonsina Storni (1892…
1938) of Argentina was writing theatrical farces in the 1920s and 1930s.
And, undoubtedly there are many other women who were writing and con-
tributing to the stage whose names have been lost or are unknown at
this time.
Though there were not high numbers of women contributing to the
play writing aspect of Spanish American theater in the early twentieth cen-
tury, this has rectified itself somewhat in the following years. Perhaps one
of the most recognized names is that of Rosario Castellanos (1925…1974).
Her
P \b
theatrical communities, but also the chauvinism of men alongside whom
they worked.
However, Taylor and Costantino suggest that women born
in the 1950s and 1960s were able to enter more and more into the theater
world given the increased political mobilization of women that character-
ized the 1970s and beyond. In this way, we see an increased number of
women playwrights associated with Latin American and international
stages. While Gambaro continues to write and be produced, she has been
joined in the theaters and in other less traditional spaces by other names,
such as Diana Raznovich in Argentina, Sabina Berman and Jesusa
Rodríguez both of Mexico, Diamela Eltit of Chile, Tania Bruguera of
Cuba, among many others. Nevertheless, these women and others still
attest to a certain amount of resistance from different sides that make it
difficult to do their work.
Though the influencing factors on and of Spanish American theater
may be seen to stop at the Río Grande, it is important to look farther north
in the United States where Luis Valdez created Teatro Campesino in 1965.
Valdez, known for such theater hits as
Zoot Suit
and
La Bamba
, asked for
support from César Chávezs developing labor union to form a theater col-
lective that would entertain and educate, as Jorge Huerta states in
Chicano
Theater: Themes and Forms
This group became the beginning of a net-
work of Chicano theaters that formed across the United States and whose
influence reached beyond these national borders. Both Teatro Campesino
and the network of theaters that it generated dedicated themselves to por-
traying issues important to the communities in which and for whom they
performed, messages that were sometimes more important than the style
in which they were portrayed. As Huerta affirms, Chicano theater was
born of and remains a peoples theater.Ž
This can be seen in the theaters
use of language, often not exclusively English or Spanish, but both,
highlighting the complexities of the communities history and the combi-
nation of recent arrivals and those who had been in the United States for
centuries. While the political borders that separate the United States from
Mexico may seem to eliminate discussion of Teatro Campesino and other
Chicano theaters from a book dedicated to Spanish American theater,
there is much more that is shared and facilitates a discussion of these col-
lectives here, including their themes. Furthermore, Teatro Campesino
both influenced and was influenced by the theater that was being written
and produced on the other side of the border.
As we have seen, the theater of Spanish America has often been influ-
enced by indigenous American factors and by European traditions to form
a new theater. This theater has been connected and has contributed to the
communities from which it emerged. This connection will be analyzed in
the chapters to follow where this book will examine how theater aimed to
P \b
create a dialogue on the change and violence that was taking place
off
stage
through the use of violence
stage. The theater, both what was produced
and written, highlighted the role of spectacle and theatricality in the polit-
ical and social realms in order to urge its communities to end the use
of violence.
Acknowledgments
First, I would like to thank José Quiroga for all the insight, help, and
advice that he provided to me along the way. It really would not have been
possible without his opinions and thoughts. I am truly honored to have
worked with him and to continue to call him my mentor. I thank my edi-
tors at Palgrave Macmillan: Julia Cohen, Samantha Hasey, and Luba
Ostashevsky. Working with them has been a privilege and a pleasure.
Thank you to Priscilla Meléndez, whose early insight into two of the chap-
ters helped to push the project farther and to an anonymous reader who
encouraged me to think of the book more completely and globally. Thank
you to Karen Stolley, who read and offered advice on the introduction. In
addition, thank you is due to those who read this project in a very early
version and pushed me to think more in depth to create the product it is
here: John Ammerman, for agreeing to read and comment without know-
ing me or what the task would entail; Hernán Feldman, for reading with
such interest and commitment; and, of course, María Mercedes Carrión,
for inspiring this love of theater and supporting my commitment to femi-
nist theory throughout my years at Emory and continuing to listen and
challenge me. Thank you all.
I would also like to thank my colleagues at East Carolina University.
First, I thank the Division of Research and Graduate Studies for start up
funds that allowed me to conduct additional research in Havana and
Buenos Aires. Thank you to the librarians and inter-library loan depart-
ment of ECU, especially Mark Sanders and Lynda Werdal. To all of my
colleagues in the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures, thank
you for understanding, for offering your insights, and for lending your
ears. Your help and knowledge has been immeasurable. Thanks most espe-
cially to Charles Fantazzi, Elena Murenina, Frank Romer, and Peter
Standish for reading versions of these chapters and helping with the pro-
cess. And thank you to my Special Topics class on Spanish American
theater„our conversations proved invaluable to many parts of this book.
Also, thank you to a Library Travel Grant sponsored by the University of
A\t \n \t
Florida to their Latin American Collection that facilitated countless docu-
ments and afforded me the time to read and write in June of 2008.
Thank you to my professors and friends at Emory, Middlebury, and
Bowdoin for encouraging and challenging me. There are too many that
have touched my academic and personal life to count, but most especially,
thank you to Eduardo Camacho, Aileen Dever, Hazel Gold, Francisco
Layna, Mark Sanders, Karen Stolley, Donald Tuten, and Enrique Yepes.
And to my colleagues with whom I went through the rites of passage:
thank you for your support, encouragement and conversation, especially
Anjela Cannarelli-Peck, Julia Carroll, George Thomas, and Scott
Weintraub.
Finally, I thank all my family and friends who have supported me along
the way without whom I would have been completely lost. A special thanks
goes to my family: to my mother for encouraging me unconditionally; to
my sister for enforcing deadlines; to my father and my brothers for their
constant support; and to Rufino for always suggesting I work just a little
more. I cannot measure what you have done for me„thank you.
Introduction
Difficult Times: Considering
Dramatic Violence
Le explicaron después
que toda esta donación resultaría inútil
sin entregar la lengua,
porque en tiempos difíciles
nada es tan útil para atajar el odio o la mentira.
En tiempos difíciles,Ž
Fuera del juego,
Heberto Padilla
Violence, along with questions regarding national identity and political
change, has defined Latin American societies throughout their history,
and theater offers a way to understand how this violence has shaped the
social and political contexts of Latin American societies in the twentieth
century. This book examines how violence has been used in four Cuban
and Argentine plays written in the late 1960s and early 1970s as a way to
understand the social and political context in which they were written and
performed. The plays I focus on explore the violence that appears in the
theatrical context of Cuba and Argentina, two of the Latin American coun-
tries with the largest theater communities during the period from 1968 to
1974. Cuba and Argentina can be seen as a logical comparison in that they
share various points of contact during the 1960s and 1970s, both in the
political context and in the theater communities where individuals from
one country often traveled or lived in the other. Che Guevara, of course,
was an Argentine who fought alongside Fidel and Raúl Castro and was an
early architect of the Cuban Revolution and the Cuban playwright Virgilio
Piñera lived and worked for many years in Buenos Aires. This time period,
P \b\t\n V \t : C\f\r\b \b\t\n A \t\t\b
one known globally for its turmoil, in Cuba and Argentina was a moment
of change that was understood most often through violence. Though each
play examined in this book approaches violence in a different way, they all
represent it as a way to engage their audiences with the social and political
contexts surrounding them and allow us to understand the larger frame-
work of both these two countries and the surrounding historical and social
contexts. By taking control of the violence that was being manipulated off-
stage to provoke fear and paralysis, the playwrights and the theater com-
munity as a whole aimed to unmask these machinations and empower
their audiences. This analysis examines how theater endeavored to initiate
a dialogue with its communities about the surrounding violence and how
this dialogue could help bring about answers to this violence.
The Cuban and Argentine theater of the 1960s and 1970s endeavored
to highlight the role of the audience in the production of violence
off
stage
by calling attention to this violence
stage. This phenomenon will be
examined through four plays, two Cuban: Virgilio Piñeras
Dos viejos páni-
(1968) and Abelardo Estorinos
D\f T 
moment. This introduction will examine the construction of a political
and social spectacle around the Padilla Affair and how that connects to
Latin American theater of the late 1960s and early 1970s. Together with
an exploration of contemporary theater and violence studies, an analysis
of the Padilla Affair will allow us to understand the role of spectacle and
performance in Latin America in the 1960s and 1970s and the connection
that can be seen between politics and theater.
Piñera, Estorino, Pavlovsky, and Gambaro use violence onstage as a
way to connect with their audience, as a way to create a dialogue between
both sides of the stage that would reveal and uncover the spectacle of real
violence outside the theater. This could only be done with an audience that
connected with the material onstage, an innovative process of spectator-
ship that had begun much earlier.
Latin American theaters efforts to create
active and engaged spectators owe much to Antonin Artaud and Bertolt
Brechts influence, as outlined in the preface. In their work, the audience
becomes a dynamic member of the representation through its reactions.
In Latin America, in the 1960s, the Brazilian Augusto Boal further rev-
olutionized this connection to the spectator with his
Teatro del oprimido
(1974). Here, Boal created a theater that drew from Paulo Freires ideas
in his
Pedagogia do oprimido
(written in Portuguese in 1968, published
in Spanish and English in 1970). Boal advocated a theater that urged the
actor and the spectator to join together to mutually transform the sur-
rounding community. In Boal, theater, then, was seen as a weapon that
would bring about the utopian ideals of the moment.
Understanding the role of collaboration is fundamental for any study on
theater, given that the role of social change through collaboration on stage
and off is central. The reaction and involvement of the spectator within a
play becomes fundamental for its message to be conveyed completely; that
is, through the staging of social change and violence in Latin American
theater, the theater itself becomes a space of dialogue about the social pro-
cess that begins to bring about protest or to cure its community.
This link to immediacy between the theater and its audience that Boal
champions is also present in the writings of Bertolt Brecht on theater.
As Brecht states in a short essay entitled Can the Present-Day World be
Reproduced by Means of Theatre?,Ž it may be enough if I anyway report
my opinion that the present-day world can be reproduced even in the the-
atre, but only if it is understood as being capable of transformation.Ž
For
Brecht, the connection between the immediate context and theater is one
that is centered on its ability to renovate and rework its context.
The innovative ideas of a theater in the vanguard of its community, and
also initiating a dialogue with the future formed part of the contemporary
Latin American framework echoed in the work of these four playwrights
P \b\t\n V \t : C\f\r\b \b\t\n A \t\t\b
and was also conveyed in Che Guevaras El socialismo y el hombre en
Cuba.Ž In this letter, written in March of 1965 to Carlos Quijano of the
weekly paper
Marcha
in Montevideo, Che discussed the construction
of socialism and the role of education in creating this new man for the
twenty-first century. He stated that Cuba could bring about the desired
socialist society and identified this as the task of the intellectual, revolu-
tionary avant-garde: Los hombres del partido deben tomar esa tarea entre
las manos y buscar el logro del objetivo principal: educar al pueblo [The
men of the party must take that task in hand and look for the achievement
of the principal objective: educating the people].Ž
The avant-garde that
Che recognized as educators of the people is similar to the avant-garde
that Boal identified in theater, and would later write about in
Teatro del
oprimido
. For Boal, theater is the space in which the revolutionary avant-
garde will educate the people of future generations to bring about the
dream of the utopian state, which should always maintain dialogue with
la masa [the masses]Ž in the words of Che.
Indeed, Vicente Revuelta, a
well-known member of the theatrical community in Havana in the 1960s
and the director of Teatro Estudio stated in an interview in 1964, that la
tarea fundamental del teatro no es la agitación, sino la contribución a la
educación del pueblo para la construcción del socialismo [the fundamental
task of theater is not agitation, but the contribution to the education of the
people for the construction of socialism],Ž
making clear the social con-
nection between the arts and politics. However, this is a connection that
would change in the second half of the 1960s, as we see with the Padilla
Affair.
One of the most interesting qualities of violence is the way that it has
been integrated into society and the way that society has found to manage
and manipulate violence. In
Discipline and Punish
(1975), Michel Foucault
notes that in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries there was a turn away
from torture as spectacle. Before, public violence had been used as censure
and a sort of entertainment that simultaneously served as a deterrent. For
Foucault, the violence inherent in torture was either part of a spectacle or
the very spectacle itself and something that, by the eighteenth century,
needed to be hidden from public view.
In the modern rituals of execution,
Foucault notes, the ideas of a spectacle and of pain make way for the con-
cept of the soul and justice: At the beginning of the nineteenth century,
then, the great spectacle of physical punishment disappeared; the tortured
body was avoided; the theatrical representation of pain was excluded from
punishment.Ž
Foucaults comments are a particularly interesting starting point for
this project because they focus on the creation of violence as spectacle. It is
important to consider the use of simulated violence as dramatic spectacle
D\f T 
in the 1960s and 1970s„150 years after the decline of public torture and
execution as noted by Foucault. Why do Latin American playwrights
turn to the use of violent acts to engage with their spectators and public?
Why does Estorino return to the past violence of slavery to talk about
censorship? Why does Pavlovsky break apart a marriage to examine the
violence of relationships? For René Girard, violence changed throughout
the years„it held different meanings in different times, and depending
on the social contexts in which it was found. In
Violence and the Sacred
Girard recognizes the role of sacrifice in keeping violent acts and their con-
sequences in check: The sacrifice serves to protect the entire community
from
its own
violence.Ž
In this way, violence is a central part of any com-
munity and, as such, it must be controlled: if left unappeased, violence
will accumulate until it overflows its confines and floods the surround-
ing area. The role of sacrifice is to stem this rising tide of indiscriminate
substitutions and redirect violence into proper channels.Ž
For Girard,
violence is an unavoidable element of all communities that is controlled
through ritual. Violent acts are a natural consequence of group living, and
a sacrificial bloodletting is a controlled process that prevents an all-out
bloody war. Girard understands the circularity that is inherent in this pro-
cess: Only violence can put an end to violence, and that is why violence
is self-propagating.Ž
For Foucault and Girard, public violence serves multiple goals within
each community that cannot be replaced or substituted. Violence is in part
a spectacle that serves to curb and contain a greater violence that would
threaten to annihilate the community as a whole. In this way, watching a
violent act can serve as a catharsis that would ideally prevent more violent
acts. For Girard, simulating a violent act onstage may restrain the need to
reproduce this same violent act offstage. Like Aristotles catharsis, a repre-
sentation of violence purges the spectators need for real violence. Thus, the
spectacle of violence becomes a deterrent to a real, offstage violence.
For Hannah Arendt and Frantz Fanon„two theorists of vio-
lence traditionally defined as the pacifist and the revolutionary voice
respectively„violence is an inevitable part of an increasingly more deadly
and destructive world. However, they differ in their interpretations of vio-
lence. For Arendt, in her study
On Violence
(1970), violence is a difficult
topic to define in a time when it is being used to deter a war rather than
settle an argument. Writing in the context of the Cold War, Arendt noted
that violence became the threat of what could come to pass, being used to
prevent
rather than fight a war. This is an important distinction to note
because war had become so deadly that to engage in it as had been done
previously meant mutual annihilation. The use of violence, then, dem-
onstrates the
failure
of power and becomes instead a surrogate for a real
P \b\t\n V \t : C\f\r\b \b\t\n A \t\t\b
power: Politically speaking, the point is that loss of power becomes a
temptation to substitute violence for power [. . .] and that violence itself
results in impotence.Ž
Arendt is thus arguing
against
the use of violence,
seeing it as a destructive force without benefits.
For Fanon, violence is
the only means by which decolonization can be achieved. The colonized
world is one of violence in its natural state, and it will only yield when
confronted with greater violence.Ž
In Fanons thoughts, violence stands as
the only action by means of which a colonized people can defeat the yoke
of its colonizers. For both Arendt and Fanon, violence defines twentieth-
century history„violence is used to manipulate and change. However,
they differ in their perceived benefits: Fanon sees violence to be the only
way to overthrow the violent colonized world, while Arendt sees violence as
a force that will change the community and world in which it is exercised
to a more violent one in which violence itself defines all actions.
As an unavoidable consequence of violence, pain needs to be under-
stood within this context. Moving from the abstraction of violence to the
physicality of the body, Elaine Scarrys
The Body in Pain
considers, in part,
the inexpressibility of pain: Whatever pain achieves, it achieves in part
through its unsharability, through its resistance to language.Ž
Pain and
the level of pain that the victim is undergoing cannot be expressed and,
therefore, cannot be understood by people outside the circle of pain: To
have pain is to have
certainty
; to hear about pain is to have
doubt
The
implications of pains verbal inexpressibility are enormous for violence,
given that pain can never be adequately measured from the outside. This
means that the pain that violent acts impose can be questioned as false, as
imagined. Therefore pain, both physical and psychological,„the primary
by-product of violence for the victim„will never be understood by others
and will cause its very existence to be placed in doubt. The inexpressibil-
ity of pain plays an important role within the dramatic representation of
violence given that the connection between the nonverbal and the verbal
is central to theater.
Elaine Scarry identifies in pain a resistance to words that connects it to
the theaters use of words and gestures. Theater offers the ability to pre-
sent the marriage between words and images that is essential to express
pain and violence. Just as pain cannot be expressed completely through
verbal communication, theater goes beyond words to use body language
and gestures to connote emotions and ideas. As Scarry maintains, the vic-
tim cannot effectively tell the reader about pain in such a way that can be
completely comprehended. Similarly, verbal communication is not enough
in the theater. Instead, a play must
what is happening by using visual
communication such as body language, scenery, lighting. In this way, vio-
lence and the pain that it inflicts can most fully be communicated on the
D\f T 
stage where collaboration between the director, the actor, the playwright
can begin to express this incommunicable feeling.
The infliction of pain can be seen in scenes of torture, which are often
divided by sexual gender. Acts of violence are frequently gendered, and
gender is constructed by means of violence. It is notable that in many plays
that represent violent acts„and in all the plays studied here„the charac-
ters are divided along gender lines. That is, the torturer places him/herself
in a masculine space from which he/she dominates the other while the tor-
tured is constructed along feminine lines and is dominated by the other.
Even where there is an inversion of roles„where a woman becomes the
torturer or a man the tortured, the torturer is always envisioned within a
masculine paradigm and the tortured a feminine one.
This transvestism
of gendered space that emerges around the use of violent acts presents a
view of the construction of torture around gendered roles of power. This
suggests a complexity in the use of violence in order for the individual to
seize power and to occupy the space that befits it that will be investigated
in this study. The importance in many Latin American communities of
the role of this sexual torture is evident by its repeated presence in plays.
Torture, then, is divided by sexual gender and sexual intercourse becomes
a tool of power of the strong against the weak.
As can be seen in these four plays, violence was a prevalent topic in
the late 1960s and early 1970s. Social unrest and violent protests char-
acterized the news that came from places as diverse as Vietnam, France,
and the United States. Violence was a central part of society in which all
sides engaged, creating a vicious cycle of oppressive violence where the
only perceptible way to end this oppression was through the employment
of more violence„an observation of which Latin American playwrights
in the 1960s and 1970s were well aware. This cycle of violence is a central
issue in the four plays studied here, whose characters can only break free
from the violent acts through the use of more violent gestures.
Perhaps the most important violence that these plays from 1968 to
1974 share is their relationship to official or unofficial censorship. While
for Piñera, Estorino, Pavlovsky, and Gambaro, theater is the means that
allowed them to reach their audience in a more direct manner, only
Pavlovskys
La mueca
was produced in the period in which it was writ-
ten. While these other plays were lauded officially or unofficially and were
undoubtedly recognized as products of the most important playwrights of
the moment, they were not produced at the time. Yet, their importance in
the theatrical production of the historical and social moment cannot be
questioned since they were publicly read and discussed in theater circles,
even if they were not staged then. There was a tradition of reading theater
publicly, so that, although a play may not have premiered, there was often
P \b\t\n V \t : C\f\r\b \b\t\n A \t\t\b
a public presentation of it. These practices show that, though these plays
were not performed publicly, they were in the public eye and influenced
the theater communities and their audiences.
The difficulty of produc-
tion that can be seen around these four plays, however, brings to the fore-
front of the discussion the violence of censorship.
This interplay between a theatrical text and its physical representa-
tion makes a major contribution to the plays success and permanence
in national canons. Theater is a genre that, like cinema, is much more
susceptible to unofficial censorship, given its need for both money and
labor to be staged. The story of these plays begins with the violence done
to prevent their productions. A play can be awarded a prestigious award
but not be produced within the temporal context in which it was written
(Piñeras
Dos viejos pánicos
) or a play alluding to the national context of
fear and violence of the time can be written but not produced or even pub-
lished for several years, circulating unofficially both within and outside the
country (Gambaro
Información para extranjeros
). In contrast, a play can
enjoy a timely premiere thanks in part to the acting abilities of its author
(Pavlovskys
La mueca
) or appear to be on the verge of a premiere that is
pushed farther and farther back (Estorinos
La dolorosa historia
). The vari-
ous levels of censorship that can be seen in these four plays places on center
stage the violence that is inherent in this social and political act.
However, to say that censored plays never enter into the public sphere
would be a mistake in that many of them circulated in the theater commu-
nity and were read by different members of that community and the pub-
lic. For example,
Dos viejos pánicos
did not premiere in Cuba until many
years after it won the Casa de las Américas prize, but this prize guaranteed
that it would be discussed and read by those in literary and theater circles.
Similarly, Gambaros
Información para extranjeros
did not premiere and
was not published in Argentina until much later, but it was read clandes-
tinely in the country and openly circulated abroad. In this way, though
the plays do not reach the full fruition that is first imagined when they are
written, they do initiate a dialogue that others in the community are able
to carry on and consider.
In Piñera, Estorino, Gambaro, and Pavlovsky, violence becomes a spec-
tacle used to alert the audience to wrongdoings happening offstage. The
dramatic representation of violence creates a space from which the play-
wrights and the theater community can enter into a dialogue with their
spectators and public on the issue of violence and its place in their commu-
nities. These plays show how theater offers the ability for both the actors
and the spectators to engage with one another and to collaborate on an
appropriate reaction to official violence and what it will mean for the com-
munity. This conversation is meant, then, to deter an offstage violence and
D\f T 
create a discussion on violence that enters into debate with the historical
and political moment in Latin America in the 1960s and 1970s.
This discussion of the topic of violence is not new or particular to the
theater. It has been addressed by a number of recent books on modern
Latin American literature, including Susana Rotkers
Ciudadanías del
miedo
(2000), Rebecca Birons
Murder and Masculinity: Violent Fictions
of Twentieth Century Latin America
(2000) and Aníbal Gonzálezs
Killer
Books: Writing, Violence, and Ethics in Modern Spanish American Narrative
(2001), among others. Rotkers collected essays offer a sociological view of
how fear and violence have constructed a people, while Biron and González
examined how fiction has reflected on or, conversely, erected this omni-
present violence within Latin America. These writers all address different
aspects of violence and have separate viewpoints on its manifestation, but
the continued presence of the topic of violence in the twentieth century
points to an intense desire to delve deeper into this question. In theater
studies, Severino João Albuquerques
Violent Acts: A Study of Contemporary
Latin American Theatre
(1991) focuses on this connection between theater
and violence. Albuquerque provides an impressive overview on the use of
violence in theater. In turn, Amalia Gladharts
The Leper in Blue: Coercive
Performance and the Contemporary Latin American Theater
(2000) exam-
ines the potential danger of the performance space for both the performer
and the spectator. Gladharts is an impressive study on the coercion that is
involved in performance and how this is used in Latin American theater.
Idelber Avelars
The Letter of Violence: Essays on Narrative, Ethics, and
Politics
(2004) focuses its attention on the role of violence in modern soci-
ety with the aid of various reflections on violence from Continental crit-
ical theory, Anglo-American philosophy and Latin American literature,
such as Carl von Clausewitz, Michel Foucault, and Paul Virilio. Avelar
recognizes the centrality of violence in the construction of a modern state:
Going back to Thomas Hobbess concept of a state of war as the origi-
nary, enabling figure for all history, the problem of violence has occupied
a key position in modern Western thought.Ž
Violence is the central piece
P \b\t\n V \t : C\f\r\b \b\t\n A \t\t\b
Violence without Guilt
goes beyond many earlier studies on violence by
focusing on the
narcocorrido
in Mexico and the use of film in Latin
America. Given this widened view and his concentration on the 1970s and
beyond,
Politics and Violence in Cuban and Argentine Theater
serves as a
necessary complement that examines the genre of theater in the 1960s and
1970s. Herlinghaus proves that what will be discussed in reference to Cuba
and Argentina in the late 1960s and early 1970s was not contained within
these years or particular to these countries, but defied geographical and
temporal borders. The drug violence that Herlinghaus discusses, though,
as examined in this book, is not the first violent intervention by govern-
ments or extra-official forces. Violence has always been a part of all times
and contexts, a fact that we can see in the 1960s and 1970s.
It is essential to note that violence defined the late 1960s and early
1970s in a way that has marked the world since. Given the various global
and local events„the Vietnam War, the student protests in places like
Paris and Mexico City, the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. and
Robert Kennedy, the Cuban Revolution, to name a few„violence and the
threat of future violence loomed over everyday activities as an imminent
possibility. At this time, violence appearing onstage was used as a tool
that could question or protest a simultaneous violence in the immediate
context. Many playwrights and artists, such as Augusto Boal of Brazil and
Osvaldo Dragún of Argentina, believed that the arts could be a place of
dialogue and innovation where the artist and his/her public could search
for a way to achieve their utopian desires together. Theater was the com-
munity activity that aimed to engage its audience in a dialogue about its
future and, thus, renovate the social environment in which these plays
were written.
The twentieth century in general is a time known for extreme bar-
barity. The historian Eric Hobsbawm names the period between 1914
and 1991 the Short Twentieth CenturyŽ where everything is marked
by war,Ž a fact that is fundamental to understanding this century.
The
years between the two World Wars were defined by a global absorption
with events that would culminate with the Second World War, thus unify-
ing the years leading up to and including both Wars. Although the Latin
American republics were only marginally involved,
the brutality of war
in Europe profoundly affected the entire world, and Hobsbawm under-
lines the political consequences of this bloody destruction: The experi-
ence itself naturally helped to brutalize both warfare and politics: if one
could be conducted without counting the human or any other costs, why
not the other?Ž
Hobsbawms generally European focus notwithstanding,
it is important to remember the fundamental place that that continent
occupied in the world, and above all, in Latin America, given the recent
D\f T 
past of colonialism and the commercial activity. In this way, the violence
and brutality that marked European history in Hobsbawms view of the
twentieth century sees its effects mirrored in Latin America, where it was a
time marked by bloody revolutions like the Cuban one and violent oppres-
sions like those in Argentina.
The role of political commitment and utopian projects in this histor-
ical time frame is defined in many ways by questions of violence, poli-
tics and social change. That is, artists were measured by their perceived
allegiance to political ideals, ones that were defined by a violent need for
social change.
Dos viejos pánicos,
P \b\t\n V \t : C\f\r\b \b\t\n A \t\t\b
awarding of the theater and poetry literary prizes of the
Unión de Escritores
y Artistas de Cuba
(Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba [UNEAC]) for
Antón Arrufats play
Los siete contra Tebas
and Herberto Padillas collec-
tion of poems
Fuera del juego
. The UNEAC was an important group that
was created after the Revolution, to support writers and artists; the annual
prizes were given in the areas of narrative, poetry and theater. These two
works received the prestigious awards despite their supposed counter-
revolutionaryŽ ideology, as the UNEAC stated in a declaration that was
printed with and about both of the works. Both authors suffered censor-
ship and alienation from Havanas intellectual circles. This affair became
an international episode that sparked spectacular breaks and criticisms of
all sides. Heberto Padilla (1932…2000), at this time, was already consid-
ered an important poet. Like many others, he had returned to Havana
from exile with the triumph of the Revolution and found work connected
to the new governmental organizations created for the arts. By the middle
of the 1960s, however, like others in the literary community, he was begin-
ning to question the Cuban governments official path. It is helpful to
understand the construction of this spectacle in order to view the dialogue
between theater and politics that marked the late 1960s and early 1970s.
The Padilla Affair offers an invaluable example that allows us to explore
this connection.
Though the award is perhaps the most famous event, it is actually the
midpoint of the affair. In 1967 Padilla published an essay in
El caimán
barbudo
that supported Guillermo Cabrera Infantes
Tres tristes tigres
over
Lisandro Oteros
Pasión de Urbino
. Both novels had been finalists in the
Concurso Biblioteca Breve of the Barcelona-based Editorial Seix Barral in
1964, though Cabrera Infantes won.
By this time, Cabrera Infante had
broken with the Revolution and was living in exile in London. The fact
that his novel was awarded instead of the revolutionary Oteros was a point
of contention that Otero, the Vice-President of the National Cultural
Council, and others decided to protest. Padilla, however, did not go along
with this protest and instead took the opportunity to publicly support
Cabrera Infantes novel and to criticize the UNEAC.
This gesture was answered with official criticism of Padilla and the dis-
missal of the entire editorial staff of
El caimán barbudo
. Padilla, though,
continued writing, publishing another critical essay in
El caimán barbudo
in March of 1968. This same year he also submitted his unpublished col-
D\f T 
to another.
They held out, however, and Padillas collection won, though
it and Antón Arrufats
Los siete contra Tebas
were published with a letter
denouncing them: son ideológicamente contrarios a nuestra Revolución
[they are ideologically against our Revolution].Ž
This critique, in turn, inspired more official criticism both of and
from Padilla, culminating with another collection of poetry, intriguingly
titled
Provocaciones
. When he publicly read some of these poems, the state
arrested him and his wife, the poet Belkis Cuza Malé on March 20, 1971
and searched his house, finding five copies of his unpublished novel
mi jardín pastan los heroes
, but accidentally leaving the original which had
been hidden in a basket of toys. This move sparked international criticism
of the Revolution by such earlier supporters as Octavio Paz, Gabriel García
Márquez, Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre, among others, all of
whom signed an open letter to Fidel Castro, published in
Le monde
on
April 9, 1971. This was almost three weeks after Padilla had been arrested
and more than two weeks before he would be released and would read
his confession at the UNEAC headquarters. The letter was short„about
a page„and asked Fidel Castro to re-examine the situation that had led
to Padillas arrest. The writers of the letter urged against repressive mea-
sures citing the tenuous situations of other Latin American countries,
such as the newly-elected socialist government of Chile. They said that
the use of force against intellectuals and artists puede únicamente tener
repercusiones sumamente negativas entre las fuerzas anti-imperialistas del
mundo entero, y muy especialmente en la América Latina, para quienes
la Revolución Cubana representa un símbolo y estandarte [can only have
extremely negative repercussions among the anti-imperialist forces of the
entire world, and most especially in Latin America, for whom the Cuban
Revolution represents a symbol and standard].Ž
They closed the letter by
reaffirming their solidarity with the Revolution. In both this statement
and the closing show of support, we see a conflict between an intellectual
public urging Fidel to yield in this situation and a reaffirmation of the
Revolution and what it stands for„all taking place in the public eye as if
upon a stage.
After the two were arrested, Belkis Cuza Malé was released within a
few days of detention, but Padilla remained in custody until April 27. As
a condition of his release, he signed a confession which he read publicly
that night at the UNEAC offices in El Vedado, Havana, in front of his
colleagues. In this self-criticism, as he referred to it, he accused himself of
being pessimistic and counterrevolutionary, mentioning also the names of
some of his friends with whom he had discussed the Revolution.
This public self-criticism was followed by another open letter to
Fidel Castro from leftist intellectuals where they publicly broke with the
P \b\t\n V \t : C\f\r\b \b\t\n A \t\t\b
Revolution.
The second letter from the European and Latin American
intellectuals to Fidel Castro appeared in the newspaper
Madrid
on May 21,
1971 and denounced Padillas public confession, saying that recuerda
los momentos más sórdidos de la época stalinista, sus juicios prefabrica-
dos y sus cacerías de brujas [it remembers the most sordid moments of
the Stalinist epoch, its prefabricated judgments and its witch hunts].Ž
With these words the intellectuals publicly chastised the Revolution for
its behavior, likening these acts to those in socialist countries during the
worst of Stalinism. This letter shows that the Padilla Affair proved to be
an embarrassment abroad for the Revolution. It was, however, a success
within the country. This year, 1971, was the first of what has come to
be known as the
quinquenio gris
, a time of censorship, both official and
unofficial, and intellectual repression. This was stated officially in Fidels
closing speech at the Congress on Education and Culture, when he said
that education would be the only goal of everything published in Cuba.
In addition, these letters allowed Castro to create another enemy of the
Cuban revolution out of the falseŽ intellectuals: esos que desde París ellos
desprecian, porque los miran como unos aprendices, como unos pobrecitos
y unos infelices que no tienen fama internacional. Y esos señores buscan la
fama, aunque sea la peor fama [those who from Paris scorn because they
look on them as apprentices, as poor wretches that are not internationally
famous. And those men are looking for fame, even if it is the worst kind of
fame]Ž
With these words, Fidel tried to dismiss his recent problems with
intellectuals both within the country and outside of it, especially Padilla
and his
Fuera del juego
What is most interesting of the Padilla episode is the construction of
spectacle that is created around these events and how they contribute to
an orchestrated theater of actions that allows us to understand more fully
the context of the late 1960s and early 1970s. Looking at Padillas public
presentation of his self-criticism is a pivotal moment in this affair. Here, as
Reinaldo Arenas has pointed out in his essay El caso y el ocaso de Padilla,Ž
was a spectacle that was created in order to condemn Padillas past actions
and quash any future criticisms of the Revolution for the internal audi-
ence. In this way, the Padilla Affair is not about Padilla and his counterrev-
olutionary opinions, but a representation that warns others. It is a public
service event that reaches beyond that day and those words.
Arenas, and others, sees Padillas self-criticism as the ultimate act of irony
where, in the Cuban fashion, he makes fun of the event, the Revolutionary
officials in attendance, and the process that has obligated him to appear
there. In this way, he is a contributor to the creation of this spectacle and
begins to gain a certain amount of control over it. This irony that Arenas
points out is upheld by Padillas own words in the self-criticism. Here he
D\f T 
speaks about the construction of an image of himself with which he fell in
love. This image was embodied in a p
hoto of Padilla by Lee Lock
U.S. photojournalist, that was published with the caption Heberto Padilla,
P \b\t\n V \t : C\f\r\b \b\t\n A \t\t\b
Revolution in his poems of censorship and other offenses, all of which,
Ávila stated, the Cuban people would not believe. Besides being counter-
revolutionary, in Ávilas words, these poems were bastante malos [rather
bad]Ž and their only reason for winning the UNEAC prize, was the fact
that Padillas friend César López formed part of the jury.
This article that confronted Padilla and his work directly was followed
by another signed by Leopoldo Ávila that discussed the role of criticism in
Cuban literature more broadly. Sobre algunas corrientes de la crítica y la
literatura en CubaŽ was originally published in the November 24, 1968
issue of
Verde Olivo
, but received a much wider readership when it was
republished in
La Gaceta de Cuba
in their November-December issue.
La
D\f T 
The Cultural Revolution in Cuba
that Padilla said privately to some Sin
embargo, se mueve [Nevertheless, it moves]Ž after his 1971 confession.
This is a quote from Galileo after he was forced to retract his support of
Copernicus theory that the Earth moved around the sun.
Reed goes
on to point out the various ways that Padilla drew parallels between his
own retraction and that of Galileo and some Soviet intellectuals forced
to confess during Stalinist repressions. In the words of Reed, this became
a truly grotesque piece of theater.Ž
We see here the creation of a public
spectacle: Padilla knew his only options were retraction or continued and
increased persecution. His move, then, was to create a theater of events for
public consumption that would temporarily placate perhaps, but would
also expose the repression of the Revolution.
To return to the collection that won the UNEAC prize, the poem
En tiempos difíciles [In Difficult Times],Ž which serves as epigraph to
this introduction, opens Padillas
Fuera del juego
and typifies the emotion
and sacrifice that characterized the end of the 1960s and would foretell
Padillas„and many others„fate. This poem had been published earlier
in Cuba in the July…August 1968 issue of
La Gaceta de Cuba
, forming a
part of the Festival of Poetry of 1968. In the poem Padilla details how a
man is asked to sacrifice everything: his time, his hands, his eyes, his lips,
his legs„even his tongue:
Le explicaron después
que toda esta donación resultaría inútil
sin entregar la lengua,
porque en tiempos difíciles
nada es tan útil para atajar el odio o la mentira.
Y finalmente le rogaron que, por favor, echase a andar
porque en tiempos difíciles
ésta es, sin duda, la prueba decisiva
[They explained to him afterwards
that all these gifts would be useless
unless he surrendered his tongue,
since in difficult times
there is nothing more useful for warding off hatred and lies.
And finally they asked him
kindly to start walking,
since in difficult times
this is undoubtedly the decisive proof].
With this poem, Padilla reveals what he and others have been asked to sacrifice
for the future and, by not exalting this, he shows his opinion of this loss and
its benefits. He does not simply toe the party line and agree that this is what
P \b\t\n V \t : C\f\r\b \b\t\n A \t\t\b
needs to happen, but condemns these demands by presenting them without
ceremony or grandeur. With this opening poem to the collection, there is little
question that this book is not an endorsement of the revolutionary status quo.
Instead, it questions this status quo in a similar way to that which Castro and
the other Revolutionaries did during the 1950s and the early 1960s when they
were striving to build a new future. By this time (1968), however, consolida-
tion of what the Revolution meant was more important and this could only be
done by putting forth one unyielding definition of Revolution and squashing
any criticism of this definition.
This examination of the Padilla Affair is of pivotal importance to this
study because it helps to understand the connection that was prevalent in
the late 1960s between politics and the creation of spectacle. The Padilla
Affair, starting with Padillas assertions about the novel
Pasión de Urbino
and continuing with his
Provocaciones
, became a game where the poet criti-
cized and the Revolution intervened in various ways„essays written under
pseudonyms, an award whose merit was tempered, and finally an arrest
and a public confession. It can be argued that Padilla often was able to
exercise a certain level of agency over these interventions, but a close look
at the Affair as a whole reveals how the Revolution attempted to stage
certain reactions and responses, both internationally and nationally. Both
sides, though, were vitally aware of the theatricality in their moves; they
were being judged by their actions and reactions, a judgment that they
wanted to control and manipulate as much as possible.
Spectacle held a central role in Latin America in the late 1960s and
early 1970s, but not just on the physical stage of a theater. Instead, spec-
tacle and spectacularity expanded its frontiers beyond the theatrical space
and became an overt political tool. In this book, we will examine how four
playwrights endeavored to take this use of spectacle„one that had been
used repeatedly in the Padilla Affair„into their own plays in order to
create a dialogue with the external world about the prevalence of violence.
These plays were to open a conversation on the centrality of violence in
these Latin American communities in the late 1960s and the early 1970s,
through the collaboration between theater and its audiences. The specta-
tors connection and involvement would be key to this conversation. This
creation of spectacle, or spectacularity, that formed an integral part of the
time was questioned through the stage in order to highlight the silence and
complicity with which public and official violence was received. This dou-
ble spectacle„characters on stage (or on the page but written for the stage)
simulating a spectacle that was being performed in official channels„
underlined the spectacularity found throughout the community. It should
be remembered that, though not all these plays premiered in their time,
they all entered the public debate on the violence that was taking place
D\f T 
through readings and partial representations. This spectacularity will be
explored in this book through four plays from Cuba and Argentina.
This book is divided into four chapters that examine four differ-
ent plays: violence and fear in Piñera, violence and history in Estorino,
violence and identity in Pavlovsky, and violence and spectatorship in
Gambaro. Chapter 1 looks at the role of fear in relation to violence in
Virgilio Piñeras
Dos viejos pánicos
. In 1968 Piñera was awarded the Casa
de las Américas prize (another point in common for many of these plays)
for
Dos viejos pánicos
, a play that has often been considered an example of
Latin Americas theater of the absurd.
The play was published in the same
year by Casa de las Américas, and it premiered in 1969 in Bogotá, though
it wasnt produced in Cuba until 1990 because of the censorship of Piñeras
works in the 1970s and 1980s. The play is divided into two acts with two
characters, Tota and Tabo, both viejos de sesenta años [old people about
sixty],Ž
although there is a third element so pervasive and tangible in the
play that one can think of it as another character: fear. The two characters
spend the first act taking turns dyingŽ and describing their lives free from
fear, while in the second act, over their daily glass of milk, they discuss life
and death. Piñera is pointing to a social tendency to fear the unknown and
is challenging the spectator to break through this;
Dos viejos pánicos
causes
its spectators and readers to interrogate the role of fear and violence in their
own relationships and the actions it leads them to take.
Dos viejos pánicos
is often considered the play that officially established
Piñeras centrality in the Cuban and Latin American theater community.
Piñeras prominence began with
Electra Garrigó
(1941) and continued
throughout his life with a particular vitality in the decade of the 1960s.
Rine Leal, in the prologue to the 2002 edition of Piñeras
Teatro completo
stated that,
En 1968 el premio Casa de las Américas a
Dos viejos pánicos
consolidó su
nombre, fue algo así como el reconocimiento oficial a su maestría y obra.
Y los hombres de mi generación continuábamos viéndolo como nuestroŽ
dramaturgo, a pesar de los nuevos escritores, a pesar de que el teatro cubano
no se había detenido en sus piezas.
[In 1968 the Casa de las Américas prize to
Dos viejos pánicos
consolidated
his name, it was something like the official recognition of his mastery and
work. And men of my generation, we continued seeing him as ourŽ play-
wright, despite the new writers, despite the fact that Cuban theater had not
focused on his plays].
Given the centrality of Piñeras theater that Leal identifies here and in
the prologue more generally,
Dos viejos pánicos
is the logical starting place
P \b\t\n V \t : C\f\r\b \b\t\n A \t\t\b
for this study„a point of origin from which to appreciate the location of
Latin American theater in the 1960s and to explore the directions in which
it moved.
In Chapter 2, I turn to the use of violence in the construction of his-
tory in Abelardo Estorinos
La dolorosa historia del amor secreto de don José
Jacinto Milanés
(1974). Estorino, the playwright whose
El robo del cochino
in 1961 was lauded very early in the Revolution, wrote
La dolorosa historia
in 1974, though it did not premiere until 1985 by the theater group
Teatro
Irrumpe
directed by Roberto Blanco.
Estorino is considered one of the
most influential Cuban playwrights of the Revolution, given that he often
turned his attention to family and history. This play recalls the nineteenth-
century Cuban poet José Jacinto Milanés (1814…1863) and the context
in which he lived, particularly the large family from which he came, the
impossible love he had for his cousin Isabel, and his acknowledged loss
of reason towards the end of his life. Milanés is an important figure for
Cuban playwrights of the Twentieth Century because of his play
El Conde
Alarcos
(1838), considered the first major contribution to Cuban theater.
The final scene of
La dolorosa historia
, Delirio,Ž which retells Milanés
loss of reason, mixes his interior life with an account of a slave rebellion
in order to put race relations in nineteenth-century Cuba at the center of
the stage, simultaneously creating a parallel between the private (Milanés)
and the historical (slavery). The violence depicted on stage in this play
is not limited to the rebellion, but alludes to the social violence inher-
ent in a slave-owning and racist society, while Milanés questioning of the
necessity for violence in a social uprising recalls the context of the Cuban
Revolution. Estorinos play finds a circularity seen throughout history and
the censorship of the nineteenth century, and thus, implicitly alludes to
the stronger regulations around literature in Cuba that came into effect in
1971. The discussion in the final scene of the use of violence in an upris-
ing, and of social equity in Cuba, allows for a renewed consideration of
the Cuban Revolution through the lens of nineteenth century historical
events. This chapter examines the relationship between history and vio-
lence in Estorinos play in order to understand how the two interact and
affect our perceptions.
The next two plays and chapters change context to Argentina in the
first half of the 1970s. Chapter 3 looks at violence in relation to the cre-
ation of identity and class in Eduardo Pavlovskys
La mueca
(1971). The
aim of this chapter is to explore the relationship between violence and the
construction of identity (class, gender, sexuality) in Pavlovskys play. Class
and gender were two focal points of violence in Latin America in the 1960s
and a particularly important topic of cultural production. Since the 1960s,
Eduardo Pavlovsky has been considered one of Argentinas most important
D\f T 
playwrights and his influence has been felt beyond Argentine theater„
most notably in Cuban theater, where he has participated in conversations
on Cuban and Argentine theatrical production.
Pavlovskys
La mueca
is divided into two acts and portrays the encoun-
ter between four men of the underworld and a bourgeois couple.
The
men break into a middle-class couples empty house in order to create a
film about bourgeois life. The couples return creates a clash of classes
and ideologies that culminates in the destruction of façades and social
hypocrisies. The men destroy the last shreds of the couples relationship
by revealing their mutual infidelities and betrayals and they uncover the
bourgeois hypocrisies in which the couple takes part. The play focuses
its attention on class tensions in order to displace the bourgeois couple as
the conventional object of the theatrical gaze, while the physical violence
inflicted by the men„who represent a lower class„suggests the omni-
presence of violence in these divisions and the need for a dominant figure.
Furthermore, the function of performance within the boundaries of each
individual role„consciously playing a part„is a central topic that consid-
ers the defined space that each character is meant to occupy within the
representation and within their community.
Finally, chapter 4 turns to spectatorship and violence in Griselda
Gambaros
Información para extranjeros
(1973) and allows us the oppor-
tunity to explore the intersections of theater and performance. Griselda
Gambaro can be considered one of the most important dramatists in Latin
America of the twentieth century. Her list of plays from the 1960s and
beyond is extensive and central to the history of Latin American theat-
rical production. Gambaros theater is often focused on the relationship
between the dominated and the dominator, an idea from which she some-
what departs in
Información para extranjeros
, concentrating instead on the
role that violence has assumed in her immediate national and political con-
text. Gambaro has this debate take place within an innovative space and
with an engaged spectator that questions the boundaries of theater.
These boundaries of the genre of theater can be seen to be flexible when
considered alongside many other types of visual arts. In some recent schol-
arship, theater is often eclipsed by, or confused with, performance, a term
that should be defined in relation to this play since they can be seen to con-
nect here. Patrice Pavis, in his
Dictionary of Theatre
, emphasizes with per-
formance the ephemeral and unfinished nature of the production rather
than a completed work of art.Ž
Diana Taylor, in Opening RemarksŽ
Negotiating Performance: Gender, Sexuality, and Theatricality in Latin/o
America
, stresses the importance of the actor: Performance art tends to
be based in the actor rather than the text; it tends to be personal and
grounded in narrative [. . .] the focus of performance art is on the hermetic
P \b\t\n V \t : C\f\r\b \b\t\n A \t\t\b
and private rather than the public.Ž
These definitions of performance,
like many others, seem oftentimes to bleed into that of theater and connect
many aspects between the two genres. As we will see, Griselda Gambaros
Información para extranjeros
plays with these definitions in order to inno-
vate the notion of theater and engage her audience in a dialogue on the
contemporary violence in Argentina, making this work an appropriate
place to conclude.
Información para extranjeros
is a play that leaves behind the traditional
idea of a theatrical representation as one comprised of spectators in seats
removed physically from the action on stage.
The play never premiered
entirely in Argentina, though selected scenes were staged in the provinces;
it has been performed in Mexico and Germany. Gambaro divides the
argument into twenty scenes of unequal length that create an experience
where the spectators are guided through rooms in which atrocities and dis-
appearances are taking place. The scenes which are labeled Información:
para extranjeros [Information: For Foreigners]Ž by the guide have been
taken from contemporary newspapers.
For example, in the first scene,
after the guide has greeted the group, he leads them to a room and, in the
process, warns ¡Cuidado con los bolsillos! [Watch your pocketbooks!]Ž
Following this warning, he opens the door to the room in order to view a
man who is clothed only in a loincloth. The guide quickly shuts the door,
stating Perdonen. Me equivoqué de habitación [Excuse me. Ive got the
wrong room].Ž
This play forces the spectator to see what is happening
outside the theater, rather than gloss over what is distressing. In that way,
the violence onstage is directly linked to that which is happening offstage.
This chapter will examine the connection between the spectator and vio-
lence in order to understand Gambaros theatrical use of space and spec-
tatorship and the implications of these for the theatrical community and
political context.
The portrayal of violence within the pages, or stages, of these plays
is paralleled by the unpredictability of the historical moment in which
they take place and are written. The plays span six years (1968…1974) full
of violent acts with far-reaching repercussions felt beyond each of their
national boundaries. It is important to remember the violence outside of
the theatrical production and the context in which the plays were written.
Indeed, it is my assertion that the unpredictability that is seen in the vio-
lent historical events of the period has a direct relationship to the plays
difficulties of production at the time when they were written because the
playwrights were writing
against
the contemporary official or standard use
of violence in their communities. These playwrights inability to inter-
vene in the cultural and artistic production of the time owes itself, in part,
to the unpredictability that is characteristic of any theatrical production,
D\f T 
given the collaboration that defines the theater. However, this unpredict-
ability is particularly important for these plays because of the instability
of their portrayal of violence. That is, violence is used as an element that
undoes and questions within these four plays. It is the project of this book
to understand more fully the use and the objective of violence in these plays
and the dialogue that was initiated with their spectators
and
readers.
In the 1960s and 1970s, theater was the space in which political and
social debates initiated a dialogue between intellectuals and popular audi-
ences; similarly, the context of the 1960s and 1970s is one of violence and
change. Latin American theater combined this connection with the audi-
ence and its engagement with the moment to question the spectacle of
violence that was taking place offstage. By presenting violent acts onstage,
theater highlighted the role of silence in proliferating this violence and
underlined what it meant for the country and the people. Each play exam-
ined in this study illustrates a different manifestation of what violence was
and meant within the context of Cuba and Argentina in the late 1960s and
early 1970s. This book explores how debates on theater take place around
the topic of violence in order to understand more fully the role of violence
in the theater. Piñera, Estorino, Pavlovsky, and Gambaro influenced their
public and the larger theater communities to be aware of the violence sur-
rounding them in an effort to put an end to the violence. The playwrights
do not attempt to dictate actions in a didactic manner but instead want to
comprehend this global violence through the stage and the collaboration
inherent within theater. This can be seen as a radical act in that the plays
were meant to begin a dialogue that would unmask violence and question
its purpose within the communities. Each play wants to uncover how vio-
lence is used in quotidian existence in order to understand its pivotal role
in relationships and human life. Piñera, Estorino, Pavlovsky, and Gambaro
use the stage as a means to consider this violence, a radical act that has the
potential to eradicate a wider-reaching and deadly violence, one that was a
global occurrence during the 1960s and 1970s.
Chapter 1
Whos Afraid of Virgilio Piñera?
Violence and Fear in
Dos viejos
pánicos
(1968)
Tabo: Tota, ¿qué vamos a comer mañana?
Tota: Carne con miedo, mi amor, carne con miedo.
Virglio Piñera
Dos viejos pánicos
Dos viejos pánicos
(1968) from Vigilio Piñera (1912…1979) explores the
violence inherent in the repetition of everyday existence by portraying a
routine day in the life of a sixty-year-old married couple. The quotidian
violence that characterizes the couples lives is provoked by fear. Piñeras
characters, Tota and Tabo, represent a domestic dispute that mirrors the
spectacality of the political context that was taking place in Cuba off-
stage in the late 1960s. This violence is sparked by a fear that characterizes
Tota and Tabos existence and comes between them and the outside world.
Their fear is triggered by the knowledge that everything about them„
P \b\t\n V \t : C\f\r\b \b\t\n A \t\t\b
political events that surround the writing of
Dos viejos pánicos
, a context in
which the spectacularity is mirrored by Piñeras work.
Outside Cuba, the political and economic situation of the late 1960s
and early 1970s in Latin America was experiencing an instability that con-
tributed to a time marked by change and unrest. The year before Piñera
wrote
Dos viejos pánicos
, Che Guevara was killed in Bolivia while attempt-
ing to spark a revolutionary uprising along the models of the triumphant
Cuban one. In 1968, the very year that this play was written, the Mexican
President, Gustavo Díaz Ordaz, ordered the massacre of protestors, many
of them students, in the Tlatelolco district of Mexico City. Both events
highlight the unstable international environment in which Piñera was
writing
Dos viejos pánicos
and underline his notions as to the centrality of
fear in everyday life.
The beginning of the Cuban Revolution marked a time of tremendous
creative production and growth that came as a welcome relief to the years
of Fulgenico Batistas control. Batistas March 10, 1952 coup détat ush-
ered in a time marked by constant plots and rumors, all of which Batista
answered with censorship and the suspension of many democratic rights.
The Revolution of 1959, in turn, was defined by openness and possibility
both within the theater and the arts, more generally. This can be seen in
the return to Cuba of many exiled artists from the 1950s and the promi-
nent positions that they and other artists began to occupy. They had left
Cuba in the 1950s in response to Batistas restrictions on democracy and
the opposition. While Virgilio Piñera had already returned to Havana
from Buenos Aires in 1958, many other Cuban intellectuals like Heberto
Padilla, José Triana, Antón Arrufat, Nicolás Guillén, and Alejo Carpentier
rushed back to Havana in the wake of the Revolutions triumph. Many
intellectuals saw the Revolution as the long-awaited fulfillment of the
promises of independence from more than a half century earlier.
The decade of the 1960s was both a time of hope and anticipation as
well as one of restrictions and limiting definitions. While the main goal
of the government was to establish a stable revolutionary government
and economy, all sectors of Cuban life were affected by the political and
economic decisions on the island. On the one hand, writers and artists
received much more attention and government support than they had
before the Revolution. On the other, in exchange for this support, they
were to defend the Revolution and its practices or suffer in silence and
oblivion. This expected allegiance was often antithetical to the artists way
of thinking, as seen in the case of Padilla. In 1965, the Cuban Communist
Party was formed, consolidating much conflict between old and new com-
munists. From 1966 to 1970, the focus turned to the construction of both
a social consciousness and economic development, underscoring the need
W A\b\n  V P \b!
to create a people and a solid nation that would be able to inherit the
Cuban project that was being imagined.
In the area of the arts, the early years of the decade were marked by a
new emphasis on their importance, particularly theater given its accessi-
bility to large amounts of people. Following the Revolutions triumph in
1959, the theater in Havana and in the other provinces enjoyed more free-
dom and support from the new government.
Its position as avant-garde
and open to the people were two elements the new government wanted to
use in order to bring the Revolution and its ideas to a larger public.
the Revolutions emphasis on the masses and their access to all govern-
mental services, theater was initially seen as one of the most accessible of
the arts for both the people and the Revolutions message to question the
old ways.
In this way, theater reflected and benefited from the ideological
changes that characterized Havana and Cuba in the early 1960s. Abelardo
Estorino himself remarked upon these new opportunities in theater in
an interview with me in May of 2007: Todos estrenamos masivamente.
Yo, por ejemplo, escribí
El robo del cochino
y se estrenó inmediatamente.
Inmediatamente. Todas mis obras se han estrenado durante su tiempo
por otros directores hasta que yo tuve un fracaso con mi primera obra
de Milanés [We all premiered our works in great number. I, for example,
wrote
El robo del cochino
and it premiered immediately. Immediately. All
of my plays have premiered in their time by other directors until I had a
failure with my first play on Milanés (
La dolorosa historia
).]Ž
This high
number of staged works was not only an aspect of Estorinos theater but of
many playwrights, whose work formed a part of the national stage, and also
of those in the theater community. The number of theater performances
increased drastically in the first years of the Revolution.
The immediacy
of theater allowed it to respond quickly to the innovations taking place in
the political and social contexts and experimental theater benefited most.
This boom in theater activity, the result of what was officially seen as the-
aters ability to reach out to the masses, was reflected initially in Havana
by increased representations and productions. This was observed in both
the professional arenas (as seen in the boom of plays written by Estorino,
Piñera, José Brene, and Eugenio Hernández Espinosa, among others) and
in amateur productions and sparked theatrical groups outside Havana in
the second half of the 1960s, such as the Conjunto Dramático de Oriente
in 1966, Teatro Escambray in 1969, and the Cabildo Teatral in 1970.
However, the conflict in the arts between creativity and allegiance
began to be strained as the decade continued. The tensions between creat-
ing the political atmosphere and the revolutionary citizen of the new Cuba
came together in 1968 with events that would shape the Cuban cultural
context of the following years. Stress from the awarding in this year of the
P \b\t\n V \t : C\f\r\b \b\t\n A \t\t\b
Unión Nacional de Escritores y Actores de Cuba
[National Union of Writers
and Artists of Cuba (UNEAC)] prize to Antón Arrufats play
Los siete con-
tra Tebas
and Herberto Padillas collection of poems
Fuera del juego
culmi-
nated in what is known as the
caso Padilla
. This was discussed in detail in
the introduction but bears a quick review here. Despite the, in the words of
the UNEAC, counterrevolutionary ideology of these two literary works,
the two were prized by the UNEAC, though both authors suffered cen-
sorship and alienation from Havanas intellectual circles. Arrufat was rel-
egated to working in a municipal library, exiled from the theater world,
while Padilla was incarcerated in 1971 for his counterrevolutionary liter-
ature. This imprisonment sparked an international condemnation of the
Cuban Revolution by such staunch supporters as Jean Paul Sartre, Octavio
Paz and 80 other international writers and artists. Many of the social and
political pressures from these events came to a head in the Congress on
Education and Culture in this same year, where new, harsh regulations
were enacted in order to control and monitor the university and artistic
communities. Most importantly, publication standards were created to
dictate the essential revolutionary quality of all works published or prized
in Cuba. In this way, the Casa de las Américas, which held an influential
place in all of Latin America, began to award works that were clearly polit-
ical and revolutionary in nature, whereas in the 1960s many of the prize
winners were not so openly political in nature.
As seen in the above example, censorship in Cuban arts production
permeated both official and unofficial efforts.
The literary communities
in the decade of the 1960s both enjoyed a new freedom and security but
also a need to define oneself in terms of the Revolution, all of which would
affect the theater being written and produced.
This connection to new
revolutionary definitions can be seen in Fidel Castros words in his 1961
speech Palabras a los intelectuales [Words to the Intellectuals]:Ž dentro
de la Revolución, todo; contra la Revolución, nada [within the Revolution,
everything; against the Revolution, nothing].Ž
Indeed, Castro defended
this need to curtail certain freedoms in pursuit of the Revolution. As Hugh
Thomas quotes in his study of Cuba, Castro defended the need to define
truth as an ingredient in the revolutionary cause: These gentlemen who
write truth never hurts, I dont know whether they conceive of truth as an
abstract entity. Truth is a concrete entity in the service of a noble cause.Ž
Staging and censoring theater in the first few years following the Cuban
Revolution was an issue that changed according to the goals of the official
governing body. The same openness that would be seen as a revolutionary
attribute of theater would also subject it to swifter censorship since all
artistic genres became vulnerable to Castros Palabras a los intelectuales.Ž
Theater originally enjoyed an increase in access to space and performance.
W A\b\n  V P \b!
However, after 1962 this decreased significantly and virtually ended by the
end of the decade with events such as the Padilla Affair, as can be seen with
the suppression of Arrufats play
Los siete contra Tebas
and the resulting
actions against the playwright. The early freedoms the theater commu-
nity experienced after the Revolution came to an end as the decade of the
1960s closed, a fact that Rine Leal, a leading Cuban theater critic of the
period, connects with the the moralistic persecution of the artistsŽ and
the malignant discrimination on the part of some cultural sectors against
the artist in general.Ž
While there are many differences between the two countries and times,
one can ask how much Cuban censorship shared with Soviet practices of
the 1920s or the 1930s.
This was a connection that was often discussed
by those experiencing firsthand these processes of censorship. Guillermo
Cabrera Infante, an early supporter of the Revolution who then broke with
it, makes a parallel with Stalinism in his memoirs
Mea Cuba
(1992).
Here
he recalled an event from a 1961 meeting between Cuban intellectuals
and Fidel Castro where Virgilio Piñera made a confession of fear. In the
words of Cabrera Infante, he said:  I think it has to do with all this. It
seemed that he included the Revolution in his fear, though apparently he
meant only the crowd of so many so-called intellectuals. But perhaps he
was alluding to the life of a writer in a Communist country: a fear called
Stalin, a fear called Castro.Ž
Just as the Soviet Union under Stalin increased control over cultural
production, Cuban control mechanisms throughout the 1960s and into
the 1970s emphasized more and more how the arts were to benefit the peo-
ple. What did not fit into this definition was considered against it as can
be seen in Castros Palabras a los intelectuales.Ž Nevertheless, despite the
commonalities between the countries, Cuba and its processes of control
were not just a copy of the Soviet model. In fact, Cuba strove to differen-
tiate itself from the Soviet and U.S. imperialism in the wake of the Cuban
Missile Crisis of 1962. Though Cuba always tried to maintain its indepen-
dence, this difference was de-emphasized after the failed
Zafra de los diez
millones
P \b\t\n V \t : C\f\r\b \b\t\n A \t\t\b
intervention and control over artistic production, making it difficult for
some to publish. This difficulty can be seen in both the lives and work of
writers such as Reinaldo Arenas and Piñera, himself. Due in part to the
fact that he was gay, Arenas had great difficulties publishing in Cuba in the
1960s and 1970s and had to have his
El mundo alucinante
(1968) smuggled
to France to be published. Piñera was arrested at his home in 1961 during
a purge of men suspected of homosexual behavior and spent the night in
jail. Thanks to his friends he was released quickly, but the arrest was said
to have affected him deeply.
Another method of control that also increased the visibility of Cuban
artists was the new literary prizes that had been established after the
Revolution, such as those awarded by the UNEAC or Casa de las Américas.
This control can be seen in the reaction to the works of Heberto Padillas
Fuera del juego
and Antón Arrufats
Los siete contra Tebas
. A work that
was not seen as revolutionaryŽ could win the prize but be published with
a letter underlining its counterrevolutionary status or immediately taken
off the shelves. A move like this ostensibly emphasized the openness of
the Revolution to criticism while not allowing the public to access that
criticism.
For well-known members of the intellectual community who could not
justifiably be silenced, there was another option that would allow their
works to be published but in limited numbers. This can be seen with José
Lezama Limas masterpiece
Paradiso
(1966).
Only four thousand copies
of this neobaroque novel were published, even though Lezama Lima was
both internationally and nationally known as a central figure of the liter-
ary tradition in the twentieth century. The only plausible reason for this
is what officials saw to be amoral and counterrevolutionary in the novels
depiction of gay sex.
Virgilio Piñeras
Dos viejos pánicos
was written within this political con-
text full of tension and change, when artistic creations were often judged
on their perceived political commitment and was both the beneficiary and
the victim of many of these events. The play won the Casa de las Américas
prize for theater in 1968, nine years after the triumphant entrance of Fidel
Castro in Havana, but did not premiere in Cuba until 1990.
The play
is divided into two acts and portrays a day in the life of Tota and Tabo,
each described as vieja [old woman]Ž and viejo [old man]Ž around sixty
years old.
Fear becomes an omnipresent element that invades and, in
turn, guides the direction of their lives and of the play. Because of this fear,
violence begins to emerge between the two characters, as it is through and
by means of violence that they relate to each other. Virgilio Piñera gives
central stage to fear and violence in order to question the role that they
both occupy in Cuban society at the time. In
Dos viejos pánicos
, Virgilio
W A\b\n  V P \b!
Piñera portrays fear as
element that permeates and corrodes our rela-
tionships to one another. This fear produces a violence that punctuates our
actions and desires, and can only be stopped through its violent repression,
creating an interminable circle of oppression that the playwright wishes
to end.
Virgilio Piñera is a central literary figure of the Cuban canon of the
twentieth century. Unlike the other three playwrights studied here, Piñera
is as well known for his narrative, poetry, and critical work as for his dra-
matic work. Initially, he entered into the literary community through crit-
ical contributions to journals such as
Orígenes
and
Espuela de Plata
both
published in Havana, and through his poetry collections,
La isla en peso
(1943) and
Vida de Flora
(1944). The themes present in these works hint
at the irregular way Piñera viewed the Cuban society and canon and the
discomfort that Piñera felt being aligned with a literary group or tendency,
topics that would remain central in his work.
Piñera left Havana for Buenos Aires in 1946, where he stayed until
1958, only returning to Cuba briefly during these years. This time was
marked by his involvement in the literary community of the Argentine
capital and a friendship with Witold Gombrowicz. He collaborated on the
translation of Gombrowiczs first novel
Ferdydurke
. In Buenos Aires Piñera
also contributed to literary magazines and associated with members of the
influential
Sur
group, such as Victoria Ocampo and Jorge Luis Borges.
His narrative work, much of which was written in the decade of the 1950s
is comprised of both short stories,
Cuentos fríos
(1956) and novels. His
first, and without a doubt, best known novel is
La carne de René
(1952)
and considered by many to be his masterpiece. Two of the central themes
that have been identified with Virgilio Piñeras narrative and poetry are
insularity and corporality, topics that can be seen in
La isla en peso
and
La
carne de René
Though he continued to write throughout his life, Virgilio Piñera was
largely unpublished during the last years of his life and beyond, because
of the strict censorship and control of the Cuban literary apparatus during
the 1970s. Literary criticism of his narrative, poetry and theater started
to revive in the late 1990s and early 2000s, particularly after the 1992
symposium in honor of Piñera that took place in Havana. At the same
time, the publication in Cuba of a number of important works, such as
Antonio José Pontes
La lengua de Virgilio
(1992), refocused Piñera in the
present moment while others like Antón Arrufats
Virgilio Piñera: entre él y
(1994), gave an account of his conflictive last years.
More recently, his
status as an important figure in the Cuban literary canon has been even
more highlighted with the 2001 issue of the journal
Encuentro de la cultura
cubana
dedicated to Virgilio Piñera, and with Rita Molineros 2002 edited
P \b\t\n V \t : C\f\r\b \b\t\n A \t\t\b
collection of various essays on Piñera and his literary work. Enrico Mario
Santí in El fantasma de Virgilio,Ž part of
Bienes del siglo: Sobre cultura
cubana
, details the life of Virgilio Piñera with an eye to understanding
his literary works. This essay also comments on the last years of his life
spent in silence thanks to the
quinquenio gris
and the aftermath of the
caso
Padilla
. Thomas F. Anderson has combined an exploration of both Piñeras
life and his literary production in his recent
Everything in Its Place: The Life
and Works of Virgilio Piñera
(2006). This pivotal book examines his life in
connection with his many, varied literary works and is an invaluable con-
tribution to studies on Piñera and twentieth century Cuba.
However, this recent canonization of Piñera is not without its conflictive
side, as Piñera has oftentimes been read as a figure who unsettles a Cuban
literary canon that includes such names as José Lezama Lima, among many
others. In fact, Piñera himself discusses the idea of a national literature
in his own essays on Cuban literary production both before and after the
Revolution of 1959. Ana García Chichecter, in the article Virgilio Piñera
and the Formulation of a National Literature,Ž analyzes Piñeras writings on
Cuban literary tradition expressed both in poetry and his essayistic investi-
gations on the same topic. She takes as a point of departure his talk Cuba
y su literaturaŽ delivered at the Havana Lyceum on February 27, 1955 and
published later that year in the journal
Ciclón
, an important journal edited
at the time by José Lezama Lima. In García Chichesters interpretation of
Piñeras words, she sees that he criticizes the absence of critical inquiry
based on the
ethical reading of texts
This was not a criticism of the insuf-
ficient talent on the part of Cuban writers but results from a deficiency of
another kind: the need to define themselves in terms of their difference.Ž
Piñera wanted Cuban literature to emphasize what made it different, what
defined it in light of other literatures. García Chichester identifies how he
did this with his own work, especially the poems La isla en pesoŽ and
Vida de Flora.Ž These poems, like all of Piñeras work, show a desire to
move beyond the facile definitions of the topics he portrays and to delve
deeply into their meaning. Similarly, he urged the Cuban literary commu-
nity to do the same in its work, both creative and critical. This was an
aspect of the Revolution of 1959 that he originally championed, though his
views changed as those of the official government did. In this way, Virgilio
Piñera was not a figure comfortable with what he saw as the traditional
literary canon of Cuba and, for this reason, he can be seen as an uneasy
addition to the canon of Cubas twentieth century.
Virgilio Piñera established himself as an important Cuban playwright
of the twentieth-century with his early
Electra Garrigó
(1941), which
melded Greek myth with Cuban cultural topics, as seen in the very title.
His contribution to Cuban theater continued throughout the following
W A\b\n  V P \b!
decades until his death in 1979. Many of his plays are identified within the
definitions of the Theater of the Absurd (a definition that will be explored
later on in this chapter), with the exception of
Aire frío
(1959). This play
is a more realist portrayal of a Cuban family living in reduced circum-
stances from the years 1940…1958. The title refers to the suffocating heat
that marks the work. Much of Piñeras other theater, though, is not tied
directly to Cuba, though there may be allusions to the island in the text.
Instead, Piñera focuses on portraying the frustrations and indignities that
characterize the modern existence. These can be seen in works such as
(1965),
La niñita querida
(1966), and
La caja de zapatos vacía
(1968).
Dos viejos pánicos
is arguably his best-known play of the 1960s, given
the many issues it touches upon and the recognition from the Casa de
las Américas prize. It is considered by many to be the play that officially
recognized Piñeras centrality in the Cuban and Latin American theater
community. As quoted in the Introduction to this study, Rine Leal stated
that
Dos viejos pánicos
was the work that garnered official acknowledgment
for Piñeras extensive influence on Cuban theater, an assertion with which
Raquel Carrió Mendía agrees.
For her,
Dos viejos pánicos
is the culmina-
tion of both a theater of the vanguard and of Piñeras theater itself.
This
play is seen as the pinnacle of Piñeras dramatic work„work that spans
three decades„and a central moment in Cuban, and Latin American, the-
ater that demands an in-depth exploration of its contribution. Given the
importance that these two critics give to Virgilio Piñeras dramatic work
and
Dos viejos pánicos
for Cuban theater, this play is a logical foundation
in order to appreciate the location of violence in Latin American theater
in the 1960s and to explore the directions in which it moved in the 1970s
and beyond.
Dos viejos pánicos
, like much of Piñeras theater, has traditionally been
classified as Theater of the Absurd, a theater movement that originated in
Paris in the 1940s and 1950s. The Theater of the Absurd was born from
a desire to reform theater in the wake of the destruction of World War
II and its aftermath.
The notion of the absurd as a way to understand
the post-war situation of humankind originates out of Albert Camus and
Jean Paul Sartre, who believed that Man should accept the ultimate lack
of meaning of the world. As discussed quickly in the Preface, Antonin
Artaud and Martin Esslin, two of the movements central theorists, theo-
rized on what they viewed as the absurdity of the world. Artaud, known
for his Theater of Cruelty which shared much with Theater of the Absurd,
and Esslin, viewed theater as the means to provoke its audience beyond
traditional ideas and to, thus, change what would happen both in the the-
ater and outside it.
According to these thoughts, theater was not a purely
entertaining art form but was meant to awaken the spectator to what was
P \b\t\n V \t : C\f\r\b \b\t\n A \t\t\b
taking place in the world. This was a move way from Aristotelian and
Renaissance theater and blankly pointed out the absurdity of the modern
world. Eugene Ionescos
The Bald Soprano
(1950) and Samuel Becketts
Waiting for Godot
(1953) are classic examples of how the Absurd portrayed
the anxiety towards life and death and the ultimate irrationality that these
writers believed characterized the world.
The ideas that the playwrights and theorists of the Theater of the Absurd
in Europe put forth were quickly adapted by many Latin American dra-
matists, though this has also been a point of contention in Latin America.
Theatre of the Absurd is a term that has traditionally been used to describe
this genre in Europe while some theorists use the term Absurdist theater
to differentiate the phenomenon in Latin America. Absurdist theater has
been seen as such a variation on the European model by some critics that
it deserves different terminology. Daniel Zalacaín and Raquel Aguilú
de Murphy see Absurdist theater as focusing on the same human alien-
ation through violence and the manipulation of language, though it is in
the political-social topics that the absurdist playwright differs from the
European.
Other critics, such as George Woodyard, Terry Palls, and
Eleanor Jean Martin, have not seen a need to create such a difference in
name in the two manifestations and use the term Theater of the Absurd
for this school of thought in Spanish America.
Woodyard, in his 1969
essay The Theatre of the Absurd in Spanish America,Ž examines how
this European Absurd translated to the theater of Spanish America in the
1960s. There was of course a change in the geographical context, though
the focus on irrationality and fragmentation remains central. Woodyard
identified the most important elements of the Spanish American Theater
of the Absurd as the following: plays with two characters, anti-heroes,
physical violence stemming from feelings of contempt and hatred, and an
insistence on fragmentation.
Terry L. Palls and Eleanor Jean Martin both turn their attention specif-
ically to the role of Theater of the Absurd in the context of Revolutionary
Cuba, defending the Absurd against contemporary accusations that saw it
as essentially anti-revolutionary. Palls identifies the Absurd as a minor but
fundamentally important influence on Cuban Theater in the first decade
of the Revolution.
The central difference between Absurd dramatists and
those traditionally seen as politically committed, he explains, is the empha-
sis on technique as well as the artistic quality of the theater, as opposed to
an emphasis on content.
Thus, it can be argued that the dramatists that
were more influenced by the Absurd were the ones who were innovating
and renewing Cuban theater, despite their apparent lack of Revolutionary
commitment. In fact, Eleanor Jean Martin argues for the basic revolution-
ary quality of the Theater of the Absurd when employed by many Cuban
W A\b\n  V P \b!
playwrights: the theater may be thought of as positive, for it helps man to
understand fully what is happening to him, in a transitional society. In the
tradition of the Theater of Cruelty, the spectator feels that he is seeing the
essence of his own being before him, that his own life is unfolding within
the bodies of others.Ž
For Martin, rather than being anti-revolutionary,
the Theater of the Absurd, and specifically Piñeras employment of it in
Dos viejos pánicos
, shows the concrete reality of transition that the Cuban
society is undergoing in order to become a revolutionary one. Theater
becomes the space where the public can experience changes through the
actions of the characters.
Theater of the Absurd, then, can be viewed as
the ultimate revolutionary space for innovation and progress.
Diana Taylor, in turn, uses the term theatre of crisis to describe the
theater that she examines from the years 1965 to 1970 in her book
Theatre
of Crisis: Drama and Politics in Latin America
. Theatre of crisis differs
from the absurd or protest theatre, in her words, because in this theater
both the objective context and the subjective consciousness threaten to
collapse.Ž
The absurd, in contrast, reflects a crisis ideology, the per-
sonal sensation of decomposition, within a stable, bourgeois context.Ž
For Taylor, there is an insistence on the part of North American scholars
to overemphasize the use of European terms within the Latin America, a
context that does not always lend itself easily to European definitions. This
is an important point that needs to be remembered in reference to Latin
America. These two regions are different, calling upon distinct historical
and social traditions that are not always in correspondence. Furthermore,
it would be unwise to believe that the European traditions alone have had
an influence in the creation of Latin American theater. As was explored in
the preface, the Cuban tradition of
teatro bufo
is an essential element in the
Cuban absurd and in Virgilio Piñeras theater. Nevertheless, it is necessary
to remember that European theater was read and performed in the cities
of Latin America and one can see a connection between the themes of the
theater of the two regions. This is not to say Latin American absurd is an
exact copy of the European or that the topics of Becketts and Ionescos
theater will be seen unchanged in Piñeras or Jorge Díazs work, for exam-
ple. These playwrights innovated and adapted the absurd to their own
contexts in order to create a Theater of the Absurd that fit their present
circumstances and contexts, as we can see in the example of Piñeras the-
ater, particularly
Dos viejos pánicos
Virgilio Piñeras Theater of the Absurd as manifested in
Dos viejos
is, in fact, the site of questioning from which the spectator can
understand the conflicting pressures that manifest in the modern being,
given his focus on the universality of the manifestation of fear and vio-
lence. As Piñera himself states his theater is not del todo existencialista ni
P \b\t\n V \t : C\f\r\b \b\t\n A \t\t\b
del todo absurdo [neither completely existentialist nor absurd].Ž
Piñeras
early examples of Theater of the Absurd, such as
Electra Garrigó
and
Falsa
alarma
(1948), predates the pivotal example of the European Absurd,
Ionescos
The Bald Soprano
. Nevertheless, Piñera wrote from the period
in which he lived and was influenced by the same events as the European
absurd writers. These differences in context and years do not change the
similarities between the European and the Latin American absurd nor
does it conflate them into one movement.
Dos viejos pánicos
is a play that is symmetrically, almost obsessively,
divided into two acts with two characters, who reflect each other in turn
by the alliterative repetition of their names, Tota and Tabo. Piñeras use of
these two names is already an indication of the reflective relationship that
they have with one another.
In the first act, these two protagonists begin
a sinister game that they repeat daily: killingŽ each other (metaphori-
cally), and describing the fearless existence that they imagine their deaths
would provide. Tabo, in an indication of the violence to come, violently
cuts out figures of young people from a magazine in order to later burn
them, while Tota attempts to convince him to play her game of dying, by
forcing him to confront his own aged reflection in a hand mirror„an
action that will force him to see his progress toward old age and death.
They bicker about the merits of their respective pastimes but, using the
mirror and his own self-reflection as a threat (and Tabo does view it as a
threat), Tota persuades Tabo to strangleŽ her. After he does, the two enact
how their lives would be after her death. Tota describes her life free of fear
and consequences: Cuando uno está muerto ya no hay consecuencias. La
última fue morirse [When one is dead, there are no more consequences.
The last one was dying]Ž (Act 1: 484). The two characters act out what life
would be like after Totas death, describing their imagined lives free of fear
and the limitations it imposes. The couples verbal exchanges in this act
are short and to the point, demonstrating the extent to which they know
one anothers weaknesses and the best way to exploit them. Because they
know one another so well, their conversation is full of allusions to their
long history together, making difficult a quick and easy understanding of
their dialogue and the plays direction. Despite the complexity in Tota and
Tabos conversations, it is clear that they have tired of each another and use
their mutual familiarity to provoke one another.
The second act opens over a daily glass of milk, where Tota and Tabo
discuss the quotidian aspects of their life, including their deathŽ game
and Fear. At one moment, they remember the
planilla
that they are to
fill out and Tabo begins to ask Tota her questions.
The activity only
inspires more fear, given the subject matter and the fact that the
planillero
knows all about them. They begin to fight over the
planilla
and, in their
W A\b\n  V P \b!
struggle, killŽ one another. It is in this state that they decide to kill Fear,
an act that ultimately proves to be impossible and they return in the end to
their everyday existence where tomorrow, as Tabo says, is [o]tro día más
[another day]Ž (Act 2: 509). This focus on routine emphasizes the circular-
ity that defines their lives despite the extremity of their earlier acts.
The conversations and actions of the play, though difficult to under-
stand at first, demonstrate the repetitiveness present in the couples life and
the fine-tuning that they have done in this one day that they repeat again
and again. There is much that is left unsaid in Tabo and Totas dialogue
and actions, thus underlining the amount of time that they have dedicated
to fine-tuning this process.
Dos viejos pánicos
is a play that leaves as much
unsaid as that which is actually said. The couple communicates through
gestures and attacks, having perfected their nonverbal communication over
the years. In this way, multiple readings reveal the subtleties that charac-
terize their relationship and their fears. From this fear of life and all that it
entails comes a violence that defines their relationship to one another and
their relationship to the outside world. In order to stop the insecurity that
comes from their fear, they turn destructively violent against one another,
and the two of them together turn against youth, against authority and,
in vain, against fear.
Violence in
Dos viejos pánicos
tries to hide the profound fear that the
two characters experience. The title,
Dos viejos pánicos
, is of particular
importance in the play and to this study given the many meanings it
can have. For Matías Montes Huidobro one of the defining elements of
Cuban theater is the employment of schizophrenic elements. For Virgilio
Piñera and the absurd, the use of schizophrenic language and the play on
words that can be seen in the characters names and in the very title sets
this play apart.
As José Corrales highlights, it is not clear whether it is
referring to two old frightened people or two old fears, thus creating doubt
as to what is being described or what is doing the describing: Entonces,
¿se refiere el título a dos personas viejas, cada una de las cuales es un
pánico? ¿O hay dos pánicos (miedos) que han durado muchos años (son
viejos)? ¿Está el adjetivo sustantivado o es el sustantivo el que se una como
adjetivo? [So, does the title refer to two old people, each one of whom is
un pánico
? Or are there two
(fears) that have been around for
many years (are old)? Is the adjective made into a noun or is the noun that
which becomes an adjective?]Ž
Adjectives that turn into nouns, or nouns
that turn into adjectives, play on the doubling mechanism of the play in
a grammatical sense. That is, the grammar in
Dos viejos pánicos
seems
to play on the doubling that is seen in the couple itself. As Merlin H.
Forster maintains, the emphasis is placed on the two human figures if the
noun is
viejos
and on the fear if the noun is
Thus, it is virtually
P \b\t\n V \t : C\f\r\b \b\t\n A \t\t\b
impossible to determine without a doubt whether the center of the play
will be two human figures or the more nebulous and ancient Fear that
becomes almost a third character. The ambiguity that can be identified in
the very title underlines the elusiveness of language in the play in general,
and hints at the multiplicity of readings that this play can accept and that
have been put forward of it.
The Dictionary of the Real Academia Española defines pánicoŽ first
as referente al dios Pan [referent to the god Pan].Ž The second definition
found in the RAE dictionary is del miedo extremado o del terror pro-
ducido por la amenaza de un peligro inminente, y que con frecuencia es
colectivo y contagioso [the extreme fear or terror produced by the threat
of imminent danger, which is frequently collective and contagious].Ž
Pánico
, then, describes an immense fear that is often infectious to a larger
collective of people. Given that the play consists of just two characters,
this suggests that it is referring to the existence of an outside community
from which the couple may have been infected by, or which the couple
may infect with, fear. This last element„that of the infectious nature of
„is significant, given that it suggests an inability on the part of the
infected to control their
. Instead, they are the victims of an out-
side force that overpowers them. Furthermore, this terror is the product
of an amenaza de un peligro inminente [threat of imminent danger],Ž
identifying the threat as something that has not come to pass but hovers
over the panicked with just the promise that something may happen. This
definition is important to the plays analysis since it offers insight into the
characters and their construction.
By placing
in the title, Piñera hints at the presence of Fernando
Arrabals Panic Theater from the 1960s, an allusion which both Corrales
and Merlin Forster reference in their essays.
Arrabal, together with
Alejandro Jodorowsky of Chile and Roland Topor of France, began to
formulate many of the ideas that later formed the Panic Movement, and
then Panic Theater, in 1960 in Paris. In February 1962, the group decided
to use the word 
Panique
(Panic)Ž to define their movement rather than
the earlier Burlesque.Ž With this new term, the group hoped to continue
encompassing the ideas of the baroque, the contradictory, the mythical, the
monstrous, while simultaneously embracing many new connotations from
the word panic itself. Primarily, panic refers to a collective or individual
feeling of overwhelming terror that is oftentimes irrational. Additionally,
as seen in the definition quoted earlier, the word panicŽ is etymologi-
cally linked to the god Pan, who was the Greek god of fields, forests, wild
animals, flocks, and shepherds. Physically, he resembled a goat and has
been associated historically with sexual orgies and debauchery. This feel-
ing of panic, of fear, was inspired by Pan. Arrabal himself made use of a
W A\b\n  V P \b!
definition put forth by Joseph Campbell in order to explain the Panics
appropriation of Pan and the word panic:
La emoción que provocaba en los seres humanos que por un accidente se
aventuraban en sus dominios era el terror pánico,Ž un terror repentino y
sin causa.
Cualquier motivo trivial, una rama
que se rompe, el movimiento de
una hoja, hará que la mente se estremezca con un peligro imaginario y, en el
esfuerzo enloquecido para escapar de su propio inconsciente despierto, la víctima
expira en su fuga aterrorizada
[The emotion it provoked in human beings that by accident adventured
into its domain was one of panicŽ terror, a sudden terror without cause.
Whatever trivial motive, a broken branch, a leaf rustling, will make the mind
tremble with an imaginary danger and in the crazed effort to escape from his
own awakened unconscious, the victim will expire in his terrified flight.
This almost hysterical feeling of terror that in the ancient world came from
a brush with Pan is the emotion that Arrabal and the other Panics hoped
to inspire in their public. In this way, many of their events, though ini-
tially formed from a script, were improvised, giving the representations a
transient quality.
For Arrabal and Jodorowsky, the objective of Panic Theater was to
provoke the spectator to action, not to create an enduring work of art.
Panic Theater shared much of the same ideas that had earlier inspired the
Dadaists, such as the idea that the Panic should propel one to euphoria and
collective celebration. Although these ideas also overlap with those of the
Surrealists, the Panic movement, whose members had been close to Andre
Breton in the early 1960s, was formed as a break from the dogmatisms that
they identified in Bretons surrealism in the 1960s.
It was conceived as
a tolerant, eclectic, and constructive movement that advocated liberty of
thought and action.
Virgilio Piñeras use of the word panicŽ and its allusion to Arrabal and
Panic Theater in
Dos viejos pánicos
is an interesting reference that helps to
reveal much about the play and offers insight into its direction. Primarily,
the fact that Panic Theater was closely tied to theater over other art forms
is an important detail that underlines Piñeras use of
. Furthermore,
one of the fundamental aspects of Arrabals Panic Theater is its origin in a
freedom from censorship and any restricting elements. This is an important
connection both within the argument of the play and the context which
surrounded Cuban intellectual culture in the late sixties. For both Tota
and Tabo, the panic that the outside world provokes in them is exactly that
which restricts their actions and censors their ability to act. For Arrabal,
Panic Theater creates the unexpected by using memory and chance.
That
is, the combination of the memory of historical and biographical events
P \b\t\n V \t : C\f\r\b \b\t\n A \t\t\b
combines with the confusion of unforeseen acts. When the unexpected
becomes what is most feared, the spectator can recognize a clear opposition
between the goal of the play and the life of the characters within it. This
provocation is exactly Piñeras goal in using the word
in his play.
That is,
Dos viejos pánicos
wants to incite the spectator to action, to thought
through a presentation of Tabo and Totas fears.
Pánico
, as in an intense
fear, refers to the emotion that both protagonists experience in their every-
day lives. Its meaning goes beyond fear, to recall Arrabals use of the word
as a terror repentino y sin causa [sudden terror without cause]Ž provoked by
the actions of the god, Pan. Panic Theater and Piñera in
Dos viejos pánicos
use this intense emotion to incite a celebration that will force the characters
and spectators to move beyond their fear and inability to act. Instead, they
will be inspired to question their surroundings and their own actions„the
theater will wake them up to an existence beyond fear and give them the
ability to live in a state of engagement with their environment.
When considering the use of the word
in the title and the focus
on fear throughout the play, it is significant to remember the incident
reported by Guillermo Cabrera Infante about Virgilio Piñera in the early
days of the Revolution that was referenced earlier in the discussion of cen-
sorship. It is important to return to this in light of the question of fear.
According to Cabrera Infantes
Mea Cuba
, in 1961 during a meeting of
prominent Cuban writers from
Lunes de Revolución
and
Revolución
with
Fidel Castro and members of his government, Piñera confessed to being
afraid. I quote the moment at further length here to understand Piñeras
own fear:
Suddenly, out of the blue alert: a timid man with mousy hair, frightened
voice and shy manners, slightly suspect because he looked frankly queer
in spite of his efforts to appear manly, said that he wanted to speak. It was
Virgilio Piñera. He confessed to being terribly frightened. He didnt know
of what, but he was really frightened, almost on the verge of panic. Then
he added: I think it has to do with all this. It seemed that he included the
Revolution in his fear, though apparently he meant only the crowd of many
so-called intellectuals.
As explored earlier, this is a significant anecdote about the relations
between Castro and the Cuban intellectuals that would worsen consid-
erably at the end of the 1960s and beyond. However, it also provides an
interesting insight into Piñeras frame of mind in the decade following the
Revolution and allows us to speculate on the later use of fear in his award-
winning play. By publicly admitting to his own fear in front of government
officials and fellow intellectuals, Piñera gives center stage to fear in Cuban
W A\b\n  V P \b!
society. He uncovers something that is often not admitted publicly but
buried under an outward need for courage and bravery. In both the above
anecdote and the play
Dos viejos pánicos
, Virgilio Piñera makes us reflect
upon the far-reaching effects and consequences of an emotion that many
prefer to ignore while forcing the spectator to consider the misdeeds real-
ized in an effort to conceal fear and the other many actions it impedes.
Admitting to fear, then, is the first step to being set free from it and to
being able to act from a space beyond fear.
It is precisely fear and the provocation that Piñera identifies with it that
underlines the violence in
Dos viejos pánicos
. Violence here does not take
the shape of war in the sense of a national crisis (as we see with Estorino
or Gambaro). Instead, the violent acts between and around Tota and Tabo
come from a more domestic, psychological source. The violence between
the two characters takes place through their words and their frustrations
with one another. In this way, the characters become a sort of double of
both each other and, more importantly, of the spectators. The audience
sees characters onstage that offer an opportunity to consider how violence
defines ones relationships to those closest to one and to the outside world.
Violence here becomes a mechanism that Tota and Tabo use to confront
and react to each other and to the outside world. Piñera creates these char-
acters not so that the spectators will identify with them but, instead, so
that the audience will be forced to ponder their own quotidian use of vio-
lence in their personal relationships. This observation departs from many
other considerations of violence given that we are not witnessing the acts of
a war or a political struggle, but the everyday use of violence in our lives.
Dos viejos pánicos
opens with both characters on stage; Tabo has his
back to the audience and Tota is facing the audience. Tabo is engaged in
what seems to be his favorite pastime: recortando figuras de una revista
[cutting out figures from a magazine]Ž (Act 1: 479). With this action, Tabo
initiates his ultimate project, one whose very utterance has a performative
quality that punctuates his desire and his words: Recortar y quemar. Sí,
Tota, hay que quemar a la gente. Ayer quemé doscientas, y hoy pienso
quemar quinientas [Cut out and burn. Yes, Tota, I have to burn people.
Yesterday I burned two hundred, and today I mean to burn five hun-
dred]Ž (Act 1: 480). Tabo, who fears old age and hates youth, believes that
through this action he can control the worlds youth and his own aging
process. To Totas observation that the previous year 100 million children
were born, Tabo responds,
Cien millones . . . (
Pausa
.) ¿Y qué . . . ? Los voy a quemar uno por uno.
Pausa
.) Oye, Tota, óyelo bien: desde hoy, desde este momento, tendré
mucho trabajo. (
Ríe
.) Muchísimo trabajo. (
Pausa. Cuando Tabo dice
P \b\t\n V \t : C\f\r\b \b\t\n A \t\t\b
trabajo,Ž Tota baja de la cama y, con el espejo oculto en la espalda llega junto
a él
.) Quemaré diariamente cien mil recién nacidos, cincuenta mil niños
de cinco años, treinta mil de diez, veinticinco mil de veinte y diez mil de
veinticinco . . .
[One hundred million . . . (
Pause
.) So what . . . ? Im going to burn them one
by one. (
Pause
.) Listen, Tota, listen up: from now on, from this moment,
Ill have a lot of work. (
He laughs
.) A lot of work. (
Pause. When Tabo says
work,Ž Tota gets down from the bed and, with the mirror hidden behind her
back, comes up to him
.) Ill daily burn one hundred thousand newborns,
fifty thousand five-year-old children, thirty thousand ten-year-olds,
twenty-five thousand twenty-year-olds and ten thousand twenty-five-year-
olds] (Act 1: 482).
Inherent in this act, the reader can observe a strong level of violence and
disregard for the other that underlies all of the couples relationships.
Simultaneously, this highlights their powerlessness against the world and
the cowardice that can be seen in burning magazine figures. Tabos act
indicates a hallucinatory quality inherent within it given that what he is
proposing to do is impossible. It is a performative gesture that in its utter-
ance underscores desire as well as its impossibility. Ultimately, burning
figures cut from magazines suggests a perverted violence„while it can be
seen as a violent act, it also implies a disconnect with reality and an inabil-
ity to face that which they most fear. Simultaneously, Tabos actions point
to the symbolic power that resides in the gesture of cutting up and burning
figures that underlines the reality of the situation. Tabo tries to control the
uncontrollable„both his own fear as well as the external world„and ends
up highlighting his
loss
of reality.
Perhaps the most important manifestation of violence in this play appears
in the relationship between the two characters. The text reveals a romantic
history between the two that has, like any other relationship, weathered
difficulties, and perhaps started to sour. Both Tota and Tabo, like many
couples, show conflicting desires for the relationship and often turn to vio-
lence to solicit a wanted response from the other. For example, Tota wants
Tabo to engage in her game and resorts to perverse tactics in order to con-
vince him. She first threatens physical violence instead of helping him with
the magazine photos: ¿Ayudarte a ti, precisamente a ti? La única ayuda que
te daría sería un empujón. [Help you, you exactly? The only help I would
give you would be a push]Ž (Act 1: 479). Tota intensifies the conflict after
Tabo taunts her with her past loves and failures, when, aware of Tabos fear
of old age, she tries to force him to look at himself in a hand mirror:
Tota
: (Con la mano izquierda le coge las manos a Tabo y las aparta de su
cara al mismo tiempo que le pone el espejo frente a la cara.) Mírate.
W A\b\n  V P \b!
Tabo
Se abraza a Tota tratando de quitarle el espejo, que ésta ha vuelto a
ocultar en su espalda
.) Puta vieja, te voy a estrangular, qué te has creído.
¡Egoísta! Conque jugar al juego y Tabo que reviente, ¿no? Acabaste con
mi paciencia, puta mala. Hoy es tu último día. (
Ruedan por el suelo y se
P \b\t\n V \t : C\f\r\b \b\t\n A \t\t\b
violence and blood having been placed at the service of the violence of the
thought„I defy that spectator to give himself up, once outside the theater,
to ideas of war, riot, and blatant murder.
In reference to Latin American theater after the Cuban Revolution,
Albuquerque revisits Artauds earlier assertion in his own study in order to
understand the contemporary use of violence in this new community. In
Albuquerques opinion, violence onstage serves as a way to reflect on the
human condition.
Thus, for both Artaud and Albuquerque, dramatic vio-
lence used onstage becomes a fertile space of dialogue used to counteract an
external, social violence. Fernando Arrabal (whose work has already been
discussed above as influential to
Dos viejos pánicos
) similarly sees a connec-
tion between violence onstage and debates offstage. For Arrabal, violence
appears as an essential element in Panic Theater, given its demands for a
spectacle that provokes terror in its public. Nevertheless, this terror is seen
as constructive and fruitful given that from it the play will stir the spectator
to liberation and action. Ultimately, Panic Theater is a theater of hope and
promise: El pánico es solo un
teatro de la esperanza
: una
esperanza lejana
todavía
(frente a la
inmediatez de la esperanza revolucionaria
). [Panic Theater
is alone
a theater of hope:
still distant hope
(opposite the
immediacy of the
revolutionary hope
).Ž
It is my assertion that Piñeras objective is similar to
the ideas proposed by Artaud, Albuquerque and Arrabal: through the cou-
ples relationship, the audience can reflect on the role of fear and violence
in their own life and society. The play causes the spectators to question and
consider the circumstances before them. The violence is not meant to pro-
voke more violence but instead to force a conversation on what is the place
of violence in our lives and relationships. Thus, Piñeras theater becomes an
instrument that intends to provoke a reaction and an awakening in its audi-
ence through its appropriation of fear towards life and outside authorities
and its employment of violence between the characters.
Another important aspect that can be found in
Dos viejos pánicos
and
relates to the practice of violence in the play is the circularity and repetition
in Tota and Tabos relationship with one another and the games that they
play. Just as in José Trianas
La noche de los asesinos
(1965) where the three
siblings continually rehearse their parents murder, self-made games are
repeated as a means to cope with the contextual surroundings. Primarily,
as has been seen in earlier quotes, Tabo cuts out human figures from mag-
azines in order to burn them, an activity whose frequency needs to be
increased the more he performs it. Similarly, Tabo and Tota repeat regu-
larly the same killingŽ game, a part of their daily routine just like their
evening glass of milk. This duplication suggests the couples need to par-
ticipate in an action that, outside the parameters of the game, they cannot
W A\b\n  V P \b!
reproduce. Their role-playing allows them to take on characteristics that
they are too afraid to enact outside of the game and permits them to ques-
tion their own personalities and the places in which they find themselves.
They find a free space to take on other roles and repeat them to perfection.
As Forster points out, in the couples conversation, there are constant allu-
sions to a script in these games that suggests a certain theatricality to their
role-playing.
Here, the emphasis on games allows us to examine more
closely the use of circularity in
Dos viejos pánicos
and its purpose in the
larger context. In the following scene, Tabo and Tota discuss their game
and Tabo suggests a change:
Tabo
: Estaba pensando que en la próxima sesión de juego podemos hacer
que Tota mate a Tabo y lo entierre en el hoyo.
Tota
: Por poder hacerlo no quedará . . . Ya sabes que cuando uno está muerto
puede hacer lo que quiera. Pero no sé, así de pronto la idea no la veo bien.
¿Qué te propones?
Tabo
: Bueno, como proponerme, nada. Es tan sólo una variación dentro
del juego. En la primera, Tota mata a Tabo; en la segunda, Tabo mata
a Tota.
Tota
: No me parece correcto disponer de Tota y de Tabo para que Tota mate
a Tabo o Tabo a Tota. Ellos están muertos de verdad y ya no podrían
matar. Otra cosa sería si estando vivos aceptaran jugar al juego.
Tabo
: Pero, a lo mejor, Tabo y Tota . . . (
Se calla
Tota
Se para, va a la cama de Tabo
.) ¿Quieres decir que Tabo y Tota se
quedaron con las ganas de matar?
Tabo
: Con las ganas de matar, exactamente, Tabo a Tota o Tota a Tabo.
Tota
: ¿Tú quieres decir que también ellos tuvieron miedo?
Tabo
: A lo mejor . . . Porque, oye, uno ve a la gente y piensa: ese es un tipo de
pelo en pecho o esa es una tipa que se lleva al más pintado por delante,
y un buen día te enteras de que son unos cobardones. O no te enteras,
pero en el fondo lo son.
Tabo
: I was thinking that in the next session of the game we could make
Tota kill Tabo and bury him in a hole.
Tota
: Of course we could do it . . . You know that when one is dead one can
do what one wants. But I dont know, Im not sure if I like the idea.
What are you thinking?
Tabo
: Well, thinking, nothing. Its just a variation on the game. In the first,
Tota kills Tabo; in the second, Tabo kills Tota.
Tota
: I dont think its right to have Tota and Tabo at our disposal so that
Tota kills Tabo or Tabo Tota. Theyre really dead and they couldnt kill
anymore. It would be another thing if they were alive and they accepted
playing the game.
Tabo
: But, maybe, Tabo and Tota . . . (
P \b\t\n V \t : C\f\r\b \b\t\n A \t\t\b
Tabo
: Want to kill, exactly, Tabo Tota or Tota Tabo.
Tota
: Are you saying that they are also afraid?
Tabo
: Maybe . . . Because, hey, you see people and you think: that guy is a
real macho or thats a girl who could take on anyone, and then one day
you find out theyre cowards. Or you dont find out, but in the end they
are] (Act 2: 492…3).
This scene offers us the opportunity to examine the mechanics of the cou-
ples game. Here, Tabo and Tota discuss some possible alterations to their
game of killingŽ one another„each of their self-created performances,
though using the same script, allows for improvisation and innovation. It
is interesting to note that both Tabo and Tota refer to themselves in the
third person, suggesting a disconnection at this moment between their
two selves„the realŽ Tabo and Tota and those of the game. By discussing
themselves as entities outside of the conversation, they detach these selves
from the emotions that are being discussed and they emancipate the Tota
and Tabo that are discussing the game from those who are playing it. In
this way, they gain a distance that allows them freedom and courage to act
upon their own thoughts and wishes. The couple sees themselves as play-
ing a role in a game that they have created and in which they repeatedly
participate.
W A\b\n  V P \b!
a brief respite from the fears of everyday existence, though, as George
Woodyard points out, this is not a way out from circularity: They stay
alive in order to play dead, and playing dead enables them to stay alive. [. . .]
In death they experience the same emotions and the same contradictory
relationships which exist in life.Ž
For both the Absurdists and the Panics,
circularity is just an aspect of life that shows its irrationality and lack of
meaning. For Piñera, in turn, it seems to suggest a need to break from fear
and liberate ourselves from its oppression.
In a turn away from their earlier fighting of one another, Tabo and Tota
begin to collaborate when their attention turns to an outside authority.
This collaboration begins in earnest when they move to the task of filling
out an official
planilla
that they have been asked to do. With the intro-
duction of the
planilla
in
Dos viejos pánicos
, an external power enters into
the play and we can observe what may possibly happen in an imaginary
confrontation between the couple and the authorities they seem to fear so
intensely. The confrontation begins when Tabo remarks that Totas indi-
gestion comes from the fact that a man will come to pick up the
planilla
the
following day. She reacts with fear and states that she becomes more and
more afraid every time she reads the questions. Within this fear, one can
perceive common anxieties expressed when faced with any official paper-
work and the spectator can sympathize with the difficulties of bureaucratic
red tape. Nevertheless, when we hear the questions, this
planilla
seems to
hide a more sinister motive. While Tabo reads aloud Totas questions, they
come to the decision that the
planilla
reveals the immense knowledge that
the questioner has about their entire lives:
Tabo
: ¿Te das cuenta? Saben tanto de ti y de tu vida que son como si fueras
tú misma.
Tota
: Son preguntas que meten miedo. ¿Cómo contesto ésta?
Tabo
: Lo que contestes no va a tener mayor importancia. Fíjate, en el fondo
ellos no preguntan.
Tota
Gritando.
) Y si no preguntan, ¿qué carajo es lo que hacen?
Tabo
Con mucha calma.
) Contestan, contestan por ti. (
Pausa. Pasa la
vista por la planilla.
) Ya te dije que la respuesta de cada pregunta está
en la pregunta siguiente. Así, la pregunta número uno es contestada
por la número dos, ésta por la tres, la tres por la cuatro y la cuatro por
la cinco.
Tabo
: Do you realize? They know so much about you and your life that its
as if they were you.
Tota
: The questions are scary. How do I answer this one?
Tabo
: Whatever you answer doesnt matter. Look, in the end, theyre not
asking.
Tota
Yelling.
) If theyre not asking, what the hell are they doing?
P \b\t\n V \t : C\f\r\b \b\t\n A \t\t\b
Tabo
Very calmly.
) Theyre answering, theyre answering for you. (
Pause. He
looks at the
planilla
) I already told you the answer for each question is in
the following question. So, question number one is answered by number
two, that one by three, three by four, and four by five] (Act 2: 495).
Tabo and Tota come to the conclusion that the
planilla
s purpose is to
reveal to the couple how much the
planilleros
know and, thus, to show
their incessant power over Tabo and Tota. In this way, the titles
páni-
are exposed even further. The intimate details of Tabos and Totas
lives„their previous loves and their reasons for marrying one another„
are uncovered in a simple, official
planilla
that they are to fill out. The
realization that the outside other knows more about them provokes fear
in the couple. The fact that the
planilla
is not questioning but unveil-
ing the depths of official knowledge confirms the very fears, or panic-
stricken thoughts, that they have been professing throughout the play.
Matías Montes Huidobro in
Persona, vida y mascara en el teatro cubano
sees the
planilla
as the introduction of un elemento totalmente absurdo
[a totally absurd element]Ž in that it becomes an all-encompassing cycle
that is impossible to escape.
They become stuck in a circular trap and
the fact that the
planilla
answers its own questions shows its lack of mean-
ing and, I would argue, gives it a meaning that goes beyond the questions
and answers. It is this meaning that frightens Tota. Hidden in this mean-
ing, we can see the more sinister implications of an official body that
knows everything about its subjects, an allusion that can be seen to point
to the Revolutionary government and the increased controls that became
a part of everyday life in the 1960s.
When considering the importance of the
planilla
within the play, we
should turn once again to Arrabal and his Panic Theatre in order to under-
stand its role in
Dos viejos pánicos
. For Arrabal, objects within the con-
text of the theater were regarded as vital to the plays direction. In fact,
Arrabal imagined a theater where the objects would become autonomous
and replace the characters.
As Francisco Torres Monreal points out in ref-
erence to Arrabals use of theatrical objects: Dentro del teatro moderno,
Arrabal es posiblemente el dramaturgo que mejor intuye las enormes posi-
bilidades poéticas del objeto teatro cuyas funciones primordiales seguían
siendo, en la trayectoria realista, las de figurar su papel utilitario o descrip-
tivo de un ambiente o personaje [In modern theater, Arrabal is possibly the
playwright who best senses the enormous poetic possibilities of the object
theater whose primordial functions continue to be, in the realist trajec-
tory, those of representing the utilitarian or descriptive role of an atmo-
sphere or character].Ž
For Arrabal, then, the objects that are used within
the context of a play are not chosen arbitrarily, but are deliberately placed
W A\b\n  V P \b!
within the plays argument in order to signify something more. Thus, if we
are going to recognize a connection between Arrabals Panic Theatre and
Piñeras text, we should examine closely the role that the
planilla
occupies
in this scene and in the play more generally.
It can be easily understood that, for Tabo and Tota, the
planilla
is more
than a simple form that they need to fill out. In
Dos viejos pánicos
, it takes
on a symbolic role that is similar in some ways to that of Fear. With the
planilla
, the outside creeps into and contaminates the inside world that
Tabo and Tota have painstakingly created for themselves. Everything that
they fear outside becomes personified in this questionnaire. By inspiring
fear in the characters, the
planilla
becomes the materialization of that fear
within the scene. For Arrabal, theatrical objects acquire a symbolic and
multivalent interpretation. As Torres Monreal explains, la mayor parte
de los objetos arrabalianos se integran en un mundo de relaciones den-
tro de la ceremonia que justifican su interpretación simbólica (y por ello
mismo plurivalente), por más que el dramaturgo insista en su carácter
realista puramente denotativo [the majority of Arrabalian objects are inte-
grated into a world of relations in a ceremony that justifies their symbolic
interpretation (and for that reason polyvalent), no matter how much the
playwright insists on the purely denotative realist character].Ž
What is
important is to understand the role that the
planilla
is meant to occupy
within the play„its symbolic meaning. Primarily, the
planilla
refers to
official authority„that which Tota and Tabo fear the most. In the couples
conversations, this authorityŽ takes on the role of la oficina de pregun-
tas [the office of questions]Ž and the most important of all, el jefe de los
planilleros [the boss of the
planilleros
],Ž although I believe that it reaches
beyond this single being to encompass all authority figures associated with
what can be thought of as officialŽ business (Act 2, 494, 495). That is,
the
planilla
represents all of the offices before which Tota and Tabo, and
all of those who can identify with their fear of this official bureaucracy,
must yield. In this way, the
planilla
becomes a representation of any figure
that can exercise power and control over Tota and Tabo. Thus, when they
deduce that the
planilla
is not seeking answers from them but responding
to its own questions through its vast knowledge of their life, it becomes
another thing to fear„another
that occupies their lives. The
pla-
nilla
symbolizes their fear.
The culmination of Tabo and Totas struggle with Fear is located
towards the end of the play, when the couple attempts to kill their eternal
enemy, the abstract Fear. The fact that the
planilla
answers its own ques-
tions naturally sparks even more fear and violence among the two, given
that there seems to be no way out. As a result, they turn violent against
one another. In the physical fight that follows, once again they killŽ one
P \b\t\n V \t : C\f\r\b \b\t\n A \t\t\b
another and pass into a realm where fear does not exist, and they are again
capable of actions unimaginable under normal circumstances:
Tota
: [. . .] Ya estoy muerta. Y también tú. ¿No te das cuenta de que estamos
muertos?
Tabo
: ¿Estamos muertos, Tota? ¿De verdad que lo estamos?
Tota
: Te lo juro. A ver, ¿sigues teniendo miedo?
Tabo
Sacando las piernas de encima de Tota, se tiende al lado de ella.
) Ni
pizca de miedo. (
Pausa.
) ¡Qué bien se está así, a tu lado! Ahora podemos
hacer todo lo que nos salga de adentro. Por ejemplo, podemos romper las
planillas. (
Las saca del bolsillo.
) Toma la tuya. (
Se la pone en las manos.
Rómpela. (
Rompe la suya.
Tota
Rompe la planilla.
) ¡Qué felicidad! Es como nacer de nuevo, sin culpa
ni pena. Siempre estamos discutiendo y tirándonos los platos a la cabeza,
pero al final nos ponemos de acuerdo.
Tabo
: De acuerdo, eso es, siempre de acuerdo. (
La acaricia.
) Mi Tota, mi
Totica, qué hubiera sido mi vida sin ti.
Tota
: ¡Y la mía! (
Lo acaricia.
) Mi Tabo, mi Tabito. (
Pausa.
) Me siento tan
feliz que pienso seguir muerta hasta que me muera.
Tabo
: ¡Qué magnifica idea, Tota, qué magnifica idea! Seguir muertos hasta
que nos toque morirnos. Mi vieja, eso es un descubrimiento sensacional.
Pausa.
) ¡En esta casa se acabó el miedo! (
Coge a Tota por un brazo.
) ¡Ven,
vamos a matarlo!
Tota
: [. . .] Im already dead. And you are too. Dont you realize were
dead?
Tabo
: Were dead, Tota? We really are?
Tota
: I swear. Lets see, are you still afraid?
Tabo
Taking his legs off Tota, he lays down next to her.
) Not afraid at all.
Pause.
) Its so nice here, by your side! Now we can do everything that we
want. For example, we can rip up the
planillas
He takes them out of his
W A\b\n  V P \b!
couple working together against a common enemy. Upon observing that
they are no longer afraid, now that they are dead, Tabo and Tota rip up
the
planilla
and, thus, liberate themselves from their past.
The omni-
scient knowledge that the
planilla
exhibits at this point does not provoke
fear, but defiance; they can now destroy not just the
planilla
but all that it
represents. We return to Totas earlier observations that death brings about
a life free of consequences, which, in turn, signals an existence free of
fear. Curiously, this freedom from fear provokes in the two a desire to kill
once again, though their new victim is fear itself„a character that would
seem to have disappeared after they died. Thus, the couples deathŽ at the
hands of the other„a death provoked by their own fear and feelings of
helplessness, but that also liberates them from that fear and helplessness„
provides them with the opportunity to come together again as a couple and
with the ability to transcend their fears and to do away with that which
tyrannizes the two. Furthermore, this desire to kill Fear is a radical move
that indicates their longing to regain control over their own lives. Implicit
in this is a criticism against the official
planilleros
who have driven them to
such extremes through mechanisms of control and repression.
Tabo and Tota track down what they believe to be Fear to one of the
beds that is on the stage. After a struggle, in which Tabo represents the
dialogue of the imagined Fear dying at Totas hands, the two briefly cel-
ebrate before they take away the pillow to discover that once again Fear
has eluded them and escaped. Meanwhile, during the previous struggle on
the bed, according to the plays stage directions, the stage light had been
shrinking until it was nothing more than a small cone of white light that
appears in the center of the scene, the size of a basketball. While the couple
attempts to find Fear underneath the bed and the mattress, the small cone
of light, that now symbolizes Fear, begins to move across the stage until it
is only a meter away from the couple:
Tabo y Tota buscan alrededor de las camas haciendo gestos muy estereotipados
de consternación mientras repiten se fantasmó&#x-12s;&#x-6e ;ú-8;&#xn-9t;&#x-8a-;!s-; m-1;㉐&#x-12s;&#x-6e ;ú-8;&#xn-9t;&#x-8a-;!s-; m-1;㉐,Ž en un tal crescendo que,
finalmente agotados, caen de rodillas con sus cabezas descansando sobre el piso.
En dicha postura se mantendrán un segundo. Entretanto el cono de luz se habrá
movido para colocarse a solo un metro de ellos
[Tabo and Tota look around the beds making stereotypical gestures of dis-
may while they repeat it disappeared,Ž in such a crescendo that, finally
worn out, they fall to their knees with their heads resting on the floor. They
stay in this position for a second. Meanwhile the cone of light has moved to
within a meter of them] (Act 2: 502).
Despite all of their desires and effort, Fear proves to be slippery and eludes
them again. The movement of the light across the stage subtlely, but firmly,
P \b\t\n V \t : C\f\r\b \b\t\n A \t\t\b
reminds them of this. Nevertheless, Tota discovers the cone of light and
the two put on their bravado and try once more to capture it, projecting
their own fear onto the cone of light:
Tota
Se agacha y cuando va a poner sus manos sobre el cono de luz, éste salta
y se fija en la pared lateral izquierda. Lanza una carcajada, se dobla de la
risa.
) Míralo, Tabo; está que se caga del susto. Vivir para ver. Así que
el machazo de la película . . . Ja, ja, ja . . . Anda, baja y métenos miedo.
Vuelve a hacer todo lo que has hecho en tu puñetera vida. (
Pausa, hace
pabellón con la oreja.
) ¿Qué . . . ? ¿Qué . . . ? Eso quisieras. No, el que está
cagado del susto eres tú. (
Pausa, se vuelve hacia Tabo.
) Óyelo, dice que
estamos temblando. Dile algo, Tabo, dile algo con tu voz de capitán
intrépido.
Tota
She kneels down and when shes about to put her hands on the cone
of light, it jumps away and moves to the left hand wall. She doubles over
from laughter.
) Look at it, Tabo; its scared shitless. Live to see the day.
So, the big man of the movie . . . Ha, ha, ha . . . Come on down and scare
us. Repeat everything youve done in your damn life. (
Pause, she cups
her ear.
) What . . . ? What . . . ? Youd like that. No, the one whos scared
shitless is you. (
Pause, she turns toward Tabo.
) Listen to it, it says were
shaking. Tell it something, Tabo, tell it something with your fearless
captain voice] (Act 2: 502).
In this scene, the couple, who violently attacked one another in the previ-
ous act, now work for a common goal. Totas words intend to taunt Fear
and show her own domination of the new circumstances that she and Tabo
have brought about. Instead of inspiring fear, the elusiveness of the light
only provokes contempt from the couple. The earlier act of ripping up the
planilla
has emboldened the two to take on the very monster that haunts
their existence. Yet what is even more amazing is the cooperation that they
are initiating with this new undertaking. It indicates a collaboration that
negates the division between them that we saw before and suggests a possi-
ble return to humanity and the cooperation that begins any union of love.
The optimism and bravado that can be seen here continues when the
cone of light se posa en el pecho de Tabo [rests on Tabos chest]Ž which
is followed rapidly by another on Totas chest (Act 2: 503). In order to
rid themselves of this incarnation of fear (embodied here by light
), the
couple tries to asphixiate the two cones of light between their bodies by
hugging one another fiercely, contrasting strongly with their earlier abuse
of one another:
Tabo
Se abraza a Tota.
) Por ti.
Tota
Se aprieta aún más a Tabo.
) Por mí.
Tabo
Se aprieta aún más a Tota.
) Por ti.
W A\b\n  V P \b!
Tota
Se aprieta aún más.
) Por mí.
P \b\t\n V \t : C\f\r\b \b\t\n A \t\t\b
Tota
: ¿No la resistes, de verdad que no? Pues entonces comeremos miedo
con carne. (
Pausa.
) Y ahora, duerme, mi amor. Hasta mañana.
Tabo
: Hasta mañana. (
Pausa.
) Tota . . .
Tota
: ¿Qué?
Tabo
: ¿Mañana será otro día?
Tota
: Sí, Tabo, otro día, otro día más . . .
Tabo
Suspira.
) Otro día más . . .
Tota
: Y otra noche más . . .
Tabo
: Y otro día más . . .
Tota
: Y otra noche más . . .
Tabo
: Y otra noche más y otro día más . . .
Tota
: Y otro día más y otra noche más . . .
Cuando Tabo dice Otro día más,Ž el telón empezará a cerrarse muy
lentamente.
Tabo
: Tota, what are we going to eat tomorrow?
Tota
: Meat with fear, my love, meat with fear.
Tabo
: Again? I cant do it.
Tota
: You cant, really you cant? Well, then, well eat fear with meat. (
Pause.
And now, sleep, my love. See you tomorrow.
Tabo
: See you tomorrow. (
Pause.
) Tota . . .
Tota
: What?
Tabo
: Tomorrow will be another day?
Tota
: Yes, Tabo, another day, another day more . . .
Tabo
He breathes.
) Another more day . . .
Tota
: And another night . . .
Tabo
: And another day . . .
Tota
: And another night . . .
Tabo
: And another night and another day . . .
Tota
: And another day and another night . . .
When Tabo says Another day,Ž the curtain begins to slowly close
] (Act
2: 509).
While this final moment in the play begins with the reminder of their fear
and its certain return tomorrow, Tota and Tabo recognize that tomorrow
is also another day where the possibility to break free from fear exists. The
quotidian nature of Fear„that it is a daily companion along with their
meals„offers the possibility that they may break free from it and the inevi-
tability of a repetition of their murderous encounter with it precisely because
of their daily practice routine. Repeating every day their own existence free
of fear and the murder of fear implies that someday the dress rehearsals will
end and they will be ready to carry through with their actions. This repet-
itive routine that they reveal in their final exchange uncovers both a pessi-
mism that nothing ever changes and an optimism that some day it may.
However, this optimism is quickly contradicted by the fate of Piñeras
play, given that rather than optimism and change, it faced censorship. It
W A\b\n  V P \b!
is important at the end of this chapter to return to the earlier discussion
of censorship, specifically that of the plays representation in Cuba at the
moment of its writing. It has been established that the objective of much of
the theater written and produced in the 1960s and 1970s, and in general,
is to engage with its audience and, in that way, focus attention on impor-
tant issues and problems of the moment.
Dos viejos pánicos
, like some of
the other plays examined here, was not represented in the context in which
it was written until much later. Thus, the relationship that the playwright
imagined when formulating his play is never established and the conversa-
tion that is initiated is suspended. This was surely due to the controversial
material, the absurd nature of the play, or the fact that its author was a gay
man in a homophobic time. This fate reminds us of the writings of Rene
Girard discussed in the Introduction on the indispensable role of violence
to a community. Girard believed that violence was inevitable and a ritual
violence would allow a society to control these acts.
In this way, we can
consider the awarding and subsequent silence of Piñeras
Dos viejos pánicos
to be a ritual bloodletting that would stem the tide of an all-encompassing
violence. Similarly, it served as a negative example of what would not be
tolerated.
However, in a twist that reveals a certain optimism, despite the lack of
a Cuban premiere, it appears that
Dos viejos pánicos
was read publicly in
Havana. This does suggest the beginnings of a conversation on fear and
the issues explored in
Dos viejos pánicos
in the 1960s in Havana but simi-
larly offers a truncated view of Piñeras initial desire when writing his play.
While a reading of a play does begin to introduce it and its topics to an
audience, it lacks the depth and exploration that a true dramatic produc-
tion has. In this way, Piñeras
Dos viejos pánicos
was never able to culminate
in a production that would couple the playwrights words with the actors
gestures and with the audiences impressions. The play, then, becomes a
different entity that seems to be suspended between the vision of a single
person and the collective production that will continue to question and
provoke as long as it is represented and seen.
The topics of
Dos viejos pánicos
go much further than Virgilio Piñeras
possible political affiliations, even when many of his critics have been
tempted to read coded political commentaries of the particular Cuban sit-
uation in the 1960s. While we can see allusions to the increased control
that marked the 1960s under Castro in Cuba, there are also more general
references that make Piñeras work go beyond the geographical and tempo-
ral contexts in which he is writing. Beyond any of these specific readings,
it is clear that Piñera wants to provoke a discussion on the universality of
fear„that we all have profound fears„and the violence that results from
our desire to hide our fear. Concretely, however, Piñera draws from his
P \b\t\n V \t : C\f\r\b \b\t\n A \t\t\b
own national context and the spectacle that was unfolding before him to
illustrate the inescapability of fear. The violent spectacle resulting from the
fear that Tota and Tabo create alludes to the political and social context of
Havana and Cuba in the 1960s and shows the circularity of fear and vio-
lence. Their violence produces not just violent acts, but at the same time a
complete circuit of violence that, in turn, includes a violent repression of
the self. Thus, there does not seem to be any exit to violence but through
its violent repression or violent expression itself, which can be observed in
the relationship between Tabo and Tota.
Facing violence, there is a certain circularity that can culminate in a
dead-end road. It is in this way (in the exit from violence) that Piñera,
nevertheless, shows his particular humanism. The characters are not
trapped beings in an existentialist labyrinth, but in the end, beings that
find in love, in collaboration, a possible redemption„albeit ironic„
from the violent cycle. In this way, the play discusses the possibilities of
human beings and facilitates a self-criticism of the potential that we all
hide. Remembering Artauds assertions and his theater of cruelty along
with those of Albuquerque in reference to the Latin American context,
Dos viejos pánicos
tries to force the spectator to reflect on the presented
topics and the context that are manifested. Nevertheless, Virgilio Piñera
turns the gaze of his spectators to the internal situation and the eternal
struggles that we all daily fight, causing a self-examination that will pro-
mote a breaking free from this circularity. As one of Piñeras most impor-
tant theatrical works and given where it falls chronologically,
Dos viejos
locates violence first as domestic and quotidian and as a result of
an external source that threatens the characters. Over the course of the
next few years, other forms of violence would be represented dramatically,
such as those related to historical, identity, and spectatorship. In the next
chapter, the topics of revolution, censorship and the past will continue to
be important in the analysis of
Chapter 2
Cobwebs of Memory: History Made
with Violence in Abelardo Estorinos
La dolorosa historia del amor secreto de
don José Jacinto Milanés
(1974)
¿En qué otro país del mundo hay una provincia que se llama Matanzas?
Guillermo Cabrera Infante
Vista del amanecer en el trópico
In
La dolorosa historia del amor secreto de don José Jacinto Milanés
(1974),
Abelardo Estorino (b. 1925) draws on the life of a nineteenth century Cuban
poet and playwright and explores the correlations between that time period
and Estorinos own in a way that reveals the betrayal, violence and pain
that typify Cubas literary community in the 1970s.
La dolorosa historia
like
Dos viejos pánicos
, has an uncertain relationship with stage production.
It was written in 1974 though it did not premiere until 1985, staged then
by the theater group
Teatro Irrumpe
directed by Roberto Blanco. It is a play
that examines the role of violence in the making of history and memory
through the life of Milanés, a figure that allows Estorino to enter into
the past in order to consider history, memory, and betrayal onstage and
simultaneously to allude to the present historical and social moment. The
spectacality of the violence that surrounds Milanés life within
La dolorosa
historia
refers to the (literally) spectacular violence that was being mounted
in the cultural and political context of Cuba in the early 1970s, as was
shown in the introduction with the
caso Padilla
. Just as Piñera explored the
prevalence of fear, Estorinos play affords the playwright a space in which
P \b\t\n V \t : C\f\r\b \b\t\n A \t\t\b
his authorial hand guides the characters and points to the political events
that shaped the 1970s through the past. This historical context is one that
includes episodes discussed in reference to
Dos viejos pánicos
, such as the
definition of the Revolution, the infamous
caso Padilla
and the censorship
that characterized Cuba in the late 1960s and the 1970s and, thus, high-
lights the role that spectacle played in the contemporary context through
the exploration of Milanés life and circumstances.
La dolorosa historia
is divided into seven scenes that revisit an impor-
tant moment of the poet and playwright José Jacinto Milanés life. The
final scene, Delirio [Delirium],Ž which retells his loss of reason, serves
as the center of the plays objectives, by mixing Milanés interior life with
the uprising known as the
Conspiración de la Escalera
[Conspiracy of the
Ladder] in Matanzas in 1844 to question race relations in nineteenth-
century Cuba and identify a parallel between the private and the public.
The violence depicted on stage in
La dolorosa historia
is not limited to that
of the historical rebellion but alludes to the social violence inherent in
slavery and racism. Simultaneously, Milanés questioning of the belief that
violence is needed to purge the past sins recalls the context of the Cuban
Revolution where a new era violently ended an earlier one. The focus in
Estorinos play breaks with a historical circularity that he identifies in the
two moments and reminds the spectator of the stronger regulations around
literature in Cuba that came into effect in 1971 with the Congress on
Education and Culture. By focusing on the use of violence in the por-
trayal of an uprising for social equity in Cuba in the final scene, Estorinos
play promotes a renewed discussion of the Cuban Revolution through
nineteenth-century historical events. Inherent in this temporal parallel,
there is a decided effort to change the canonical viewpoint through a ques-
tioning of the interpretation of past events.
History plays a vital role in
La dolorosa historia
in reference to the life
of José Jacinto Milanés and the nineteenth-century context in which he
lived, as well as that of the immediate past of the 1960s and 1970s in which
Abelardo Estorino writes the play. For this reason, it is necessary to explore
these two distinct historical moments to understand their larger meaning
within the play. Cubas nineteenth century is full of war and injustice.
While many of Spains colonies in the Americas had gained their indepen-
dence, Cuba remained in the hands of the colonial government in Madrid
throughout the nineteenth century. The initiative of the Haitian slave
rebellion at the end of the eighteenth century as well as Spains renewed
commitment to maintaining control of Cuba contributed to its continua-
tion as a colony.
In the Atlantic world of the nineteenth-century, abolition
of slavery was a principal topic of discussion, and the Cuban political and
social elite was no exception. In 1808, the slave trade with British ports was
C\r \r  M "
outlawed and the British government began to pressure Spain to quickly
follow its example. In 1820, in exchange for a payment of 400,000 pounds
to compensate the economic loss, the slave trade in Spain was abolished.
However, it continued illegally for another fifty years, given Spains reluc-
tance to take a stand against the Cuban plantation owners and the lat-
ters fervent desire to continue farming their tobacco and sugar plantations
with slaves.
With this, the scene was set for constant friction between
Cuba and Spain around both the topic of slavery and of independence,
and these debates persisted on the island, as can be seen in the figure of
José Jacinto Milanés.
On the local level, the Conspiracy of the Ladder provided the immediate
backdrop for Estorinos play. Indeed, the final scene of
La dolorosa historia
enacts the execution of the poet Plácido, one of the defining moments of
the Conspiracy. The Conspiracy, taking place in Matanzas in 1844, was an
uprising of slaves, free blacks and white abolitionists in order to end slav-
ery and obtain independence. It was discovered and the supposed planners
were arrested. The free blacks and slaves were accused of conspiring against
the government and tied to ladders where they were tortured until they
confessed or died. The whites were arrested or fled into exile. This period
of repression lasted for about six months and almost two hundred slaves
and free blacks were shot or tortured to death on the ladder. As a result,
life became even more difficult for slaves and free blacks in Matanzas and
Cuba, more generally. Many plantation owners or prominent whites that
were seen to be sympathetic to or involved in the Conspiracy were exiled.
However, since the very days of the Conspiracy, there have been questions
over the authenticity of the events: whether there was an actual uprising
being planned or whether it was a plot to vilify the free blacks and the abo-
litionist and independence movements.
Estorino wrote
La dolorosa historia
in 1974, an important moment that
positions the play to evaluate the legacy of the Cuban revolution and assess
the contemporary moment. The beginning of the 1970s was a pivotal time
in the Revolution. In 1970, sugar, always a central issue in Cuban social
and political circles, given its centrality to economic success, came to take
center stage. The harvest of this year, known in Spanish as the
Zafra de los
diez millones
[Ten Million Ton Harvest], became a very public campaign to
harvest ten million tons of sugar. This was to be by far the biggest harvest
ever, thus providing a moral victory for the Revolution at a time when it was
being questioned at home. However, it fell short of its goal, and the govern-
ment was forced to shift its economic policies to ones that had more realistic
objectives, but that never garnered the same nationalistic fervor of the earlier
effort. This public failure helped to set the tone for the change in political
and social context that would characterize the early 1970s in Cuba.
P \b\t\n V \t : C\f\r\b \b\t\n A \t\t\b
On the political front, the year 1971, witnessed the culmination of
the
caso Padilla
that exploded both nationally and internationally. As dis-
cussed in the Introduction, this episode dated from the 1968 awarding of a
prestigious literary prize for Antón Arrufats play
Los siete contra Tebas
and
Heberto Padillas collection of poems
Fuera del juego
, despite their sup-
posed counterrevolutionaryŽ ideology. Both authors suffered censorship
and alienation from Havanas intellectual circles: Arrufat was relegated to
working in a municipal library, exiled from the theater world, while Padilla
was incarcerated in 1971 and forced to read a mea culpa. In a public spec-
tacle that paralleled much of what was happening onstage, this impris-
onment sparked an international condemnation of the Cuban Revolution
by such staunch supporters as Jean Paul Sartre, Octavio Paz and other
international writers and artists.
Many of the social and political pressures from these events came to
a head in the Congress on Education and Culture in 1971, where new,
harsh regulations were enacted in order to control and monitor the uni-
versity and artistic communities. Publication standards were created to
dictate the essential revolutionary quality of all works published or prized
in Cuba.
As a result, the Casa de las Américas began to award works
that were clearly political and revolutionary in nature, breaking from the
prizes awarded in the 1960s when many of the winners were not openly
political in the same way.
This event is just one of many that took place
during what has come to be known as the
quinquenio gris
, a period of
five years in the early 1970s (1971…1976) known for repression and per-
secution. Although
La dolorosa historia
was not awarded a Casa de las
Américas prize for the year it was published, it is important to consider
this policy change when analyzing the play. While Estorino had generally
written plays that used a realist portrayal of its subject matter and had
thus not seemed to be directly affected by the new regulations, he chose to
indirectly discuss them in
La dolorosa historia
through various strategies
that will be explored later.
The term
quinquenio gris
, translated as Gray Years or Gray Half-Decade,
is particularly interesting, not just for its coining, but also for the fact that
there has been a recent return to it in the last few years.
Quinquenio gris
was first used by Ambrosio Fornet, a coining that he discusses in his recent
El Quinquenio Gris: Revisitando el término [The Gray Years: Revisiting
the Term].Ž This was a paper that formed a part of the January 2007 con-
ference titled La política cultural del período revolucionario: Memoria y
reflexión [The Cultural Politics of the Revolutionary Period: Memory and
Reflection],Ž organized by the Casa de las Américas. This conference is
part of the recent reflections on the past that have set Raúl Castros tenure
apart from his brothers. In this essay, Fornet offers a detailed discussion
C\r \r  M "
of the atmosphere in the 1960s, leading up to the first half of the 1970s.
In the final sections, he turns his attention to the years between 1971 and
1976, the time now known as the
quinqenio gris
. This, however, is only one
of the terms used to refer to these years, another being the
Pavonato
, in ref-
erence to Luis Pavón Tamayo. Pavón was the head of the National Council
of Culture from 1971 to 1976 and was responsible for implementing many
of the policies that would define these years as repressive. Pavón was, also,
reportedly, the real identity of Leopoldo Ávila, the pseudonym for a series
of articles published in
Verde Olivo
beginning in November of 1968.
Verde
Olivo
was the magazine of the
Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias
in Cuba.
These articles were written against the actions and writings of Guillermo
Cabrera Infante, Heberto Padilla, and Antón Arrufat.
It is important to consider the recent reflections on this time period
and terminology that have characterized the twenty-first century and par-
ticularly Raúl Castros government, given that it reveals a desire to exam-
ine the past to make the present and the future more open. To this end,
Casa de las Américas held the conference in January of 2007 of which
Ambrosio Fornet formed a part. Attending and participating were impor-
tant intellectuals and members of the artistic community from both the
early years of the Revolution and those currently active in these communi-
ties. This mix of first-hand participants and the important current voices
on Cuban culture on the island shows a desire to revisit and explore the
past. Nevertheless, this action may also remind the cynical spectator of
the Revolutions repeated rehabilitationŽ of certain figures from the artis-
tic communities after their deaths, Virgilio Piñera being perhaps the best
example.
Abelardo Estorino, who was a witness to these events, was born in 1925
in the province of Matanzas. He studied to become and, then practiced
as, a dentist before joining the Teatro Estudio group in 1960. He is most
famous for his play
El robo del cochino
The Theft of the Pig
] written in
1961, which is often considered one of the masterpieces of the Revolution,
given that it portrays how the theft of a pig by a poor youth breaks apart a
father and son, revealing the fathers bourgeois ideals and the sons nascent
commitment to social justice. Since this play, Estorinos theater has held
a central place on Cuban stages. His plays have typically been identified
as examples of realism, given that they tend to explore topics much more
associated with the quotidian.
Los mangos de Caín
(1967) is Estorinos one
exception to realistic theater. This is a play clearly allegorical in meaning
and often rejected by critics.
Estorino often focuses on familial issues in
the Cuban context, as is the case in
El robo del cochino
„as well as ques-
tions about the revolution and its ongoing commitment. His realist view
of Cuban society permits his works to examine central issues that are often
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ignored, as we see with his dramatic biography of the nineteenth-century
poet and playwright José Jacinto Milanés.
José Jacinto Milanés, a fascinating figure for Estorino and for other writ-
ers in the 1960s, was born in Matanzas (Estorino was also born in the
province of Matanzas) in 1814, the first son of a well-respected family who
had more children than money to support them.
Estorinos play follows
Milanés life closely, focusing on particular moments that concern the plays
overarching themes. Milanés familys lack of means impeded his own edu-
cation, a detail that upset him throughout his life. Indeed, he taught himself
many of the things he had not been able to learn in a more formal setting.
His aunt married a successful businessman, who often helped Milanés
and his family financially and forms a central part of Estorinos play. It is
the daughter of this aunt and uncle, Isabel„Milanés cousin, with whom
Milanés falls hopelessly in love in both the play and real life.
Milanés lived during an important historical moment that was marked
by calls for independence and abolition. He traveled to Havana in 1832,
looking for work but returned two years later to Matanzas. Here, he formed
an important relationship with Domingo del Monte, an influential intel-
lectual of the Cuban Romantic moment, that helped shape much of his
literary work and career.
In 1843 Milanés reportedly fell in love with his
cousin Isa. The potential union was strongly objected to by her parents,
considering his lack of means and professional promise; this rejection is
said to be what instigated his loss of reason in the same year. Milanés
recovered briefly, but re-entered a state of delirium in 1851, in which he
remained until his death in 1863 in Matanzas. While this madness virtu-
ally ended Milanés public life, it is in many ways a source of inspiration
for Estorino and others of his generation.
José Jacinto Milanés is a Romantic playwright and poet whose poems
do not always adhere to strong rhetorical principles of rhyme and rhythm.
His work was more focused on poetic freedom than on holding fast to
lyrical norms. His lyrical work has been divided into two periods; the sec-
ond, beginning in 1843, was marked by a more political focus and has
generally been considered by many critics to be less worthy than his ear-
lier poems. Ideas of these poems included, among others, socio-economic
factors (access to education, distribution of wealth), abolition, and Cubas
independence. Despite critical reservations, many of these poems are
laudable examples for both their themes and their lyricism. Furthermore,
there is a distinct national connection in Milanés work that in retrospect
highlights the fact that he never left the island to live in exile despite his
writings against slavery and for independence and the high number of
other contemporary literary figures who left or were exiled under similar
circumstances.
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While José Jacinto Milanés is most well-known for his poetry, he was
also a successful playwright. His play
El conde Alarcos
is without a doubt
his most successful contribution to Cuban letters. The play, received with
much critical and public praise when it debuted in 1838, was written in
verse reminiscent of Golden Age drama. It takes place in Paris in the
thirteenth century and the plot had had two other dramatizations in the
seventeenth century, one by Lope de Vega and one by Mira de Mescua.
Thus, Milanés appropriates a story that has had multiple manifestations,
creating an intertextuality within the play that lives on with Estorinos
appropriation of it.
Estorinos fascination and use of the figure of José Jacinto Milanés char-
acterizes much of the feeling on Milanés in at least one of the literary
circles of Havana during the 1960s. As Antón Arrufat reveals in his
Virgilio
Piñera: entre él y yo
, Milanés was a popular figure in many of the literary
discussions in Havana at the time, particularly with Virgilio Piñera who
was said to be writing something on him. Arrufat recounts how, in 1974,
Estorino invited a group to a reading of his most recent play, one about
Milanés. It took place at Estorinos home in Vedado, Havana with Arrufat,
Piñera, Estorino, José Triana and Olga Andreu. Arrufat documents the
intense interest that the figure of Milanés inspired in the group, especially
in Estorino and Piñera. This parallel interest in the nineteenth-century
poet suggests a manifestation in the current climate that precipitated a
return to this melancholic literary figure.
Given that Milanés
El conde Alarcos
is one of the earliest plays writ-
ten in Spanish in Cuba, it is only natural that Estorino focuses on him
at a time of new beginnings. Vivian Martínez Tabares points out in her
introductory essay to
La dolorosa historia
in the anthology
Teatro cubano
contemporáneo
, how both playwrights had a deep faith in theaters ability
to paint the heart of its people and their concerns in order to engage with
the audience.
Given the importance that both authors placed on theater
and their own importance to theater in Cuba, it is natural that their paths
should cross literarily. Milanés life, which, as Jorge Febles notes, has been
P \b\t\n V \t : C\f\r\b \b\t\n A \t\t\b
stories and histories both in the past and in the present. His play encour-
ages a critical examination of its material and that to which it alludes by
undoing and rediscovering a rich past that, like an onion, reveals many
layers and facets.
As stated earlier,
La dolorosa historia
did not premiere until 1985, staged
then by the theater group
Teatro Irrumpe
directed by Roberto Blanco.
However, there were rehearsals of the play in the seventies under the direc-
tion of Vicente Revuelta, a well-known member of the Havana theater
community. According to Estorino, in an interview with me in May of
2007, Revuelta began rehearsals in another space because the theater they
were using, the Hubert de Blanck, was under reparations. When the time
came to move back into the Hubert de Blanck, Revuelta delayed the con-
version of the play to this space and the theater needed to move on to
premiere some other work.
There are many possible reasons for this omis-
sion, not least of which is the possibility of censorship, be it official or
unofficial. As was discussed in the chapter on Virgilio Piñera, censorship
was an integral part of the 1970s in Cuba and was employed through var-
ious channels.
La dolorosa historia del amor secreto de don José Jacinto Milanés
is an
ambitious play in both length and characters.
Divided into seven scenes,
the first opens with José Jacinto Milanés death and funeral procession and
also introduces El Mendigo as one of the central characters of the play.
The Mendigo follows Milanés, a Dante-like figure who watches his own
life in the play, accompanying him along the memories of his life. In the
Prólogo [Prologue],Ž Milanés coffin is brought onstage and he walks out
of it. Milanés thinks dejectedly about his only literary success in his own
lifetime: the premiere of his play
El conde Alarcos
in the Tacón theater in
Havana and the Mendigo states that, from now on, this is what his time
will consist of: recordar y repetir, nada más [remember and repeat, noth-
ing more].Ž
These two verbs describe Milanés new existence, subject to
what others are thinking, unable to initiate any new actions.
The play continues through key moments of Milanés life, portraying
him in Matanzas, Havana, and again in Matanzas. Scattered throughout
the work are references to the present moment of Milanés funeral, cre-
ating a dual time period of past and present and alluding to Estorinos
own parallels between Milanés time and his own. This emphasis on
death and the past was of singular importance for Estorino in that it
conveyed the general tone of the play, as he revealed in an interview with
me in May of 2007: es una obra que yo tenía planteada de personajes
que están muertos, que reviven. Todo tendría que estar lleno de cenizas,
de telaraña [it is a play that I thought of as with characters that are dead,
that come to life. Everything should be full of ashes, of cobwebs].Ž
La
C\r \r  M "
dolorosa historia
is a play rooted in the funereal and death; however, using
this confusion of time, it connects to the contemporary moment when
Estorino was writing through allusions to topics and issues central to the
1970s in Cuba.
Delirio,Ž the final scene of
La dolorosa historia
, explores Milanés
loss of reason and the uprising of the Conspiracy of the Ladder. The
scene opens with a conversation between Milanés and Plácido, another
nineteenth-century poet, where the two men compare their career and
work. Though free, Plácido was subjected to many of the same prejudices
against slaves, having African blood, a circumstance that limited his educa-
tion and his career possibilities, but did not stop him from gaining renown
P \b\t\n V \t : C\f\r\b \b\t\n A \t\t\b
many other intellectuals from the same time period. Estorinos choice of a
title, then, speaks to the deep dedication and commitment to the concept
of Cuba that he and Milanés both share, despite political and economic
hardship. However, this is a commitment that can also be seen to contrib-
ute to Milanés reported insanity„a condition to which Estorino is call-
ing attention in his parallel between two particularly complex historical
moments.
The choice of the word secretoŽ in the title alludes to the secrecy that
marked the Revolutions response to intellectual dissent. Censorship can
be seen as a dark and secretive process where some things are allowed to
pass and others are not, as can be seen in the examples outlined earlier
of José Lezama Lima and Heberto Padilla. Estorinos play is allowed to
be rehearsed and appears to have passed with approval the censors eyes.
However, it never receives a proper premiere and remains hidden until the
mid 1980s only seen by a select few. In this way, the secretoŽ points to the
very process of artistic production in Cuba at the time, a process marked
by questions without answers and secret injustices.
La dolorosa historia
begins with extensive stage directions that set the
opening scene. They offer an important view of the direction of the work
by discussing the scene changes, or lack thereof, for the entire play. Estorino
directs that the play should begin with an empty stage and gradually fill up
with objects that serve not only in their most obvious function as props,
but also to create smaller stages on which the actors will unveil the plays
story. These directions are important to understand both the play and
the course which Estorino intends to follow. First, Estorino outlines the
arrangement of the physical stage:
Al comienzo de la obra el escenario estará completamente vacío. Los muebles
y la utilería serán traídos a escena siempre por negros. Una vez que se coloque
algún objeto, éste debe permanecer en escena el resto de la obra, de modo que
el escenario se llenará de muebles, útiles de trabajo de los esclavos, objetos de
adorno, y se crearán caminos, espacios donde actuar y sentarse, aunque no sean
para estas funciones, y tomará el aspecto de un lugar que ha permanecido cer-
rado mucho tiempo, donde nadie ha entrado. Todo debe parecer como cubierto
de polvo y telarañas
[At the beginning of the play the stage will be completely empty. The fur-
niture and the props will be brought onto the stage always by black people.
Once an object is placed, it should remain on stage the rest of the play,
so that the stage will fill up with furniture, tools for the slaves, objects
of adornment. And this will create paths, spaces in which to act or to sit,
although they are not for these things. And it will take on the aspect of
a place that has been closed for a long time, where no one has entered.
Everything should be as if covered in dust and cobwebs] (25).
C\r \r  M "
At the beginning, the entire stage is empty and only fills up as the story
progresses, suggesting that in the beginning there is a clean slate and,
that with time, the space will come to take on meaning. Estorinos direc-
tions construct a scene that is created during the course of the play by the
actual characters (the black characters, or the slaves„an essential detail,
this being a play that takes place in the nineteenth century), thus elimi-
nating the use of stagehands at scene changes. In this way, everyone that
enters the stage is integral to the actual story. It is important also that the
directions state that the objects will be brought on to the stage siempre
por negros [always by black people],Ž in that from the very beginning the
reader-
spectator (or director) must maintain the division of labor that the
time period determines; thus, slavery is visually an important topic to
the production, mirroring the actual historical moment and placing the
issue of slavery at the heart of the debate.
The employment of objects in
La dolorosa historia
is central to the play
in that they are used in part to create the space on the stage itself. The
black slaves bring on various objects that begin to fill the empty space with
which the play begins. Thus, the stage becomes more and more cluttered
and disorderly as the play goes on. This is a mirror image of what is hap-
pening to Milanés himself throughout the course of the play: as the play
and his life advance, his mind becomes more and more disordered, culmi-
nating in the final scene, DelirioŽ which portrays the Conspiracy of the
Ladder as well as his own delirious end. Estorino advises that the scenery
should take on the aspect of un lugar que ha permanecido cerrado durante
mucho tiempo, donde nadie ha entrado [a place that has been closed for a
long time, where no one has entered].Ž This forgotten aspect of the physi-
cal stage represents the metaphorical space of Milanés own literary biog-
raphy as a man who was in many ways left behind while others gained
more national and international recognition (a fact due both to his own
loss of reason and his desire to stay in Cuba when others went into exile).
Simultaneously, this impression of stuffiness that Estorino specifies refers
to the temporal distance between Estorinos own historical moment and
the plays. Thus, the stage for
La dolorsa historia
mirrors the deterioration
that is evident in both the characters and the argument of the play.
Matías Montes-Huidobro, in El discurso teatral histórico-poético
de Abelardo Estorino: entre el compromiso y la subversión,Ž recognizes
the importance of Estorinos empty stage for the plays larger argument.
Montes-Huidobro observes that this emptiness is that of the vacío histórico
[historical emptiness]Ž in which Estorino is placing Milanés and his biog-
raphy. Estorinos aim is to re-form the life and work of Milanés before the
reader-spectators eyes.
Montes-Huidobro maintains that Estorino cre-
ates a historical vacuum in which he paints Milanés and his biography
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with the purpose of creating the nineteenth century poet as a character
in the play. In this way, Estorinos work promotes a vision that creates
Milanés as a character rather than as a historical figure. While I agree that
Estorino is creating an empty space in which his character, José Jacinto
Milanés, will interact, it is likewise important to recognize the role that
history plays within this work. It is my opinion that Estorino is playing
with alternate historical visions in order to provoke questions about these
accepted versions. In this way,
La dolorosa historia
is more complicated
than the
creation
of a character and space given that the character and the
space in which he moves must come together to engage the spectators on a
questioning of canonization.
Estorinos heavy authorial hand continues in the stage directions quoted
above (and those quoted below) by defining precisely the mo
vements and
the presentation of the characters. These characters, much like the stage
setting itself, suggest an earlier time that has long been forgotten and has
likewise become withered and aged.
These characteristics are reinforced
in both the dress and the presentation of the characters:
Los personajes deben recordar objetos de museo, figuras de cera en vitrinas empol-
vadas o momias envueltas en sudarios. Pueden estar vestidos con trajes de la época,
pero en ningún momento darán la idea de riqueza o brillo, sino de algo que está
desintegrándose. Las ropas estarán amarillentas, manchadas, rotas, (no por el uso
sino porque han estado guardadas mucho tiempo). Los personajes estarán maquil-
lados muy pálidos, para lograr cierto romántico aspecto fantasmal
[The characters should remind one of objects in the museum, wax figures
in dusty windows or mummies wrapped in shrouds. They can be dressed
in costumes from the time, but they should not at any moment give off the
idea of money or brilliance, but of something that is disintegrating. The
clothing should be yellowed, stained, ripped (not by use but because it has
been stored for a long time). The characters will wear very pale make up, to
capture a certain romantic, ghostly aspect] (25).
The characters make-up and costume mirror the use of props: they all cre-
ate a scene that marks the progressive deterioration evident in both Milanés
mental state and in his familys social standing. Estorino states that the
characters should resemble deteriorated museum objects, emphasizing the
distance between the subject of the play and its production and the cor-
rosion that has come to pass through time. This quality of aged-ness and
death is emphasized repeatedly here. Similarly, the characters are specifically
made up to be muy pálidos [very pale]Ž in order to evoke a cierto román-
tico aspecto fantasmal [certain romantic, ghostly aspect].Ž This quality in
the characters combines, to a certain degree, a Romantic idealization for a
pale complexion with a ghostly quality that evokes a long-gone past that
C\r \r  M "
has ultimately failed in its utopian hopes. The characters reflect a historical
trend while simultaneously reminding the spectators that this is a past in
deterioration. Furthermore, the historical vantage point of the spectator„
that of knowing that abolition and independence would come slowly and
would not be the all-encompassing solution that was sought„lends the
scene a mythical and spectacular air. Hidden within this disappointment in
what the future will bring, the reader-spectator sees a connection between
Milanés and the play and Estorinos own time. Just as independence and
abolition did not eliminate Cubas dependence on an outside government
or end racism, the Revolution and the socialist ideas it brought did not
offer a quick solution to the centuries of inequality or poor distribution of
resources.
La dolorosa historia
is reminding its public of the difficulties of
change while also pointing out the gaps between promises and realities.
The following stage directions, which open the Prólogo [Prologue],Ž do
even more to illustrate the scene that has been set above. It is at this moment
that the reader-spectator realizes that Milanés has already died and is wit-
nessing his own funeral. Both Milanés and the reader-spectator discover
that the play will revisit certain memories of his past as others remember
them. This scene opens as the funeral procession enters the stage:
Escenario vacío, penumbra, campanadas de duelo. Desde el fondo del escenario
avanza el cortejo de un entierro; los personajes musitan o cantan un poema de
Milanés; traen un libro con sus obras; al llegar al frente se abren en dos filas y
van hacia los lados. Al fondo queda el ataúd, vertical. El Mendigo se acerca y lo
abre; Milanés descruza las manos que tiene sobre el pecho. El Mendigo lo toma
por una mano y lo hace avanzar algunos pasos
[Empty stage, semi-darkness, mourning bells. A funeral procession
advances from the back of the stage; the characters whisper or sing a poem
by Milanés; they carry a book of his works; when they arrive at the front
they break into two rows and move towards the sides. At the back there is
the coffin, placed vertically. The Beggar approaches it and opens it; Milanés
uncrosses his hands from his chest. The Beggar takes his hand and makes
him advance a few steps] (Prólogo 26).
The scene opens on a mournful note, suggesting that the play will not be
a simple exaltation of Milanés life but will question its circumstances.
Nevertheless, there is a space to honor Milanés memory and poetry given
the somber manner with which the processants enter the stage. Throughout
the play, Estorino quotes sections of works or entire poems that violently
cut into his own text. This forces the reader-spectator to remember another
time period and context and bridge the gap between the two. Furthermore,
it lends depth to
La dolorosa historia
itself and allows Estorino to say much
more through the use of intertextuality than would be otherwise possible.
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Montes-Huidobro returns to Estorinos stage directions at the begin-
ning of the plays prologue to underline the importance of the role of
temporality in
La dolorosa historia
. Similar to how he identified a move
towards a historical emptiness in the stage directions that open the play,
Montes-Huidobro maintains that the play puts forth a vacío temporal
[temporal emptiness]Ž that breaks any linear identification with time
despite being a biography. This highlights Estorinos break with the tra-
ditional idea of linearity in order to place the characters in a space beyond
time that will allow the play to function more freely in the past, present
and future.
Montes-Huidobro is right in identifying the centrality that
time and its fluidity occupy in the play. There is much movement on
the part of the characters through memories that take place at differ-
ent moments, shifting the focus from chronology to fluidity. Similarly,
there is much confusion between the period in which the action takes
place and that in which it is written: that is, José Jacinto Milanés time
period versus that of Abelardo Estorino. There are many moments when
the two playwrights seem to identify and connect across the century that
separates them. In this way, there is a vacío temporalŽ that attempts to
function across the past, present, and future and its objective is to ques-
tion and to provoke through the use of these historical issues from the
mid- nineteenth century.
The opening scene, as observed in the quote above, uses a coffin to
illustrate Milanés death, thus immediately signaling the importance that
death will play in
La dolorosa historia
. This lends a more somber air to
the scene, one that is compounded by the fact that Milanés steps out of the
coffin in order to observe his own funeral. Milanés travels throughout the
play as a sort of visitor to his own life and the memories that make up his
life. Despite the seemingly faultless transition that the poet had undergone
to death, it is not completely peaceful, and he rails against being taken
from those he loves and being forced to revisit painful memories. Milanés
cannot leave his current state to return to those who took care of him but
becomes the victim of others memories of him and his life, narrating their
actions and his own emotions:
Milanés
: Vete. Carlota me pone compresas frías, compresas frías. Tengo
fiebre, me ahogo, vete. (
El Mendigo va hacia él. Milanés huye.
) Carlota,
despiértame, ábreme los ojos, ábreme los ojos, los ojos, Carlota. (
Se cubre
los ojos, el Mendigo se acerca.
) Vete, no quiero verte.
El Mendigo se aleja. Milanés se queda en el centro con los puños sobre los ojos.
Un actor del cortejo se acerca con una estaca en cuyo extremo está clavada la
cabeza de un negro. Da vueltas alrededor de Milanés. Los otros personajes del
cortejo restallan látigos. El actor clava la estaca junto a él y cesa el sonido de
C\r \r  M "
los látigos. Silencio. Milanés abre los ojos y al ver la cabeza grita: Sálvame. El
Mendigo se lleva la estaca y vuelve junto a él.
Mendigo
: Ya, ya pasó.
Milanés
: Go away. Carlota puts cold compresses on me, cold compresses.
I have a fever, Im suffocating, go away. (
The Beggar goes towards him.
Milanés flees.
) Carlota, wake me up, open my eyes, open my eyes, my
eyes, Carlota. (
He covers his eyes, the Beggar moves towards him.
) Go away,
I dont want to see you.
The Beggar moves away. Milanés remains in the center with his fists over his
eyes. An actor from the procession moves towards him with a stake on which
a black mans head is nailed to one end. He circles around Milanés. The other
characters of the procession crack whips. The actor nails the stake close to him and
the sound of the whips stops. Silence. Milanés opens his eyes and, when he sees the
head, screams
Save me. The Beggar takes the stake away and goes back to him.
Beggar
: Its over, its over] (Prólogo 30).
Milanés longs for Carlota, the sister who cared for him during the long
years of his illness. Simultaneously, he rejects the Mendigo, a character
that he created in a poem entitled El mendigo [The beggar]Ž hoping to
expel the thoughts embodied in the image out of his mind. Nevertheless,
instead of being liberated from these torments, Milanés is haunted by
visions of torture, embodied in a whip and an executed slaves head„
images which become real at the end of the play. As seen here, the violence
of
La dolorosa historia
is not just a physical one of torture, but encompasses
the inner demons that helped to drive Milanés into insanity. Violence here
is both physical (the dead slaves head) and psychological (the haunting
that Milanés experiences), each one more horrific than the other. Indeed,
the very premise of the play is a violent experience where Milanés is forced
to relive his own excruciating moments while accompanied by a character
he originally created in order to free himself of the shameful memory that
this figure first inspired.
The Mendigo is a central character in
La dolorosa historia
who accom-
panies Milanés through his journey of memories, clearly referring to the
poem El mendigoŽ that Milanés wrote in 1837.
Here, the poet discusses
an encounter with a beggar at the entrance to a dance. In the sixteen stan-
zas of the poem, he contrasts the opulence of the ball (La casa de baile
muy bella lucía: // todo era cortinas y luces y espejos, // y damas vistosas
entrando a porfía // y música dulce sonando a lo lejos: [The dance hall
looked very beautiful: // everything was curtains and lights and mirrors, //
and showy ladies entering in an obstinate manner // and sweet music that
could be heard far off:]Ž) with the presence of a beggar asking for char-
ity as the lavishly dressed, young men enter the hall (Alegres mancebos
P \b\t\n V \t : C\f\r\b \b\t\n A \t\t\b
entraban conmigo // cuando al ir entrando, tendida a nosotros // la pálida
mano de anciano mendigo // pidiónos limosna, negada por otros. [Happy
young men entered with me // when upon entering, stretched out in front
of us // the pale hand of an old beggar // asked us for charity, denied by
the others.]Ž)
Among Milanés commentary on the contrast in socio-
economic class, there is criticism directed at the poet himself and against
the society in general in which Milanés moved given that he answers como
todos [like everyone]Ž: Hecho ya al idioma cruel del agravio // me mira
el anciano y ante mí se pone; // mas yo, vergonzoso, con trémulo labio, //
le di como todos mi estéril
perdone
. [Already made cruel by the offense
// the old man looks at me and places himself in front of me; // but I,
ashamed, with a tremulous lip, // gave him, like everyone, my sterile
excuse
.]Ž This brief encounter with the beggar stays with the poet through-
out the dance and shames him, not just because of the ostentatious show
that contrasts with the beggars lack (Y ostentaban todas, que era fácil
verlas, // sus perlas, sus trajes, como hace una actriz // sin ver que brillaban
sus nítidas perlas // cual lágrimas tristes de un hombre infeliz [And all of
them showed off, it was easy to see them, //their pearls, their dresses, as
an actress does // without seeing that their shining pearls shimmer // the
sad tears of an unhappy man]Ž), but also because of Milanés fears that his
own lack of means is revealed in his rebuff of the beggar: Si acaso pasaba
riendo un amigo, // creí escucharle que hablaba de mí. // Ved: ése no tuvo
qué darle al mendigo, // y viene a reírse y a danzar aquíŽ [If by chance a
laughing friend passed by, // I believed I heard him speaking of me. // See:
that one didnt have anything to give the beggar, // and he comes to laugh
and dance here].Ž The figure of the Mendigo haunts Milanés throughout
the night, which he tries to escape by writing this poem. In a cruel move
that eliminates the escape for which Milanés strove by writing the poem,
C\r \r  M "
Milanés
: Siempre me dio miedo.
Mendigo
: Entonces no debías haber escrito el poema en que aparezco.
Milanés
: Quería liberarme del espanto y ahora estás aquí.
[. . .]
Milanés
: ¿Por qué estás conmigo?
Mendigo
: Alguien piensa que debo acompañarte.
Milanés
: [. . .] (
He looks at the Beggar and recognizes the character of a poem.
Who are you?
Beggar
: Now you remember me?
Milanés
: You always made me afraid.
Beggar
: Then you shouldnt have written a poem in which I appear.
Milanés
: I wanted to free myself of the fear and now youre here.
[. . .]
Milanés
: Why are you with me?
Beggar
: Someone thinks I should accompany you] (Prólogo 29…30).
In this scene, Milanés remembers the fact that he was haunted by the fig-
ure of the Mendigo and was compelled to write a poem about him in order
to liberate himself from the images. While Milanés remains a sensitive
figure haunted by the compelling images that surround him, the Mendigo
takes on a more active and powerful role in Estorinos
La dolorosa histo-
ria
in that he becomes the poets guide through the riveting and violent
memories that comprise the play. In fact, it is interesting to incorporate a
character that the Milanés of the play admits he created in order to forget.
Estorinos inclusion and empowerment of the Mendigo in this play about
José Jacinto Milanés life suggests that Estorinos objective is not to retell
what is already known, but to delve deeper in order to reveal the complexi-
ties of poverty, social marginalization, and mental deterioration that make
up this life. Milanés, then, becomes the means to arrive at other ideas and
issues, such as the Revolution and its promises, the writing and use of his-
tory, and current intellectual practices.
Despite the intimacy that the Mendigo can claim to the poets life,
Milanés himself questions his presence at this crucial moment. The
Mendigos response, Alguien piensa que debo acompañarte [Someone
thinks I should accompany you],Ž reveals the machinations that are at
work behind the scenes in the plays presentation of Milanés biography.
For Montes-Huidobro, this alguienŽ is Estorino himself, the engineer of
the play and of the plays characters.
Montes-Huidobro identifies cor-
rectly that Estorino is creating his own fiction of Milanés life from the
details that he has been able to gather. Thus, to carry this one step fur-
ther, Milanés steps out of the biography of the nineteenth-century poet to
become a character that Estorino is able to use to explore Cubas nineteenth
century and parallel it with his own historical moment. This purpose is the
P \b\t\n V \t : C\f\r\b \b\t\n A \t\t\b
fundamental question for the play and my reading of it. Estorino is the
one to connect once again Milanés with the Mendigo. In what can be
interpreted as a violent gesture, Estorino brings the characters together
again in order to highlight both this contrast in economic distribution
(one that is not limited to the nineteenth century) and the two characters
themselves„one the creator, one the created. In
La dolorosa historia
, this
relationship transforms itself into something new, where both are creations
of something else and thus gain autonomy.
Death haunts much of
La dolorosa historia
. Indeed, the very play begins
with the death of Milanés, thus reversing the normal order of a biography
and almost personifying death as a character that will reappear in the play.
Throughout the seven sections, it remains a principal topic of the play
and intermingles with memory. Estorino underlines how death formed
a significant part of Milanés childhood in that many of his brothers and
sisters died before they could reach adulthood. As seen in the conversation
quoted below between Milanés and his mother, death helped to mark and
form who this nineteenth century poet would become:
Doña Rita
: ¡Qué sabes tú lo que es parir quince hijos! Veintiún años estuve
así. (
Se toca el vientre
.) Uno tras otro, uno tras otro.
Milanés
: Ocho murieron.
Doña Rita
: Ay, Pepe, ¿eso qué importa ahora? Ya todos somos
recuerdos . . . recuerdos . . .
Doña Rita
: What do you know about giving birth to fifteen children! I was
like this for twenty-one years. (
She touches her belly
.) One after another
after another.
Milanés
: Eight died.
Doña Rita
: Oh, Pepe, what does that matter now? Were all just memo-
ries . . . memories . . .] (La familia 33).
Similar to the opening of the play when Milanés funeral procession enters
the stage, the phantom of death enters the play again, but here this scene
explains the poets fascination with death and why it forms a prominent
part of
La dolorosa historia
. Doña Ritas response to Milanés observation
signals the importance death has had for Milanés in contrast with its sig-
nificance for herself and others, for example. At the same time, her words
reflect the role of memory in creating both a life and this particular play.
Death does not just haunt the characters in
La dolorosa historia
but
seems to invade the very location of the play. Milanés (and Estorino, for
that matter) was born in Matanzas, a city and province that connote
death in its very name and history. In the scene quoted below, Milanés is
returning to Matanzas from Havana. The scene opens with the Mendigo,
Zequeira, Josefa la Endemoniada [Josefa the Possessed], and el Sereno [the
C\r \r  M "
Night Watchman], discussing Milanés imminent return and the founding
of his birthplace through violent acts:
: Y autorizó que treinta familias canarias ocuparan las tierras al borde
de la bahía donde los indios perpetraron la matanza que dio nombre a
la región.
Josefa
: Y Matanzas era la bahía.
Mendigo
: Y Matanzas el río que después fue San Juan.
: Y Matanzas las tierras frente a la bahía.
: Y ahora Matanzas es tu ciudad, como lo fue de tus ascendientes,
castellanos de San Severino y alcaldes de la Santa Hermandad.
Josefa
: La Matanzas de tu antepasado José Ignacio Rodríguez de la Barrera,
cura de la iglesia de San Carlos, enviado especial del Santo Oficio, que
vino a la ciudad buscando herejes.
Zequeira
: Tus antepasados eran los más puros, los que podían descubrir el
demonio de los otros. De esa cepa vienes.
: No niegues la tradición. Ven y establece la pureza en la ciudad.
Josefa
: Yo profetizo: en esta ciudad se cometerá la mayor matanza de negros
en nuestra historia. Los perseguirán como fieras, los atarán a una escal-
era y los azotarán hasta desangrarlos. Ven, no te pierdas ese espectáculo,
aprende a hacer historia.
Sereno: And he authorized thirty families from the Canaries to occupy the
lands on the edge of the bay where the Indians perpetrated the massacre
that gave the region its name.
Josefa
: And Matanzas was the bay.
Beggar
: And Matanzas the river that was later San Juan.
: And Matanzas the lands across from the bay.
: And now Matanzas is your city, just like your ancestors, Castilians
from San Severino and mayors of the Santa Hermandad.
Josefa
: The Matanzas of your ancestor José Ignacio Rodríguez de la Barrera,
priest at the church of San Carlos, especially sent by the Holy Inquisition,
that came to the city looking for heretics.
Zequeira
: Your ancestors were the most pure, the ones that could discover
the devil in others. Those are your roots.
: Dont deny tradition. Come and establish peace in the city.
Josefa
: I profetize: in this city, the biggest massacre of blacks in our history
will be committed. Theyll pursue them like demons, theyll tie them to
ladders and whip them until they bleed. Come on, dont miss that spec-
tacle, learn to make history] (Matanzas 54…55).
In this scene, the four characters focus their attention on the city of
Matanzas, Milanés home. Their exchange concentrates first on locating
Matanzas and then turns to the violent events that have formed the city.
Their conversation recalls the distinguished past of Milanés family in the
province of Matanzas and parallels, in this way, Milanés own personal
P \b\t\n V \t : C\f\r\b \b\t\n A \t\t\b
history of loss of status. Thus, the characters inscribe him within a tra-
dition of violence that cannot help but leave its mark on the poet and
playwright.
The characters in this scene are important, given that they turn atten-
tion to their own role within this biographical work. In the beginning
of
La dolorosa historia
, Estorino classifies his
Dramatis Personae
into nine
different categories depending on their relationship to Milanés. These
four characters are classified within La imaginación de Milanés [Milanés
imagination].Ž This classification marks them as different from others
who fall into groups such as La familia de Milanés [Milanés family],Ž
Los amigos [Friends],Ž or Los negros [The Blacks],Ž despite the fact
that Zequeira, for example, did exist. Nonetheless, Estorino puts them
all within the category La Imaginación de Milanés,Ž an important point
given that this poet is dead and can only move through Milanés memo-
ries in his imagination. This is an essential detail that, when joined with
the fact that Zequeira was also a poet who suffered a loss of reason that
accompanied him to his death, sheds light on the groupings. Both Milanés
and Zequeira, along with Josefa la Endemoniada, are marginalized figures
who, because of their madness, do not function as others in the play do.
The Mendigo, in turn, is the product of Milanés, a man without reason,
and thus belongs with the marginalized.
Taking full advantage of the literary past, Estorino uses fragments of
Milanés literary work at moments throughout
La dolorosa historia
to con-
nect a certain life memory with the nineteenth-century poets lyrical work.
Quotation is an important strategy that here amounts to a violent gesture
that blurs literary genres. The first fragment of a poem by Milanés appears
in the PrólogoŽ and is provoked by the smell of flowers:
Mendigo
: [. . .] ¿Te llega el olor de flores?
Milanés
: Azucenas.
Mendigo
: Sí, había muchas. Y dalias, dalias enormes, rosas, madreselvas,
todas blancas. Flores blancas llenaban la casa.
Milanés
: Cuando mi hermano menor
huyó tronchado en su flor
de este universo ilusorio,
le mandó mi padre ornar
de flores, y rodear
con los cirios del velorio
Mendigo
: ¿Quién estará recordando esos versos?
Milanés
: Yo los recuerdo.
Mendigo
Suelta una carcajada
.) No recuerdas ni versos, ni flores, ni cam-
panas, ni sollozos. Nada.
Beggar
: [. . .] Do you smell flowers?
C\r \r  M "
Milanés
: Lilies.
Mendigo
: Yes, there were many. And dahlias, enormous dahlias, roses, hon-
eysuckle, all white. White flowers filled the house.
Milanés
: When my younger brother
fled cut short in his flower of life
from this illusory universe,
my father sent him to decorate
with flowers and to surround
with candles the wake
Mendigo
: Who could be remembering those lines?
Milanés
: I remember them.
Mendigo
He laughs
.) You dont remember lines, flowers, bells, or sobs.
Nothing] (Prólogo 26…27).
As the spectator-reader can observe from this scene, the poem is seemingly
inspired by the smell of flowers, but the Mendigo reveals that Milanés is
reciting his poem that has been inspired by what
someone else
is remember-
ing. Milanés memories are no longer controlled by himself but by outside
forces. The role of outside influences is a common element of all artistic
works. Milanés literary production, as we have seen, was often aided by
outside forces (prompted by the presence of Domingo del Monte, inspired
by socio-economic conditions or the smell of flowers, among other things)
as was the work of many writers in the moment Estorino was writing.
The inclusion here of a poem within the lines of a play is not completely
unusual, given that the two genres often intermingle. Indeed, plays were
often written in verse, thus making even more natural the connection. In
La dolorosa historia
P \b\t\n V \t : C\f\r\b \b\t\n A \t\t\b
borders in his play.
La dolorosa historia
tries to undo genres and groups
in order to move beyond classifications. Estorino uses another period
and playwright to force the spectator to look again at the present time
and situation. In this way, a dialogue is initiated with the public that
attempts to revisit history to understand more fully both the events and
their consequences.
In the final section of the above scene, the Mendigo reveals that Milanés
thoughts and memories now materialize from the memories of those who
are still alive and remember him. Milanés cannot remember his life on his
own but is prompted by how others are thinking of him. This concept,
a difficult one to understand at first for both the spectator and Milanés,
is made known progressively throughout this scene by the Mendigo and
brings both loving and painful memories with it as Milanés discovers that,
though he is gone, he will be remembered:
Tienes que acostumbrarte. Ellos seguirán recordándote: Carlota, Federico,
harán un culto a tu memoria; publicarán tus versos una y otra vez; contarán
anécdotas, recordarán tu niñez, la escuela, los primeros versos, después el
éxito . . .
[You have to get used to it. Theyll continue remembering you: Carlota,
Federico, theyll make a cult to your memory; theyll publish your poems
again and again; theyll tell anecdotes, theyll remember your childhood,
school, your first poems, afterward success . . .] (Prólogo 28).
Milanés journey is determined by other peoples thoughts and must
bend to what they think, a frightening concept despite Milanés last
years of delirium, as can be seen when the Mendigo (Milanés own crea-
tion) consoles him with a hug. Nevertheless, Estorinos assertion that the
deceased are subject to the memory of the living is an important obser-
vation, especially in reference to Milanés. Federico Milanés, Milanés
younger brother and the only other
male child to su
rvive to adulthood,
was also a poet, though he is mostly remembered today for either his
poetry dedicated to his brothers memory or for the fact that he edited
his brothers works.
Forgetting is a common fear for Milanés throughout
La dolorosa histo-
ria
despite (or perhaps because of) the fact that the entire play is formed of
memories of Milanés life. He worries at various points that the living will
forget him, a fear that both Federico (and Carlota in another scene) tries
to assuage in him:
Federico
: Pasará el tiempo y yo contaré que te quedabas leyendo y diré que
tuviste que aprender solo porque no teníamos dinero para ir a un buen
colegio.
C\r \r  M "
Milanés
: Pasará el tiempo y lo leerán y nos criticarán y no comprenderán todo
el trabajo que nos costó vivir aquella época. Y después nos olvidarán.
Federico
: Yo haré que no se olviden.
Milanés
: Siempre confié en ti.
Federico
: Time will pass and Ill tell how you would continue reading and
Ill say that you had to learn on your own because we didnt have money
for you to go to a
good school.
Milanés
: Time will pass and theyll read it and theyll criticize us and they
wont understand how hard it was to live at that time. And then theyll
P \b\t\n V \t : C\f\r\b \b\t\n A \t\t\b
to his memory„oftentimes at great sacrifices to their own success and
happiness:
Federico
: Nosotros no te olvidamos nunca.
Carlota
: Guardamos tus papeles.
Federico
: Imprimimos tus poemas.
Carlota
: Te llevamos flores al cementerio.
Federico
: Conservamos tu cuarto como lo tenías.
Carlota
: Dedicamos el resto de nuestros años a tu memoria.
Federico
: La casa se convirtió en altar.
Carlota
: Rechacé a los pretendientes.
Federico
. Tus poemas se hicieron populares.
Carlota
: Y me vestí siempre de negro.
Federico
: We never forgot you.
Carlota
: We saved your papers.
Federico
: We printed your poems.
Carlota
: We took flowers to you at the cemetary.
Federico
: We kept your room as you had it.
Carlota
: We dedicated the rest of our years to your memory.
Federico
: The house was converted into an altar.
Carlota
: I refused suitors.
Federico
: Your poems became popular.
Carlota
: And I always dressed in black] (Matanzas 58).
Both siblings profess here that they never forgot their deceased brother and
did all they could to ensure that, through their actions, others would not
forget Milanés and his work. Their words testify to the fact that they pre-
served his memory against oblivion through a violent suspension of what
they themselves were living in order to remember their brother.
Milanés preoccupation with forgetting contrasts sharply with the role
of his own memories in the play. Since what he remembers is controlled by
those who remember him, Milanés cannot prevent re-experiencing pain-
ful memories„particularly those that Estorino brings up from his trip to
Havana and his subsequent return to Matanzas.
Milanés
: ¡Basta! No quiero recordar más.
Mendigo
: Eso te tocó vivir.
Milanés
: Qué dolor esa ciudad perdida. Y hay otros sucesos esperando, lo sé.
Como la caja de Pandora, levantas la tapa y salta la sangre.
Milanés
: Enough! I dont want to remember anymore.
Mendigo
: Thats what you lived.
Milanés
: What pain in that lost city. And there are other things wait-
ing, I know. Like Pandoras box, you lift the top and blood splatters]
(Tertulia 68).
C\r \r  M "
Remembering is not a particularly easy task for Milanés. His memories,
not controlled by him nor tainted with the rose-colored lenses that many
use to remember, become a violent monster that haunts him throughout
the play and causes him to relive the very moments that are most painful.
In this way, death wrenches him from the madness that allowed him to live
in his own world, free of the quotidian pain that accompanies life.
Theater is another part of the plays meta-discourse. In the scene
Tertulia,Ž the discussion turns to theater by reproducing Domingo del
Montes
tertulias
(or literary gatherings), which brought together many
of the great literary minds of the Cuban nineteenth-century, del Monte,
Ramón de Palma, and Cirilo Villaverde, to talk about the topics of abolition
and independence.
There is a juxtaposing split in the action on the stage
between the conversation at the
and the physical labor of the slaves
that emphasizes the central project of
La dolorosa historia
: while the men
are talking, the scene focuses on a group of slaves working and the overseer
watching over their work. The four literary men discuss the role of theater
in society and in the Cuban context in particular. This discussion is of par-
ticular interest in the life of Milanés and the play
La dolorosa historia
as well
as the contemporary context in which Abelardo Estorino is writing, given
the many parallels that can be traced between the two periods:
Milanés
: El teatro es más difícil que la poesía.
Villaverde
: Sí, es cierto. Los pueblos nuevos viven más la vida del sentimiento
o la poesía, que la vida del juicio o la meditación.
Milanés
: El drama no sólo debe pintar el exterior del hombre sino también
su interior. Y entre nosotros debe expresar una deducción moral que nos
saque de la impasibilidad en que vivimos.
Palma
: No podemos tener teatro: somos un pueblo sin historia.
Del Monte
: Cállese, pesimista a la moda. (
Risas
.) Discutí mucho con
Heredia: hay la posibilidad de un teatro Americano, olvidándose del
fatalismo griego. Huáscar, ése es un tema; Huáscar atrayéndose la cólera
de su padre, las disensiones de Huáscar y Atahualpa, la sangrienta jor-
nada de Cajamarca.
Villaverde
: No sé qué pensar. Hay escritores y público que no están dispues-
tos a escribir ni a oír hablar de otra cosa que de dinero, de negocios, y
de empresas. Y si acaso de diversiones, chistosas o ridículas, cuando no
escandalosas.
Milanés
: Theater is harder than poetry.
Villaverde
: Yes, thats true. New lands live more the life of sentiment or
poetry, than the life of judgement or meditation.
Milanés
: Drama shouldnt only portray the exterior of man but also his
interior. And between us it should express a moral deduction that jolts
us out of the impassivity in which we live.
Palma
: We cant have theater: we are a people without history.
P \b\t\n V \t : C\f\r\b \b\t\n A \t\t\b
Del
Monte
: Be quiet, fashionable pessimist. (
Laughs
.) I talked a lot with
Heredia: there is the possibility of a theater of the Americas, with-
out Greek fatalism. Huascar, thats a topic; Huascar drawing his
fathers anger, the dissention of Huascar and Atahualpa, Cajamarcas
bloody day.
Villaverde
: I dont know what to think. There are writers and a public that
are not capable of writing or listening to anything other than money and
business. And maybe of funny or ridiculous diversions, as long as theyre
not scandalous] (Tertulia 70…71).
These four men use the idea of theater to discuss their national context
and its potential for independence. It is interesting that the subject of their
discussion is exactly the product that the spectator-reader is taking in.
Theater here is explored as a viable literary option in the Cuban colonial
context.
Milanés (perhaps echoing Estorinos own thoughts) believes it
to be a difficult project that should examine all sides of its characters and
subject matter.
After this discussion on the purposes of theater, Milanés presents a
scene from his famous play
El conde Alarcos
. In Estorinos dramatization
of a scene of
El conde Alarcos
, Milanés reads the part of the count and El
Español [Spaniard] plays that of El Rey [The King]. In the written text,
however, Estorino designates ALARCOSŽ and REYŽ for only the first
two exchanges and then uses MilanésŽ and EL ESPAÑOLŽ to mark who
is speaking, effectively collapsing Milanés dramatic identity with that of
Alarcos. The written text mirrors what would be obvious for the spectator:
a confusion of Milanés with Alarcos and El Español with El Rey. This
detail obscures the use of Milanés play within Estorinos play and creates a
blending of the two plays and the two different sets of characters, suggest-
ing that the master-slave relationship that Milanés portrays in his adap-
tation of a thirteenth-century story can see its mirror image in his own
nineteenth (and, then, in Estorinos twentieth) century. On a further note,
the scene that is reproduced is where the count admits to being married
and the king orders Alarcos to murder his wife. The king states that the
count is his slave and thus must do what he orders: Tú eres esclavo mío. //
Conde, no hay más que decir // sobre lo dicho. Ella tiene // esta noche que
morir [You are my slave. // Count, there is nothing more to say // about
whats been said. She must // tonight die]Ž (Tertulia 89). By highlighting
this language in the scene, Estorino underlines Milanés commitment to
freedom along side his condition of marginalized figure.
The twentieth-
century playwright is pointing out that Milanés was fully aware of the
parallels between the centuries of slavery in all its forms, a connection
between time periods that Estorino is also underlining in his own play.
Like Milanés connecting his nineteenth century to Alarcos thirteenth,
C\r \r  M "
Estorino uses the debates on abolition and independence of the nineteenth
century to focus on the ideas of Revolution and dissenting voices in his
own 1970s. These confusions of time periods and characters offer a way of
refocusing attention to the eternal debates on politics and social context.
In this way, the reader-spectator is prepared to make connections between
historical events, a connection that will culminate in the final scene of
the play.
In
La dolorosa historia
, violence manifests itself in many ways; physical
violence is one of the most prominent, as can be seen at the end of the play
during the slave rebellion in Matanzas and its bloody repression by the gov-
ernment and local plantation owners in the Conspiracy of the Ladder. The
brutal violence that this entails seems to infect everything surrounding the
events and makes it impossible to exist outside of it. In the following scene,
Pastora, Milanés aunt, enters with a large knife, the physical evidence of
the violence that surrounds them. The two frantically verbalize their own
reactions to the bloodshed that marks their surroundings:
Pastora
: Hay que limpiar. Buscaré agua y jabón y no quedará una sola
mancha.
Milanés
: La sangre no puede limpiarse, se adhiere a las cosas en coágulos
cárdenos.
Pastora
: Agua, mucha agua. No quedará una sola mancha. Quiero que todo
sea impoluto y reluzca.
Milanés
: A mis niñeces volvedme gratas,
que ya volaron como nubes.
Transición
.) Es inútil.
Pastora
: Me destrozaré las manos purificándolo todo.
Milanés
: Siempre queda un coágulo oculto. Es mejor levantar el cuchillo
Se abre el cuello de la camisa, se palpa buscando un lugar
.) ¡aquí!
Pastora
: We must clean. Ill find soap and water and there wont be a sin-
gle spot.
Milanés
: Blood cant be cleaned, it adheres to things in purple clots.
Pastora
: Water, a lot of water. There wont be a single spot. I want every-
thing spotless and shining.
Milanés
: To my childhood return me happily,
which already flew away like clouds.
Transition
.) Its useless.
Pastora
: Ill destroy my hands purifying all this.
Milanés
: There will always remain a hidden clot of blood. Its better to raise
the knife and . . . (
He opens the neck of his shirt, he feels around looking for
a place
.) here!] (El amor 102).
Here both characters express their own exasperation and incomprehension
of what has happened. They speak at, rather than with, one another in
P \b\t\n V \t : C\f\r\b \b\t\n A \t\t\b
disbelief and horror without seeming to hear or understand what the other
is saying. Though both react strongly against the violence that has taken
place, these reactions are also violent in their strength„their words and
actions are extreme. Milanés and Pastora mirror one another in intensity,
but not in action. Pastoras reaction is to scrub desperately the surfaces that
have been soiled, destroying her own body in order to erase what has hap-
pened. Milanés, in turn, sees no way to erase the bloodshed around him
but by offering himself as a sacrificial victim in exchange, an action with
which he will follow through in the last scene of the play. Like René Girard
stated in
Violence and Sacrifice
, despite their differences, both responses
show that violence must be answered with more violence. Their violent
intensity suggests that the only response to violence is more violence, cre-
ating a circularity of violence that does not allow its victims to be released
from its burden.
This circularity of violence is underlined by the memories of another
dramatic scene in Revolutionary Cuban theater: that of Lalo from
La noche
de los asesinos
(1965) with the knife that he supposedly used to kill his
parents at the end of the first act. The image of Pastora with the bloody
knife recalls this pivotal scene and though the responsibility of the act is
different in the two plays, the connection is identified in how the simple
image of the knife poignantly recalls the three siblings and their violent
efforts to break free from their parents yoke. In
La dolorosa historia
, the
knife similarly connotes ideas of intense violence and circularity, alluding
both to Cubas past and present.
The last scene Delirio [Delirium]Ž is the most important one in the
play. It is here that Milanés life culminates alongside the historical events
from 1844 that permanently marked the province of Matanzas. The scene
opens with an encounter between Plácido and Milanés in which the two
talk about their nations position within their history and their future.
Plácido attracted the negative attention of the Cuban government and elite
due to his poetry and was targeted during the Conspiracy of the Ladder.
He was executed publicly in 1844 in Matanzas; it is at the moment after his
execution that Milanés and he discuss the political situation in Delirio.Ž
At this point in the play, Plácido has just been executed and his head and
shirt are full of his own blood, making him a grotesque physical reminder
of the brutality and violence that marked the repression. Plácido points out
a similarity between the two men: Hay algo que nos iguala, mi muerte y
tu delirio [Theres something that equals us, my death and your delirium]Ž
(Delirio 104). At the same time, Plácido calls attention to the differences
between their lives and the privileges that Milanés has enjoyed thanks to
his race and social situation, compared to Plácidos existence as an illegiti-
mate mulatto during slavery. The two first express disbelief at the savagery
C\r \r  M "
in slavery and they both condemn these actions, though their words rec-
ognize the different level of guilt and complicity that the two have in the
present situation:
Milanés
: Me asombra la gente que goza viendo cómo dos animales se
destrozan.
Plácido
: Odio a la gente que goza atando a un negro.
Milanés
: Yo también.
Plácido
: Lo sé, por eso puedo hablar contigo. No estoy tan envilecido.
Milanés
: Perdóname.
Plácido
: Te perdoné hace tiempo.
Milanés
: Im shocked by people who enjoy watching two animals destroy
one another.
Plácido
: I hate people that enjoy whipping a black man.
Milanés
: Me too.
Plácido
: I know, thats why I can talk to you. Im not that debased.
Milanés
: Forgive me.
Plácido
: I forgave you a long time ago] (Delirio 105).
While Milanés reaction denounces the thirst to see blood that he identifies
in some people, Plácido reminds him of what man does to his fellow man
because of race. Milanés answer is to ask for Plácidos forgiveness, thus
recognizing his complicity in slavery and racial injustice. Nevertheless,
their conversation continues and turns to more personal issues. Milanés
questions Plácidos decision to write what he considers inferior poetry, not
being able to understand Plácidos deeper reasons and marking a funda-
mental difference between the two poets:
Milanés
: Escribí aquel poema irritado al cómo desperdiciabas tus dotes.
Molesto
.) ¿Cómo podías escribir aquellas odas, cantar el cumpleaños de
una niña tonta, ensalzar a un viejo gordo y gotoso cargado de dinero?
No puedo entenderlo.
Plácido
: Es muy simple. Tenía ruidos en la barriga y había que llenarla, si
no el estruendo cubriría la Isla. (
Tono confidente
.) Y podían acusarme de
subversivo. Infidencia, es la palabra exacta.
Milanés
: Yo tampoco era rico.
Plácido
: Pero tú eras blanco.
Milanés
: Había que ser inflexible, no ceder ante la corrupción.
Plácido
: No, no, Milanés, había que vivir. La Isla entera convidaba a vivir.
Tú lo sabes. Mucho azul y mucho verde y el aire embalsamado de las
madrugadas.
Milanés
: Vivir con decoro o enloquecer.
Milanés
: I wrote that poem irritated at how you wasted your talents.
Annoyed
.) How could you write those odes, sing the birthday of
P \b\t\n V \t : C\f\r\b \b\t\n A \t\t\b
a stupid girl, praise a fat, gouty old man with money? I couldnt under-
stand it.
Plácido
: Its very simple. I had rumblings in my belly and I needed to fill it,
if not the roar would have covered the Island. (
Quietly
.) And they could
accuse me of being subversive. Treason, is the exact word.
Milanés
: I wasnt rich either.
Plácido
: But you were white.
Milanés
: One needed to be inflexible, not to cede before corruption.
Plácido
: No, no, Milanés, one had to live. The entire Island invites one to
live. You know that. A lot of blue and a lot of green and the balmy air
of the mornings.
Milanés
: Live with decorum or go crazy] (Delirio 105).
Plácidos response to Milanés reveals basic differences between the two
poets: Plácido was driven to celebrate occasions that Milanés (and Plácido
himself) considered to be unworthy of poetry. In effect, for Milanés, he is
selling his talents to the highest bidder. Plácido, in turn, replies that he was
protecting himself from hunger and from political persecution, a defense
that Milanés cannot comprehend. This difference in the two reveals the
primary distinction that race played (and plays) in determining lives. At
different points in
La dolorosa historia
, the present moment connects to an
earlier one, finding how the two can connect across the years. Here, we
see one of those moments, where Estorino finds in Plácido and Milanés
conversation a link to the idea of complicity and political implication that
characterized 1970s Havana. Just as Milanés cannot understand Plácidos
seeming collusion, Havanas artistic community in the 1970s was charac-
terized by questions of complicity or accusations of support of revolution-
ary and counterrevolutionary ideas.
For Milanés, a white man from a well-respected, though poor, family,
survival meant something different than that which it meant for Plácido, an
illegitimate mulatto whose only ambition could be to become a hairdresser
or a carpenter. As the two men continue this conversation, Plácido tries
to reveal what race meant in nineteenth-century Cuba. It is important to
remember that throughout this conversation, the signs of savagery are pre-
sent in Plácidos bloody body, recalling for the audience his violent end:
Plácido
: Tú pertenecías al mundo, era un mundo blanco.
Milanés
: En ese mundo blanco yo no pude estudiar, en ese mundo blanco
fui rechazado por mis parientes, en ese mundo blanco sentí tanto asco
que prefiero mi silencio.
Plácido
: En ese mundo blanco tú podías elegir. Yo no. Yo era rechazado
porque mi padre había sido un mulato cuarterón, y sólo podía ser:
carpintero, peinetero, músico. Decidí ser poeta. Y se la cobraron. No les
gustó que yo eligiera. Qué atrevimiento el de ese mulato que no se da
C\r \r  M "
su lugar y quiere igualarse a nosotros y usar el idioma castellano, blanco,
como si fuera el suyo. Y además lo emplea bien y el pueblo lo aclama, lo
admira, lo busca, repite lo que dice. Es demasiado atrevimiento.Ž Y ese
mundo blanco inventó una conspiración fantástica para acabar con un
mundo mulato que se iba formando. Y por aquí entró la bala.
Plácido
: You belonged to the world, it was a white world.
Milanés
: In that white world I couldnt study, in that white world I was
rejected by my relatives, in that white world I felt so much disgust that
I prefer my silence.
Plácido
: In that white world you could choose. I couldnt. I was rejected
because my father had been a quadroon, and I could only be a carpen-
ter, hairdresser or musician. I decided to be a poet. And they made me
pay. They didnt like that I had chosen. How dare that mulatto not
know his place and want to be our equal and to use the white, Castilian
language as if it were his. And besides that he uses it well and the people
love him, admire him, seek him out, repeat what he says. Its too much.Ž
And that white world invented a fantastic conspiracy to put an end to
the mulatto world that was forming. And here is where the bullet went
in] (Delirio 105…106).
This entire scene touches on many of the important issues that can be
found in both the play and Cuban society, at large. First, there is an imme-
diate emphasis on the role of race and class in both the poets perceptions
of the world that surrounds them and their reception by it. Plácido points
out that his life is determined by being mulatto; his choices are limited
and the people around him mark his difference and consider his literary
efforts as an affront because of his race. Milanés, on the other hand, sees
the similarities in limitations between the two lives and cannot understand
that Plácido would abandon his talent and write poetry that was beneath
him. While Milanés experience is also limited by financial restraints, he
cannot fathom how Plácido could be driven to ceder ante la corrupción
[cede before corruption].Ž Plácido, in turn, sees his own actions as survival,
counteracting the very prejudiced beliefs that would have him executed.
Here Plácido finds himself in a similarly contradictory space as that in
which Jill Lane in
Blackface Cuba
identifies Juan Francisco Manzano as
occupying. For Manzano, despite (or precisely because of) his achieve-
ments and his literary worth, according to a white readership, it is the very
act of being a slave able to write that places him in the position of a special
exhibit, a spectacle of marvelous social contradiction.Ž
Plácido is a paral-
lel contradiction, where the act of writing sets him apart and is what saves
and condemns him simultaneously, remarkable circumstances that were
not binding to Milanés, given his race.
The central part of this scene and of the entire play occurs when the
characters begin to speak about and use torture as a method of control„of
P \b\t\n V \t : C\f\r\b \b\t\n A \t\t\b
an other, of the situation, of ones self. First, Polonia, a black slave owned
by Esteban Santa Cruz de Oviedo, is dragged onto the stage where she
reveals the rebellion leaders plan to attack and kill the white men. The
Governor orders an investigation and Oviedo, along with Francisco
Hernández Morejón, captures a group of escaped slaves who they believe
to be in on the rebellion. The entire conversation in which the white men
discuss the impending uprising and their efforts to suppress it has an
ironic air„their violent intentions are obvious. That is, the spectator is
completely aware that the men are inventing the situation for their own
professional and financial benefit with no regard for the truth or for the
lives that they are about to end. Nevertheless, their words testify to the
fact that they feel they must follow some protocol no matter how false
these images may be.
This sardonic code of behavior continues when some slaves are captured
and brought on stage to be tortured. El Español, a character who repre-
sents the colonial government in Cuba, puts the Military Commission in
charge of the situation and allows it free hand to proceed at will. Three
ladders are brought onto the stage and the black men are tied to them. At
the same time, a priest begins to outline the following regulations on how
the torturers can progress and who can and cannot be tortured:
La tortura no puede hacerse hasta ocho horas después de haber comido y
esto para que no se conturbe el estómago, vomite el reo, y le sobrevenga
enfermedad grave e incurable. No se puede torturar a menores de catorce
años ni a mayores de sesenta y cinco años; a los que padecen de fiebre,
apoplejía, epilepsia o Gravis morbo gallicus,Ž a los que han sufrido graves
contusiones en la cabeza, garganta, pecho, vientre, brazos; a los corpulentos
por superabundancia de grasa, a los estrechos de pecho, monstruosos, gibo-
sos, desiguales de brazos y mujeres embarazadas.
[Torture cannot be conducted until eight hours after eating, so that it
doesnt disturb the stomach, the offender doesnt vomit, or a serious and
incurable disease doesnt come over him. Neither those younger than four-
teen nor those older than sixty-five can be tortured; nor those who have
fever, apoplexy, epilepsy, o  gravis morbo gallicus,Ž nor those who have suf-
fered serious contusions to the head, throat, chest, stomach, arms, nor those
who have excess fat, are thin in the chest, have monstrosities, hunchbacks,
uneven arms, or pregnant women] (Delirio 109).
The priest ironically outlines certain regulations that govern when torture
can be used and against whom in order to uphold some sort of humaneŽ
interpretation of torture and its role in the community. First, his rules leave
only a small window of time in which it is possible to torture, and then
many possible victims are made exempt by his decree. Thus, according
C\r \r  M "
to this, torture becomes highly regulated and the church is cleared of
involvement in the episode. Nevertheless, the
Fiscal
responds negatively
to the rules outlined above and states that the power of the state to protect
itself and its citizens is stronger than any other rules that exist:
Como presidente de la Comisión Militar encargada de esclarecer todo lo
concerniente a la conspiración de los negros contra la raza blanca, declaro:
cuando se trata de la seguridad del país y de un delito de Estado, cualquier
medio es legal y permitido si de antemano existe la convicción moral de que
ha de producir el resultado que se desea y es exigido por el bien general.
[As president of the Military Commission in charge of everything concern-
ing the conspiracy of the blacks against the white race, I declare: when we
are dealing with the security of the country and a crime of the State, what-
ever method is legal and permissible if beforehand there exists the moral
conviction that it will produce the desired and demanded result for the
general good] (Delirio 110).
In this way, the church is stripped of its authority before the security of the
state, and the government is given
carte blanche
to execute its own orders
and desires to quell any possible uprising.
After having discussed the legitimacy and legality of torture in the
proceedings, the
Fiscal
actually presides over the torture of a black slave
onstage. This is a particularly important scene, not only because of the
savagery that it portrays, but also for the hypocrisy to which it attests. In
this section of the scene it is only the
Fiscal
and a black slave who is named
Negro 1 who speak, although there are others onstage who perform the
actual beating on the body of the slave. This is an interesting split between
the
Fiscal
s statements and the anonymous mens actions, suggesting that
the words and the acts are being separated in an effort to divorce one
from the connotations of the other. The
Fiscal
s interrogation of Negro
1 consists of him asking for information on the reported uprising against
the white slaveholders. When Negro 1 doesnt give the correctŽ answer
(whether this is by choice or because of his own lack of information is
unclear), the
Fiscal
orders him to be whipped, waiting to hear the answer
he is expecting:
El Fiscal
: Di la fecha, la fecha del levantamiento. (
Lo azotan
Negro
1: Nochebuena.
El Fiscal
: ¿Estás seguro?
Negro
1: Pascuas, será en Pascuas.
El Fiscal
. Ladino, esos errores ocultan tu obstinación. ¿Cuándo, cuándo?
Negro
1: Nochebuena, Nochebuena Chiquita.
El Fiscal
: Fijaos cómo trata de evadir la investigación de este tribunal. Ni
el tormento es capaz de hacerle abrir su corazón. Si en dicho tormento
P \b\t\n V \t : C\f\r\b \b\t\n A \t\t\b
muriese o fuese lisiado, sea a su culpa y cargo y no a la nuestra, por no
haber querido decir la verdad. (
Lo azotan
.) ¿Es cierto que se pretende
acabar con la raza blanca, quemando los cañaverales, matando el ganado
y sorbiendo su sangre?
Negro
1: Sí.
El Fiscal
: Give the date, the date of the uprising. (
They whip him
Negro
1: Christmas Eve.
El Fiscal
: Are you sure?
Negro
1: Christmas, itll be at Christmas.
El Fiscal
Ladino
, these errors hide your obstinacy. When, when?
Negro
1: Christmas Eve.
El Fiscal
: Look at how he tries to evade the investigation of the tribunal.
Not even torture is enough to make him open his heart. If in this torture
he were to die or to be crippled, it would be his fault and not ours, for
not wanting to tell the truth. (
They whip him
.) Is it true that they want
to finish off the white race, burning the plantations, killing the livestock
and drinking their blood?
Negro
1: Yes] (Delirio 110…111).
The
Fiscal
s prompting during the interrogation demonstrates the pat-
tern that will follow in the next scene of questioning and torture. The
slave wavers in his answers, either demonstrating that he does not really
know the answers or that he is unwilling to give them up so easily. When
he does answer with what he thinks will be more acceptable, the
Fiscal
questions him and tests the answers with more physical violence, as if
he were, in the words of Page duBois, a touchstone that only reveals
the truth under torture.
This scene recalls duBoiss study of torture in
ancient Greek society, where a slave was only believed to be telling the
truth when that information was extracted through torturing the slaves
body.
In this way, the
Fiscal
and the government that he works for are
absolved of the crime of exacting any injustice because torture is the only
way to guarantee truth. Furthermore, the
Fiscal
s last words„that if the
slave should die or be injured from this torture, it will be his own fault
for not wanting to tell the truth„brings the spectator-reader back to
the
Fiscal
s response to the priests prohibition of torture and attempts to
release him and his men from any potential wrongdoing. This statement
is interesting, given that it acts simultaneously as a verbal, and public,
absolution and as a warning to the slave (and to others) of what could
happen to him if he doesnt answer truthfullyŽ (read: with the answers
that the
Fiscal
wants).
Following this admonition, the
Fiscal
begins to ask for the names of
both the black and white men who are leading what he sees as an impend-
ing revolt. The slave, who doesnt know for whom his interrogator is
looking, is fed the answers by the
Fiscal
himself, repeating back names or
C\r \r  M "
pseudonyms of the condemned men. With his utterance, he seals the mens
fate and validates the
Fiscal
s authority over him and the others:
Negro
1: No sé los nombres.
El Fiscal
: Jorge López.
Negro
1: Jorge López.
El Fiscal
: ¿Es Jorge López un enemigo de la raza blanca?
Negro
1: Sí.
El Fiscal
. ¿Es Santiago Pimienta un enemigo de la raza blanca?
Negro
1: Un enemigo de la raza blanca.
[. . .]
El Fiscal
: Ya estás en buen camino, dime el nombre de quien dirige toda
esta intriga.
Negro
1: Dime el nombre.
El Fiscal
: Tú lo sabes. Es un mulato que escribe poesías.
Negro
1: Un mulato que escribe poesías.
En el cortejo se oyen voces que gritan
Huye, Plácido.Ž
El Fiscal
: Plácido.
Negro
1: Plácido.
Negro
1: I dont know the names.
El Fiscal
: Jorge López.
Negro
1: Jorge López.
El Fiscal
: Is Jorge López an enemy of the white race?
Negro
1: Yes.
El Fiscal
: Is Santiago Pimienta an enemy of the white race?
Negro
1: An enemy of the white race.
[. . .]
El Fiscal
: Now youre doing well, tell me the name of whos directing this
intrigue.
Negro
1: Tell me the name.
El Fiscal
: You know it. Its a mulatto who writes poetry.
Negro
1: A mulatto who writes poetry.
In the procession voices are heard that shout
Flee, Plácido.Ž
El Fiscal
: Plácido.
Negro
1: Plácido] (Delirio 113…114).
P \b\t\n V \t : C\f\r\b \b\t\n A \t\t\b
When Plácido is dragged onto the stage to face the charges against him,
the
Fiscal
verbally lists these crimes. These accusations, as quoted below,
include actions that would not be thought to be against the law but attest
to Plácidos suspiciousŽ behavior in a twisted situation that views the poet
as intending to finish off the white race and to, conversely, proliferate the
black one. Nevertheless, regardless of how ridiculous the charges may
sound, they serve to condemn Plácido to death:
Las pruebas contra usted son contundentes: viaja por la Isla haciendo con-
tactos con los juramentados; ha escrito un poema donde habla de crimen
y sangre; es un individuo muy peligroso, vago e inútil. Y como prueba
concluyente se ha casado con una negra. Queda comprobado que sus
propósitos son acabar con la raza blanca y por lo tanto será fusilado por la
espalda.
[The proof against you is forceful: you travel the Island making contacts
with the oath-takers; you have written a poem where you talk about murder
and blood;
you are a dangerous, lazy, useless individual. And as conclusive
proof you have married a black woman. It is proven that your purpose is to
finish off the white race and for that reason you will be shot in the back]
(Delirio 115).
Just like the interrogation of Negro 1 quoted above, the
Fiscal
s evidence
against Plácido is all just a façade that lets it be known that the justice that
the colonial government meted out was not justice at all, but a twisted set-up
that reproduced unjust conditions. Estorino aims to un-do the histori-
cal spinning that he sees as creating the Conspiracy of the Ladder as it has
been historically told. His purpose is to re-claim the poet and his work (here
Plácido) and a debate on the treatment of dissent and remind the twentieth-
century spectator of the extremes to which an unjust authority can go.
On this topic, one can see a parallel with Estorinos own era in that
Heberto Padilla had undergone a similar interrogation and accusation
just three years before
La dolorosa historia
was written. In this way, the
C\r \r  M "
the nineteenth-century poet places himself on the ladder to be interrogated
and tortured by Negro 2 in order to understand what torture is:
Negro 2
: ¿Por qué escribiste contra la esclavitud?
Milanés
: Porque tenía ideas humanistas y no podía soportar la crueldad de
unos hombres contra otros.
Negro 2
: Si no has probado el látigo no sabes lo que es crueldad.
Milanés
: Conozco otra crueldad. Yo había sido humillado.
Negro 2
: Nosotros también, pero hasta un extremo que tú no eres capaz de
imaginar.
Milanés
: Aquí estoy. Despiértame la imaginación.
El Negro 2 lo azota
Negro 2
: Why did you write against slavery?
Milanés
: Because I had humanist ideas and I couldnt stand the cruelty of
man against man.
Negro 2
: If you havent felt the whip you dont know what cruelty is.
Milanés
: I know another cruelty. I have been humiliated.
Negro 2
: So have we, but to such an extreme that you cant imagine.
Milanés
: Here I am. Awaken my imagination.
El Negro 2 whips him
] (Delirio 118).
Milanés and the Negro 2 recreate the torture scene„except here the tor-
tured body is present of its own free will and the roles have been reversed,
the white man is being tortured and the black man is torturing. This is an
important distinction, but it is also central to the scene that the tortured
P \b\t\n V \t : C\f\r\b \b\t\n A \t\t\b
Negro 2
: Do you understand why we lit the match?
Milanés
: I was against all violence.
Negro 2
: And how do you fight against this violence? (
He shows him the
whip.
Milanés
: Now you wont be able to say that I dont understand your pains.
Negro 2
: And youll understand our violence.
Milanés
: No, no, not that. There must be another way.
Negro 2
: The only way: an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth. Thousands
were pursued and whipped. The weakest committed suicide. Others
died on the ladder without saying a word. That was my luck. The
resentment eating me from the inside, biting my lip so as not to scream]
(Delirio 121).
Milanés questions the need for violence in order to undo past atrocities. He
chooses to seek another way that does not include violent revenge as the
only means to a new society. Echoed in Milanés exchange with his torturer,
the spectator can hear a similar argument about the Cuban Revolution
and the official response to dissidence. Estorinos play uses the atrocity
of the past century to point to the social and political atrocities that are
happening once again in Cuba. Estorino, through the words of Milanés,
questions whether the only possible response to the past is a violent break,
such as that which we see in this scene and in the official response to dissi-
dence such as Padillas. Instead, Milanés and
La dolorosa historia
search for
another possibility that may end the cycle of violence.
This connection to the modern day in a historical play is one that is
explored extensively by Herbert Lindenberger in his
Historical Drama: The
Relation of Literature and Reality
. This is a particularly interesting study
for Estorinos
La dolorosa historia
for many reasons, but perhaps one of the
most important at this point is the examination of what Lindenberger calls
martyr plays. These are linked with tyrant plays in his description but the
former detail plays where the emphasis is placed on the victim rather than
the perpetrator of crimes. Martyr plays have a certain connection with an
imitation of Christ and focus on the martyrs inner development, an aspect
that can make them less theatrical.
These observations are important to
consider in connection with
La dolorosa historia
in that it can be considered
a martyr play, portraying Milanés in the role of a martyr of the tyranny
of the nineteenth century and is, thus, an admonition against what could
happen again. Though rather than make martyrdom appealing, I believe
that by connecting his own moment with that of the past, Estorino aims
to point to the sins of the nineteenth century in order to avoid their same
occurrence in the 1970s.
C\r \r  M "
Jacinto Milanés and the historical context in which he lived. Nevertheless,
Abelardo Estorinos play does much more than just re-tell Milanés life;
Estorino creates a new Milanés that will allow him to focus attention
on the mans life and his literary work while simultaneously referring to
the context of Cuba in the 1970s. By compelling the reader-spectator to
re-discover this important Romantic poet, Estorino questions the accepted
beliefs that have been passed on about Milanés and his literature and he
forces the reader-spectator to question
accepted beliefs on multiple
conventions through his own dialogue on Milanés and his work. By inte-
grating the nineteenth-century poets work into his own dramatic pro-
duction, the borders between genres and autonomous works blend and
begin to disappear as do the borders between the centuries. With this,
the abolitionary and independence movements of the nineteenth-century
are seen to offer insight into
La dolorosa historia
s revolutionary context
of social upheaval. Estorino highlights onstage how the construction of
history and memory is etched into our thoughts and stories through the
use of violence, betrayal and racism. In this way,
La dolorosa historia del
amor secreto de don José Jacinto Milanés
connects across centuries, liter-
ary genres and memories in order to encourage a re-writing of the past.
Historical re-interpretation is a violent gesture that revisits questions of
class, race, gender, and literature. The violence of sexuality, class, and gen-
der will take center stage in Eduardo Pavlovskys exploration of his own
time period, as we will see in the next chapter. Despite the differences in
time period, Estorinos and Pavlovksys plays share a similar view. Whereas
La dolorosa historia
returns to the nineteenth century to explore issues of
silencing and freedom, Pavlovskys
La mueca
is a contemporary snapshot
of the social and political context in which it is written. This play exam-
ines bourgeois hypocrisies alongside a look at the increasing breakdown in
social order that characterized the 1970s in Argentina. Just as in Piñeras
Dos viejos pánicos
, Pavlovsky chooses to explore his own historical moment
in an almost absurd look at what is happening. The fundamental theme
in this play, like the two Cuban plays that we have analyzed up to this
point, is the role of violence in the making of human relationships. Just
as how violence bound Tota and Tabo to one another and how violence
defined the Cuban nineteenth century, violence in the 1970s in Argentina
will characterize how people look at one another and how they understand
themselves in this world.
Chapter 3
Filming the Bourgeoisie: Defining
Identity with Violence in Eduardo
Pavlovskys
La mueca
(1970)
Hoy no hay guión.
Eduardo Pavlovsky
, La mueca
a mueca
970) b
dua
(b.
933)
filmm
o dec
de to co
t a bou
s cou-
e about t
hyp
es, a
ocess b
ce
e cou
es co
uct
eas
Piñ
as
viejos pánicos
ce was used to
cover up
a dee
ooted
s
ce
inspires
ts
ze t
eca
ous
ess o
tuat
t gestu
es a
e used
fin
acte
fin
e ot
s. V
aug
ts act
e, beco
es a
too
ts t
aug
ace o
aut
aut
s bo
ade to b
se. V
ce,
s used
a mueca
eate a
d dest
hip
es a
d se
-de
fini
oug
e use o
ce.
e se
uct
as we
as t
e co
uct

es
s a ce
tas
acte
a mueca
ass
too
oug
e acto
fin
es a
d ot
s. Soc
ass
finin
g bot
es se
d ot
s as we
as t
e subse
hip
P \b\t\n V \t : C\f\r\b \b\t\n A \t\t\b
ade a
e co
sta
ed
uest
oug
acte
s wo
ds
d act
, beco
es a
acte
s ca
sta
ces
fin
es.
a mueca
mirr
e co
es
acte
es t
at atte
fin
lly
to a ce
lip
awa
lly
hli
ts t
es to
e to a
e but d
sto
es u
rlin
ect
a mueca
ace„t
acte
sto
d be.
oses t
at eac
acte
es o
ce
eat
se t
es to co
ect to a
but ca
te ac
t.
s, eac
acte
es to
hyp
es, t
ed t
oug
out t
tab
F\t  B\f 
ts a
sts assoc
ated
eate
d, a
oug
as
ed to
t as a t
eate
dad tota
[towa
d a tota
].Ž
gua
eate
at was be
tte
oduced at
e„usua
lly
ed to as t
eate
d„was a t
eate
at sea
ed
te e
teat
o de
gua
a co
teat
prim
te de bús
ueda.
teat
ce 

ta co
se
ectos abso
uta
esŽ de
uest
dad.
teat
uest
os cot
os estados de á
o.
os
a de
os g
des
scu
sos
sajes, es e
teat
uest
as ete
as
egu
tas
test-
es, e
teat
o de
uest
a so
edad, e
os
ace
a de
osot
os,
con nosotros
o de
osot
os,
con los otros
Personally
sta
t-ga
eate
as
lly
eate
sea
eate
at sa
s towa
dŽ a
es to co
ect w
ute
Ž as
ects o
eate
oods.
ates us
scou
ses a
essages,
eate
P \b\t\n V \t : C\f\r\b \b\t\n A \t\t\b
ost we
s
est
cs
ued t
oug
out t
970s a
e was
ced to
978 w
ces t
ed to
e was
s ow
accou
ts,
e esca
ed
oug
xil
ed
F\t  B\f 
as
958 a
so to
oust
962.
lly
ed to t
sts b
o-u
, des
ect
e sec
P \b\t\n V \t : C\f\r\b \b\t\n A \t\t\b
esto t
ed t
Hour of the People].Ž
e out
gsto
was
aced w
usse.
usse atte
ted to w
s, but
infl
ose.
972, w
ran
cuerdo
acional
e ca
ed
ces to u
te aga
st sub-
t to ga
Fin
lly
usse
ted t
tee
ad bee
xil
ous d
iff
t cou
es
ca
d was
ess,
ad
ed c
ose
es w
oug
F\t  B\f 
asce
ded to
s deat
, but s
e was
ot
ed to dea
ce a
d eco
iffi
ed
975.
rrill
a wa
e co
ued a
Army
ed
975, a
e assass
ce.
e was ta
ad sto
imp
eac
oceed
gs we
st
ce, a
t co
infl
buted to a s
tuat
at was
rip
a cou
detat a
976, t
Army
abducted t
oceso de
zac
as t
Dir
, bega
a mueca
was w
tte
970 a
ed
, soo
cor-
dobazo
but be
s
P \b\t\n V \t : C\f\r\b \b\t\n A \t\t\b
act
ce w
pli
cate t
e se
s.
ot
ested
g se
stage„t
e cou
e goes be
absu
dŽ se
act.
t, t
e out o
aces
to bette
e act
s.
ogue s
ows t
e sat
ed w
filmin
g, t
us
oste
film
ot t
e cou
e (w
ow
ifi
ed b
es„Ca
os a
a)
beco
es awa
e ot

ese
ce, a
d Ca
os beg
uest
asse
s act as
ouse
e cou
rink
e bee
ugged.
es
os a
ste
aug
uts
us e
fir
st act.
fir
st act
oduces t
e ce
be e
xpl
ed
seco
d, a
acte
ze t
sto
butes.
e seco
d act o
e sa
aco
ead
g a boo
g,
Aní
pin
d Sueco
g bac
e ot
ee a
stage.
ed
s d
ogue,
co
as go
sta
a, a
d Ca
os
pin
aco co
ts o
just
ceŽ o
co be
a, Sueco se
ds t
e two
co
d Ca
os e
e sce
e aga
s a co
tat
F\t  B\f 
ds as Ca
os a
a sta
ste
eco
rli
sat
s about t
hyp
ese two acts,
a mueca
ows
ts ce
cs to be
ow s
acte
s co
uct
es a
ce
inh
pin
ese
es
egu
ated.
acte
eac
dua
gst t
as a g
oug
use o
t acts.
hyp
acte
zes
e bou
s cou
es
liv
es beco
es a
imp
object

film
tse
ect t
ts at
es a
ces.
s,
kin
film
ows a
e du
pli
fini
e cou
es
liv
es, w
e act o
filmin
intruders
acte
es
tse
uest
ed
ow t
ese c
acte
zat
ed t
oug
ess
fin
es
d attac
kin
g so
ses, c
eat
ce u
a mueca
udes to t
ese to
cs o
, co
ass a
ess
aces o
stage t
deas o
sto
sgu
se.
mueca
fin
ed as a [c]o
o, ge
esca [co
ace, ge
lly
a bu
],Ž
es
uest
fir
st e
cou
mueca
nly
used
ot
tse
mueca
ace t
sto
ts t
ace.
s suggest
cates t
ace w
ot w
t see
s,
sto
tse
ued. C
es
Dri
dua
s
eate
,Ž s
ows t
e co
P \b\t\n V \t : C\f\r\b \b\t\n A \t\t\b
s bot
bou
s soc
F\t  B\f 
P \b\t\n V \t : C\f\r\b \b\t\n A \t\t\b
e act
acte
implyin
bot
sta
ces as we
as t
e ge
nvir
e sees outs
d, t
us,
eate
ages to
bot
oca
e ge
e use o
es, t
uest
filmm
kin
ts
gs
e ce
eeds to be co
ed.
fir
st
act, t
filmin
e cou
t,
e cou
es se
ge.
film
e bou
s cou
es.
e cou
es se
cou
e us
e ca
to ca
e act
s act
invi
te,
ce
d beco
e cou
es act
s, w
F\t  B\f 
P \b\t\n V \t : C\f\r\b \b\t\n A \t\t\b
dete
e gaze
ojects
ts
tas
e, w
s st
ed acco
film
kin
g (a
), t
kin
s,
inly
Sueco„
gaze
e act
es t
e act
eco
ds.
ectato

ascu
ed b
Sueco.
s wa
, we co
dea o
ascu
uctu
ed a
d co
„two e
ts
e ce
s st
ugg
es w
e cou
gst t
es.
e act
we see
ot
lly
film
but t
making
film
e, we a
ee to
oose„t
ectato
s gaze esca
es
e co
nfin
es o
filmm

see w
oose o
stage (o
stage).
s wa
s
ges t
dea o
gaze b
t.
oduct
fini
ed
oduct, t
ectato
ee to d
ect
es
iff
aces, bot
ifi
cat
film
e, t
s a co
ect
F\t  B\f 
filmin
e about to do.
t, t
ectato
obse
es
s, o
s to be
e use o
a sc
rip
kin
film
dea
s occas
Sueco
: [. . .] ¡
os! (
odos van en busca de su e
uipo: grabador, filma-
dora, má
P \b\t\n V \t : C\f\r\b \b\t\n A \t\t\b
xpl
bujas,
usted
os sacud
ó,
os
tó,
os
impr
uta
te co
ase de se
dad,
ue cua
do usted dejó de se
ectado
se co
nvir
acto
But the problem resides
act t
t
ou ca
go w
s sto
nly
good
flir
yin
ce
g;
ead
g a boo
ce s
ow, o
tast
ce
imp
ted w
be
e best o
cases
astu
ce
hil
ou
se.
ass
g, o
ectato
e seat, o
fin
ed bou
watc
es ot
s.
ead
sto
ood.
toda
e, we a
e seat a
as bee
ipli
ed b
ed, b
ousa
d,
ts s
atte
ed, e
xpl
oded
es, a
us u
ou
ade us
d,
ou
uta
lly
impr
ated us w
g,
t was w
ou sto
ed be
ectato
d beca
acto
ct 2:
0).
s sce
e, Sueco
ts out
fir
st t
at Ca
os
as
ed to
as t
e bu
gués
fin
ado,Ž o
udes ce
deta
d att
tudes
ega
ess o
ivi
dua
des
es.
hli
e deta
ze Ca
os e
ste
ce, Sueco
uest
s Ca
os
ce
ow
e got t
stead, Sueco
os dec
d act
s as staged, as a
ce t
at atte
ts
fin
as a
bou
e. Ca
os
ates
F\t  B\f 
ta
hip
ta
edu
e ju
ta! Ustedes so
de
aza.
co
a es
de u
aza
ue se está e
oco a
oco.
eso cua
os eje
es co
o ustedes, t
ata-
os de docu
os
e.
ués
os a
hiv
You know that . . . well, you two a
e, w
lly
ect a
d ad
e; because
eat
g, because o
e good
taste, a
so because o
ou
e, a
ou
so
lly
acto
t.
ou
eat acto
s.
lly
a good acto
ce a
ou
e ca
rkin
g twe
ow, w
t!
ze?
e, t
ats
tast
c!
sta
ow, w
ose
ou as ca
dates? W
e we go
fin
d so
hyp
d co
toget
ou two a
ace.
nly
ou
ace t
yin
g out.
ats w
fin
es
es, we t
to docu
t as
as
oss
e.
hiv
t] (
ct 2:
5).
ocus o
os
ed
e ea
rli
uote,
Sueco u
rlin
es t
e da
ily
, wee
kly
hly
ce
os
gage
to co
duct t
liv
es t
es. Sueco u
e co
uct
s bou
ste
ce
easo
film
e two o
s wa
filmin
s ca
ed out w
cuse t
ese
rvin
oste
ste
ce t
beco
e obso
ete. W
tuat
, Sueco co
d Ca
os a
as
liv
es„
liv
es c
eated
hyp
mnipr
es-
ce t
açade. We a
ded
ge
ubatt
s c
ass
ifi
cat
s t
eate
as t
finin
eco
stó
co-soc
histo
t]Ž
fin
ds
tse
ubatt
states t
s t
eate
970s
ges cou
se a
d beco
es
ocused o
oss
s
acte
s, t
ge
ese
tat
impli
cat
hli
acte

ces a
ce t
use to c
eate t
es, as we w
see be
ow.
s
s st
uctu
ed a
ous acts o
ce t
to ad
ce t
e sto
d atte
t to so
ify
es o
acte
as
ut
ost s
nifi
ce
sta
t st
ugg
P \b\t\n V \t : C\f\r\b \b\t\n A \t\t\b
urco
l Sueco, con los zapatos en la mano
).„¿
os za
atos dó
os dejo?
Sueco
: „¡
F\t  B\f 
e does
ot
tate to test Suecos
eade
hip
e ot
s, so
P \b\t\n V \t : C\f\r\b \b\t\n A \t\t\b
e uses
s ot
fin
ose o
ce
Sueco
de dejaste
as
jas?
urco
a ba
ade
Sueco
o jodas, ¿dó
de dejaste
as
jas? (
o agarra de la remera y lo
está ahorcando casi
laco
o, Sueco;
gas g
o . . . Se te
és g
Sueco
). …
egu
de dejaste
as
jas. (
e pega un bife
urco
je, Sueco; e
a ba
ade
níbal
Va al
CO y lo libera tomándolo él
). „¿
staba
urco
: „S
estaba
ué?
níbal
a ba
ade
urco
ué?
níbal
e agua, bo
udo!
urco
o; estaba
a. (
CO mira el diálogo asombrado, como pen-
sando, y estalla
Sueco
ogue
, ¡e
ogue
ustedes dos s
so
aces de e
uece
o. (
o agarra de una
oreja al
).
scuc
e,
co;
e, ¿có
ue se te
ocu
as
jas e
a ba
ade
a? Ve
, se
tate.
urco
o sé, Sueco,
o sé. ¡
as
tas de
as
ezas
ada
ás . . .
Sueco
: „W
e su
tcases?
urco
e bat
tub.
Sueco
t
d, w
e su
tcases? (
e grabs him
by the t-shirt and almost chokes him
laco
: „Cut
t out, Sueco; do
t be c
Thin
gs go bad
ou
Sueco
urco
). …
kin
e su
tcases. (
e slaps
urco
ou, Sueco;
e bat
tub.
níbal
e goes to
urco and frees him by taking a hold of him
). …Was
urco
: „Was w
níbal
e bat
tub.
urco
: „O
at?
níbal
wate
, stu
urco
t was e
Sueco watches the dialogue with surprise, as if think-
ing, and he explodes
Sueco
ease, do
t ta
t
ou two ta
out as
kin
because
ou
e ca
rivin
e grabs
urcos
).
ste
e,
co; co
e, te
e,
t occu
e su
tcases
e bat
tub? Co
e, dea
, co
e, s
F\t  B\f 
urco
t
ow, Sueco,
t
ow.
ed t
e doo
t
e go
ats
t . . .] (
ct
s sce
e, Sueco atte
ts to ga
oug
co.
es to e
ose act
e ste
ed out o
e. Sueco
ust
bot
uest
lly
atte
atte
es, as we see w
Aní
ts t
e two to
fin
d out
e about
cos act
s.
ge, t
ectato
see t
oduct
ass d
iff
ces
e ga

aco accuses Sueco o
act
g g
rude],Ž a
t to sto
d,
a subt
e wa
ues-
s aut
Thi
uest
g co
ues w
aco
dec
des to
rpr
P \b\t\n V \t : C\f\r\b \b\t\n A \t\t\b
se a
Ari
stote
c, ou
good
fri
d, ou
t,
s ca
ivin
ejud
ces o
educat
act,
gas
, su
rpri
se
usua
att
tude o
utt
e su
tcases
e bat
tub!
ates t
t, ta
t,
t,
t ba
ose
t, e
t.
aug
es
F\t  B\f 
uest
st Suecos
d,
stead, g
es
e-e
uate a
xpl
tuat
s acco
iff
act
s ab
pir
aug
ds
a co
at Sueco
age.
aug
es o
est
a mueca
ect
ce.
fir
st,
ost ob
ous a
ce o
e use o
aug
as a
ce
fir
st act
ce to
co, t
acte
ows
to be t
east
lli
e stag
g a swo
t betwee
co a
Aní
aco watc
g,
aco a
Aní
co a
eged Cossac
cesto
níbal
: „Cosaco de
as
otas. (
e tira un sablazo en la zona baja
). ¡
co
da! (
CO es
uiva el golpe de un salto acrobático
laco
os cosacos e
usos, a
iéndose a caracajadas
).
os sos
co,
to. ¿
as a te
abue
o cosaco,
urco
nojado
). „¡
go ca
abue
a cosaco! (
ajando el
arma
).
ejo, e
dés,
eo.
níbal
: „Sub
ue te saco
a cabeza.
agas
ca,
co, te
ta
laco
iéndose a carcajadas
). …
stá b
to,
ojes. (
Se tienta
cada vez más
urco
Cada vez más engranado
). „¡
as de
abue
o, e
go
o, ca
ajo. ¡
e gusta
as de
a! (
FLA
CO se
ríe hasta el paroxismo
laco
o,
fif
ás a tu
a, ¿
a sa
escudo de
a?
gas
sa.
urco
á,
aco de
da
maga sobre él.
FLA
CO se cae
del otro lado del sillón, se oyen estertores de risa.
níbal provoca al
urco
desde otro lado
Aníbal
: „Cossac
ass. (
e strikes a blow with the sable in the lower
zone
). S
urco evades the blow with an acrobatic jump
laco
e Cossac
uss
s, a
aughing heartily
).
ou
to. W
ou go
e a Cossac
ou?
urco
ngry
). „
kin
llin
was a
Cossac
owering his weapon
).
e,
ou see, a
níbal
se
wea
cut o
ead. Qu
S,
co,
laco
aughing heartily
). …
ts o
to, do
t get
ad. (
P \b\t\n V \t : C\f\r\b \b\t\n A \t\t\b
laco
ut,
ou sc
ew
ste
, ¿a
ou co
out de
mily
d?
t ta
nym
e,
yin
aug
urco
aco,
e makes as if to hit him.
FLA
CO falls
down the other side of the chair, rattles of laughter are heard.
níbal pro-
vokes
urco from the other side
)] (
ct
s sce
aug
s used aga
st
co b
fri
ds to de
ds dea
aug
s to a Cossac
ces-
aco a
Aní
uest
d, t
us,
ess t
es to be.
s used
e as a wa
es be
d cause o
e to doubt.
s used to
d dest
imp
t as
ect o
aug
as
ifi
ed
ew o
imp
des
ess a
F\t  B\f 
d, w
s use o
cos
e st
esses a
eases t
dgeab
iff
ce o
ass a
P \b\t\n V \t : C\f\r\b \b\t\n A \t\t\b
ts t
e act
stage, des
act t
s to be a
ous act o
t.
s wa
aug
e act
ot w
at was e
ected o
t
eact.
aug
beco
es a
ctab
d ad
ces t
act
eous
sto
acte

ts
es se
uest
Alf
so de
os doub
aug
, Ca
os
ste
aug
g does ca
ate bot
ce (t
s) a
s aud
ce.
ess,
yni
aug
ts t
eat
yni
t cuts s
ected. W
eas c
yni
pir
ed b
d stag
, Ca
os
ste
aug
ts e
s o
ces c
yni
ct-
ect
gages t
ce t
oug
rpri
se a
d, t
us,
eca
s be
at ca
rniv
does
ot
ecog
ze a d
F\t  B\f 
es real o es fingida, tan dramática es para el Sueco la palabra comuni-
staŽ
).
so es u
a co
oz.
os
e. ¡
ece
os esto! ¡
ece
os! (
lora
Carlos
e, se
ce u
egu
ta, ¡
se o
Sueco
: ¡So
os a
stas! (
Cada palabra es pronunciada como si fuera definitiva.
one la cara al lado de C
ARL
OS.
o toma del cuello
). So
os a
stas
stas. ¡
ecué
Sueco
kill
ou! W
ou sa
about us?
Carlos
ll at once
).
ed t
e ge
e co
sts.
Sueco
P \b\t\n V \t : C\f\r\b \b\t\n A \t\t\b
Sueco
s a co
st,
g a geog
phi
ce
s, a
dea t
so co
ected to t
ed st
ugg
fin
ed t
ost-
cordobazo
a, as deta
ed ea
rli
d soc
ts we
fin
ed b
est a
d eco
c stab
t.
rrill
bot
dest
act
ced
ppin
gs
d assass
atte
ab
fin
g. So
ese
t-w
g sec
F\t  B\f 
Sueco
). ¡
e ca
aco! . . . (
FLA
CO,
ue se iba a ir por las escaleras,
se vuelve y se enfrenta con la S
laco
á,
a. S
P \b\t\n V \t : C\f\r\b \b\t\n A \t\t\b
ce de
fin
es ge
ed s
ace„ge
ust be co
sta
ed aga
st a
dea
ce
ascu
ace,
ega
ess o
ce
a mueca
s co
ducted t
oug
ce aga
e ot
to sub-
jugate a
d co
s see
g sce
es to
ce
usba
d to sta
s,
t gestu
es a
e used b
st t
e cou
ivi
d to, t
g about t
des
ed
eact
filmin
és
edo. ¿
ez e
tu
da
te co
tás co
Sueco
: ¿Qué
ba?
és
ue des
ués es
Sueco
ue te co
nvi
e,
z. (
ARL
OS está con la cabeza baja llo-
rando impotente.
FLA
CO filma de todos los ángulos.
omándolo del pelo
y levántandole la cabeza
). ¡
Se acerca al Sueco
). ¡
és, Ca
os! (
CO le pega un
ARL
OS con una mano mientras con la otra lo tiene amarrado
del pelo.
HELENA
se abalanza sobre el SU
CO, el SU
CO le pega un
golpe.
HELENA
cae sobre el sillón.
l golpe fue en la cara, bastante fuerte.
ARL
OS no se ha movido ni intentado defensa alguna.
FLA
CO, el
CO y
están en plena tarea, totalmente ausentes, como si fuera
una escena artística pura
Helena: Show him you
ce
t
ou be a
Sueco
at was
ou sa
sta
t ta
be wo
se
Sueco
good,
F\t  B\f 
oug
os de
ates
ts o
sta
him
e to attac
s, bot
lly
lly
e ta
es o
e ge
ed
t.
ess,
e we see t
at Sueco do
ates t
e sce
e, towe
os a
kin
atte
uests.
a,
ges bot
Sueco a
d Ca
os a
d edges t
bot
to act
st
Thr
oug
out a
ese
t acts, t
e ot
ee
e outs
de,
filmin
g co
sta
e sce
ed c
eate, as
be see
e stage d
ect
e abo
e sce
eat
t gestu
es o
eade
e just a
ecessa
imply
esce
ca
pure artistic sce
e].Ž
e stage d
ect
e gestu
es t
ese
cate
a ce
eat
es,
s sce
e, g
eate t
acte
e act
d gestu
es
eated co
bute to t
e co
uct
o eac
ts
tte
des a
mirr
e act
ctate.
eade
zed te
t ju
age at t
eade
ts t
ogue as t
act
ese
tat
e acto
s wo
ds.
s wa
ese
tat
tte
rip
t co
e toget
eate a s
sua
ect.
P \b\t\n V \t : C\f\r\b \b\t\n A \t\t\b
es
de! ¡
ego a
e,
e pega bifes en la
cara al Sueco
es
ue so
ga de cab
es!
Carlos
: ¡Ca
ate,
a ca
Carlos
: ¡Va
os, sa
ado
dad! ¡
as de
F\t  B\f 
uct
usba
ds (a
e ot
ascu
es o
Sueco
s bu
llyin
g Ca
os
usba
d to be a
s see
ow,
ed b
fini
s.
a co
ts Sueco about
s se
s, atte
ace
a ce
fix
ed
uses to ta
e, ¿usted es
ca?
Sueco
Sorprendido
):
o sé
ue usted de
fin
e co
ca, se
a. S
se
es
es,
eces . . . s
eces
do.
ece, se
ca e
usted
ce . . .
o.
ese se
o so
, se
a. Quede t
a;
su casa toda
ado
as g
as.
Sueco
Dif
ué?
nteresada
): ¡Usted d
ce
o es
es
es
ue se
ca! ¡S
xpli
ca se
a ag
adece
Sueco
o, ese e
dad es u
a . . . ! ¡cas
fil
co . . . ! (
Se
sienta en un sillón
).
dad u
es a
ue está bus-
go
ca es a
ace
ato.
: Usted t
a de
edagogo, ¿
Helena: Tell me, a
ag?
Sueco
Surprised)
t
fin
e as a
ag,
aa
s,
d sa
es, so
P \b\t\n V \t : C\f\r\b \b\t\n A \t\t\b
a ce
oss
ste
ce,
ated
guage t
ceeds t
pri
oses t
at ca
us t
ous add
ess
fix
ze t
s, but
oduce a
ected a
se.Ž
Sueco ta
es o
d tw
sts
as
g, t
us
ace o
es:
e cu
ed teac
ce.
e, b
pri
fini
g betwee
e act a
, Suecos wo
ds co
uct
s.
t,
beco
es a c
ce a
ot a
imp
es
outs
acos ea
rli
at Ca
os w
s outbu
st
ds t
s dec
act a co
es-
os as
t. Suecos
eact
to Ca
os attac
to co
s, w
es Ca
os u
tab
as agg
esso
ows
F\t  B\f 
Carlos
: ¿Qué
Sueco
oga
o.
co.
urco
dedo
usted
a a se
to, ¿
o es c
e pone el encendedor prendido cerca de la barbilla.
lo tiene agarrado de la cabeza. C
ARL
OS grita de dolor
Sueco
: ¡Va
os, Ca
os! Usted es u
ue se
obed
te.
CO le mete el pulgar en el ojo.
lo tiene agarrado.
le pega un rodillazo en la barriga. C
ARL
OS está a punto de desmayarse
Carlos
g to co
ess!
ot go
g to co
ess a
g, because
g to co
ess!
Sueco
ouching his head affectionately
).
es a
s so
P \b\t\n V \t : C\f\r\b \b\t\n A \t\t\b
Carlos
, es c
to.
Sueco
o, d
scú
e.
co, cu
ojo
desata
o.
Aní
abado
aco; desatá a
a se
a. (
ARL
OS tiene un ojo tume-
facto.
CO le cura la herida y le pone una curita.
ace el trabajo con
gran dedicación, durante la escena siguiente
Carlos
esperate when SU
CO approaches him with the pincer
).
este
astu
bated!
Sueco
Carlos
ffi
ce.
Sueco
Carlos
fiv
e.
was a
e. So
F\t  B\f 
state
ts
s sce
ect t
acte
o utte
acos desc
rip
s a des
e be
ce
fin
ds
P \b\t\n V \t : C\f\r\b \b\t\n A \t\t\b
ess,
flir
ust be a
e, we
e.
sses
F\t  B\f 
e beco
es a too
acte
eate t
es a
d ot
ce. V
t acts a
e st
ugg
eate a
acte
s ca
sta
es.
s does
ot
dact
eate
s to teac
ts
ce
ow to act.
stead,
es t
ces
ect
ce a
ts
ace
liv
es, a
ges us to be awa
t acts e
ce t
Chapter 4
Disorderly Conduct: The Violence of
Spectatorship in Griselda Gambaros
Información para extranjeros
(1973)
Cuando nadie puede abrir la boca,
¿por qué se va a gritar gratuitamente?
Griselda Gambaro
, Información para extranjeros
nformación para extranjeros
973) b
Gri
da
ts t
eate
ce
eces t
t acts
ews
accou
ts.
os
t-ga
eate
lly
ts to s
ow
ts s
ectato
s (a
eade
s,
e case o
ew t
as d
sco
ed.
eates t
ce b
stat
be
ed
ace t
ot a t
eate
ectato
oug
iff
ouse,
eac
acco
odat
iff
s wa
ce
ged
lly
detac
ed to o
ed w
e act
e acto
s.
ectato
ece
es a gu
o,
go
sto
os
a dolorosa historia
eads t
oug
s to watc
ppin
gs a
sodes.
ce beco
es w
és was: s
ectato
sce
sce
e, u
illin
esses
ced to see
ages a
es.
uded to
ectato
s (a
ead-
s) t
at co
nformación
us stat
ectato
hip
nformación
, beco
es
P \b\t\n V \t : C\f\r\b \b\t\n A \t\t\b
ce o
est
t, o
ess.Ž
s, t
ecta-
e act
g be
but a
detac
ows t
uest
ese
t sce
es.
sta
g, bo
t,
es t
oug
ows t
ectato
t,
eate a
mpri
sed o
bot
tte
rip
t) as we
as t
ese
tat
at sc
rip
t, w
as
e to be
as
ce a
ot be co
used w
eate
os
as a w
tte
at gu
des a
ctates t
e acto
s
ts a
ds but a
ges t
ectato
at, t
oug
ese
ce,
ates t
ectac
eca
ous
ess o
ot t
ectato
s
oss
ds to t
aces
ace w
use e
ts
bot
es to b
g about t
e des
ed e
ect o
iffi
finin
ce, t
stab
ese
tat
e ad
ce to t
os
nformación
eat
e beg
gs o
ce a
t.
Gri
da
os
nformación para extranjeros
gages w
ese d
iff
t ge
es
ge w
eate
to, t
us, e
gage
ectato
bot
ectac
nformación
ead.
s wa
ce t
e ce
subject o
os
mix
es w
ectac
ectato
hip
e bou
es o
eate
s co
nformación para extranjeros
ost d
iff
uctu
ed
zes t
ectato
e acto
eate
g a st
ectato
be as
t as t
e acto
ge
eates a te
ese
tat
ge
ace to
ace,
ce to
ce, a
ectato
ectato
due, w
out a doubt, to t
e co
tes a
des
e co
tuat
s Susa
ez
ts out, t
ess
tuat
so see a d
iff
ce
ect
eate
be t
aced to t
act t
ew wo
odest,
ast e
sto
lly
ated
at de
ds a
ge eco
inv
est
t to succeed. W
ot to sa
os
sto
dete
es
D\n  C\t\n\f
wou
d be
ss
ot to
ect u
aut
s
sto
sta
ces
infl
ce
eate
Gri
da
o ca
be co
ed o
ost
imp
sts
ca
e twe
P \b\t\n V \t : C\f\r\b \b\t\n A \t\t\b
e gue
rrill
e cou
Arm
ed st
ugg
e bega
st gue
rill
s was
kly
owed b
t.
ppin
gs beca
e co
as t
used as a
too
ppin
d subse
t assass
uge
970
was
ost
ous a
e act t
oug
t about t
as go
odo
gsto
beca
ssued t
o,Ž a jo
esto ca
llin
esu
ivili
nly
asted t
oug
fir
st
ew
viborazo
, a seco
d see
t outb
ots
doba.
usse, w
ad bee
e bac
d du
eced
s, assu
ed
eade
hip
es.
doza,
ots b
e out as
otest to t
ease
gue
rill
usse atte
ted to s
e, t
gs we
, but t
infl
ose aga
usse
ded b
tee
s act
ut
Jua
go
s e
D\n  C\t\n\f
e accusat
ad sto
976, t
t was abducted a
ed
a cou
détat
aga
st t
e go
ta
s act
roceso de
eorganización
acional
Process o
zac
] bega
act
as t
Dir
nformación para extranjeros
was w
tte
973 (t
oug
t was
ot
ed u
), a
d co
sodes t
at test
ify
ts o
od.
at co
ects st
ts
sto
to act as w
ess a
infl
ce
ts
ead
nformación para extranjeros
es be
tato
hip
eate
as we
as t
at ad
ces
oug
e beg
stead,
ivi
des t
e sto
to twe
sce
es o
eate a
ce w
ectato
e gu
ded t
oug
es a
ces a
e ta
kin
ace.
ese e
sodes o
ce t
e be
ed
e bee
ada
ted
ts„
oca
es.
ose o
ce t
ectato
to see w
g outs
eate
at wa
ce o
stage
ect
link
ed to t
s ta
kin
ace o
stage.
nformación
estab
es a
link
P \b\t\n V \t : C\f\r\b \b\t\n A \t\t\b
iff
e ot
fin
sce
nly
ucts a
ce toget
d,
s wa
es
t sta
t.
e, t
tte
rip
eade
e (t
zed
just o
oss
estat
ectato
cou
ce at a
oduct
ese sce
es co
D\n  C\t\n\f
nformación para extranjeros
us e
ce about t
fin
ds
tse
RAE
s used to co
ews
o,
ows
os
to ste
outs
eate
ogue o
ssues t
at ca
be see
as
es.
nformación
atte
ts a b
s betwee
es t
at ad
ocates a
ess
ds, o
fini
s, o
liv
es, o
oug
fir
st de
fini
RAE
ds
tse
os
eco
ce a
e co
at co
sts o
ous
ts t
ust
be b
oug
t toget
to be u
stood.
e sa
e,
nformación
does t
fini
ipli
e sce
es o
uest
g, t
ocates
tas
ts s
ectato
eade
s„a
uest
ot
to be
ese
ted o
ead w
out
ect
tse
ts
t, o
ce t
oduces.
os a
oac
ot t
nly
ace o
nformación
ts t
ectato
s o
Inh
fir
st de
fini
dea o
ese
ce o
ce, a deta
es esse
ages t
at set t
e sce
ce
iff
eate
ce t
test
ts o
ts s
ectato
Fir
st, t
st o
acte
at sets
dramatis personae
stead, t
e deta
ed
otes t
at atte
t to out-
s d
ect
e abse
ce o
st o
acte
s suggests t
fin
ed
ot
acte
s ca
rry
sto
, but t
oug
e act
d ca
be ada
ted acco
oject
eac
ivi
dua
eate
atte
ts to a
stage d
ect
s ec
acte
os ce
oject does
ot de
acte
s but
stead a
ces t
e acto
g about t
oug
e sce
es. S
ace, t
, ta
es o
imp
ce w
at ca
ace t
acte
ace
o des
ates
nformación para extranjeros
est
es
out o
a t
eat
ace
ace
ge
ouse t
as a
e act
d.
des
ates t
ifi
ese s
aces s
d be used a
e objects to be
l ambiente teatral puede ser una casa amplia, preferentemente de dos pisos con
corredores y habitaciones vacías, algunas
de las cuales se comunican entre sí. Un
espacio más amplio para la escena final.
P \b\t\n V \t : C\f\r\b \b\t\n A \t\t\b
Ubicados en los pasillos, dos o tres cajones verticales, rectangulares, apoyados
contra la pared, con puerta y respiradero.
n un espacio a elección, un cajón un poco más grande de iguales
características.
os corredores están a oscuras algunos y otros crudamente iluminados, en
evidente contraste.
The theate
ace ca
be a s
ous,
ouse,
two sto-
es, w
s, so
ect.
ace
eeded
fin
sce
tuated
assagewa
s,
ed aga
st t
e wa
s, a
e two o
ee
ecta
es, eac
a doo
es.
iff
ea, c
ecto
ts a
add
se t
e sa
e as t
ose
assagewa
e co
e da
s,
ous co
ast a
t] (69; 69).
Fir
st, t
ouse, a
ot
eate
ce wou
d be seated a
d se
ated
e acto
e stage.
us, t
cat
e beg
ot a co
but o
at st
riv
es to c
eate a
ce
ectato
e,
e act
ouse
uest
s t
eat
ocates
ace t
ect
ects w
ectato
s e
liv
es.
cates t
ect t
ous
d be ce
ge bo
es w
doo
s,
e a so
imp
ce
s st
essed g
e deta
s used to s
ify
ocat
acte
cs.
s wa
beco
esse
scuss
e sce
es, a
sco
ed
ese
eates
impl
cajón
ace, t
us
pirin
g act
d,
e, d
scuss
a wa
acte
sto
os
a dolorosa historia
s wa
ace as
as t
nip
ace ta
es o
a ce
ace
imp
scuss
nformación para extranje-
ros
t-ga
o ass
t.
t beco
es a ce
ect t
at co
butes to t
s
oses a
d object
es.
s see
uote abo
e,
o ta
es a
ocat
d co
ts
eate
s, t
ds t
eat
eat
d beg
s to co
ect t
a wa
uest
ectato
es.
oug
nip
eat
ace
s a ce
ssue to
ode
a,
os
es t
ocess o
e ste
ectato
ace.
e,
o uses
eate a
nfin
ectato
ipli
es t
ects o
e ce
ot.
D\n  C\t\n\f
ea
as stated, t
inv
ectato
e ce
act
oug
e abse
ce o
seat
g as we
as t
nip
ge
aces
aust
es, co
bute to t
eat
ace
ectato
ot detac
e act
esca
s wa
age
ace
s used to
ease t
e des
sodes
nformación
es e
oug
ts
s esse
scuss
os
to ta
t out o
eat
ace a
ace
t so
se
d, t
us, use t
eate
gage w
ce o
bot
ectato
eade
t-ga
de use o
ace
ds us o
tauds t
oug
ts o
eate
Susa
ezs
ew,
ace
nformación
e wa
es to
tuads
deas.
ez
eca
taud ad
ocated a
ge
P \b\t\n V \t : C\f\r\b \b\t\n A \t\t\b
ectato
hip
occu
es ce
stage
nformación
para extranjeros
ifi
es t
e co
uct
ce t
ew t
s ca
be see
age
ace
ose s
ectato
s beco
teg
act
ot detac
ed
lly
e stage, but
e acto
s.
e stage d
ect
uoted be
ow,
o deta
ectato
ivi
ded
ous g
t, o
D\n  C\t\n\f
se
s, de
iff
es t
st bot
stage.
e sa
e,
ifi
es t
ast sce
be
ewed b
eous
rlinin
s des
at ca
be see
s
imm
ate co
t.
des
ts out, t
e sc
rip
tte
nformación
just o
oss
ipli
ce a
d act
ts to t
ess betwee
e ge
ce.
des, w
ecog
impr
sa-
rlin
es
iff
e co
ce o
960s 
oug
ts ca
d sc
rip
ess,
imp
ote t
ce
as
ese
tat
sce
es.
ce
fin
ed b
ts u
nfini
ed
e use o
ivi
dua
ese
tat
nformación
ese
ts
tse
as
gage
bot
des„t
e acto
ectato
nfini
ed e
ces ab
ese
ted e
ts.
e gu
des d
ivi
ce
s, eac
be
ed b
a se
ate gu
ce beg
ese gu
des c
eat
d out
ectato
s about to be see
oug
ot s
ifi
ed t
s wa
tte
t, t
t ca
be u
stood as t
fir
st sce
des
oduct
rlin
es t
odo
ce w
d sets t
at so
be:
: Se
as
es:
ada es de
esos,
a adu
tos. S
aga-
uede a
se.
gasto
a está
o.
goza
ectácu
o es
es de
os.
es de 35
es de 36.
esto
uede as
ob-
as.
use
a de obsce
dad
as
tes.
eza
uest
o est
o de
da: a
o, occ
o.
sta
os e
es
uego
o se se
o.
os esca
es.
Guide
es a
d ge
adu
ts.
ou
ead
d,
ou ca
t
t.
e cost
ead
ed.
P \b\t\n V \t : C\f\r\b \b\t\n A \t\t\b
ect
ous as
ects
nformación
des
oducto
ds u
rlin
ectato
e absu
s atte
Fir
st, b
o does
t
e age
t,
es
impli
act t
ted
ut
ess,
e abse
ce o
obsce
es o
ds
uest
at wou
t be a
pri
s asse
o sug-
gests t
dea o
dece
pri
ess goes be
ce a
ead
ows.
, as w
be see
e act
ese wo
ds, t
be a
pri
ess
ce t
uest
acce
ted
ce
eco
ese de
fini
e co
ect
D\n  C\t\n\f
e gu
de, e
lly
ot t
ustwo
ds do
ot ag
ee w
s subse
ted.
s obse
ed t
oug
out t
e gu
eads t
ectato
eous
s.
fir
st sce
ese
ted
tte
rip
s just
ow u
e gu
ow t
ectato
eed to
ect
s about w
s be
ese
ted a
d,
ost
imp
ot
s sce
e,
e gu
eads
oug
s co
P \b\t\n V \t : C\f\r\b \b\t\n A \t\t\b
rpri
sed b
s e
ce.
eact
ows
suggest
priv
ace a
ast abuses a
be
eated w
ew g
s
rriv
os use o
age
fir
st sce
e sets t
e to
acco
uts t
ce o
gua
tuat
eed to de
es w
out t
se o
a gu
ectato
e gu
ds t
s sce
kly
out o
act t
uates t
e/s
as
ade a
sta
D\n  C\t\n\f
lly
ese
ectato
s watc
ese
tat
nformación
ot t
nly
ded aud
ce.
eade
rip
t„a
oss
ge
act t
os
was
ot
ed o
oduced
ectato
ectato
s
nformación
para extranjeros
imp
s a
ewo
t.
ectato
e co
ects
e use o
ace.
tato
beco
es
impli
cated w
s act
a wa
at beg
es betwee
e acto
ectato
s.
os
acto
ectato
s as stated
e ea
rli
rlin
es t
link
P \b\t\n V \t : C\f\r\b \b\t\n A \t\t\b
os
o, ¿
ué co
(They go dow
nly
st
rlin
es at
ce w
s ta
lkin
se.
a seco
zed w
asto
t.
g,
ows
D\n  C\t\n\f
es t
ectato
s d
ect
ous
impli
cates t
ce w
ts
s wa
os use o
ce
eac
es
imply
obse
ectac
stead,
t beco
es t
ectac
ce
s ce
dea o
lector cómplice
reade
-acco
mpli
ce]
o Co
táza
, Jaso
tés
ifi
es t
s as t
e co
mpli
ecta-
nformación para extranjeros
nformación
os so
rpr
de co
ese
ectado
mpli
ce,
ues
o so
os
ajes to
ese
tac
a, s
os es
ectado
es, a
odo de
ca,
uta
ectácu
o.
este se
do,
os so
ete a
to, do
ectado
ste a u
ectácu
e se
ue está ob
gado a
In Información
o su
rpri
ses us w
ese
ce o
ectato
acco
mpli
ce, s
ce
ot just t
acte
at ta
oduc-
ce, but a
so t
ectato
s,
ectac
e.
s wa
subjects us to t
ce
edge, w
ectato
atte
ds a s
ectac
e/s
e does
ot wa
t to be a
gated to
ate].
tés, t
ectato
beco
es a
acco
mpli
ce.
s co
mpli
utes to t
s o
oject to b
e bou
es betwee
aces.
s,
aces t
ectato
ify
mpli
ese
t acts.
s wa
e ce
es
ace w
rkin
gs o
ces
eact
ges t
ectato
uest
mpli
ese
t acts a
e ot
acts t
eac
eat
nformación para extranjeros
ectato
eade
nformación
ot e
oug
imply
ot co
ce aga
st ot
ce
ced to see
act
butes to t
eat
ce.
e sce
es t
ed
espectador cómplice
pectato
-acco
mpli
ce]
e co
ect
P \b\t\n V \t : C\f\r\b \b\t\n A \t\t\b
livin
g outs
o cou
e sa
ut
essu
e go
t to ga
ce t
at was de
finin
mpli
D\n  C\t\n\f
cage a
ab coat wa
ts occu
t.
e Coo
xpl
ce w
e about to see:
Coordinador (al grupo, con tono profesional
): Se
es:
uest
objeto dete
ecto
edagóg
co de
cast
go. ¿
da e
cast
go ace
oceso de
zaje?
se. S
a bo
P \b\t\n V \t : C\f\r\b \b\t\n A \t\t\b
ce.
e Coo
beco
es t
eade
, a status t
oug
ce a
oug
adu
os
ecog
ace. W
s, t
s set a
es a
out: t
adu
be t
e teac
e Jo
be t
e stude
ece
ivin
ease
s, t
e se
ated
iff
adu
uts o
ab
coat a
e Jo
s st
ripp
ed a
ed to t
s wa
ed
e ca
e Jo
swe
s, ¡S
ago
a! [
e sa
ce //
D\n  C\t\n\f
acco
es
zes t
e Jo
s
ot
swe
s.
e Coo
ce
xpl
ts object
Coordinador
[. . .]
e estrecha de nuevo la mano.
aestro sale. Coordinador,
se vuelve hacia el público, profesional
sta e
a, co
os g
tos g
abados
as to
as s
adas, se
to oc
ta
eces.
esg
ada
te, este
prim
aest
ue co
os cast
gos
asta
os cuat
tos c
cue
ta
os
ue dete
o co
ta
co
os
aest
os
ced
a.
o test se
zó e
os
stados U
dos.
os
esu
tados?: sese
ta
to. Obedec
as
es. Cu
oso ¿
ados?
o, basta.
aste e
co. (
su grupo
se
zó e
stados U
dos.
osot
os se
a co
P \b\t\n V \t : C\f\r\b \b\t\n A \t\t\b
e sa
sta
ces, t
ot beco
s, t
us ob
gat
ectato
eade
uest
s Co
tés obse
es, t
pri
s co
suggests t
us cou
d beco
adu
imply
us b
e aut
ab coat.
ts to
ectato
eade
ace w
act
ote
s wa
s sce
e„sce
, ea
oug
to set t
eade
es
ce a
eac-
e co
ect
s betwee
s be
ese
ted
s be
uded to outs
e sce
espectador cóm-
plice
at Co
tés
ecog
zed w
see t
s act
kly
uest
ows t
e coo
s o
d be
rifi
ed b
e dea
ce t
fin
ect
oduces.
oug
ectato
eade
impl
ded
ects a
aut
e coo
s c
ds„t
at 85%
d 66%
e U.S. c
ose t
e sa
ce t
about w
wou
oose
to do.
des d
esu
ts beco
es e
fri
ds s
usa
sta
impli
cat
s, t
us sett
e sce
e se
ous
esu
ts a
impli
cat
s. W
ese wo
ds, t
eade
ectato
ced
to co
be do
g to co
bute to t
ce a
d, w
s se
e sce
as
ed,
sco
es
mpli
ce.
dea o
mpli
d sce
nformación
ues to
e co
ect
D\n  C\t\n\f
Guide
: [. . .] ([. . .]
ou ca
es w
e.
e. (
s.)
o,
oug
to go a
d.
ges t
s)
es
fir
st . . . !
ts o
GIRL
ts o
wea
es t
e soa
kin
g wet.
sta
ds
, obse
rvin
e.
IDE
ts
e to get co
tab
e,
ts out
aces.
fin
lip
s,
ce
d tu
s,
ectato
, towa
acte
o beg
act
)] (3: 7
…72; 72).
s sce
ds bot
ectato
eade
imp
ectac
P \b\t\n V \t : C\f\r\b \b\t\n A \t\t\b
imp
nformación
because
ts
e use o
nip
eat
see
uote, t
lly
awa
ese
ce o
ectato
us atte
ts to
ese
hli
ts
(because t
s„a
og-
dece
nip
s act
ste
ce t
at ca
be
ed
D\n  C\t\n\f
ou? (
GIRL
does
t a
swe
.)
e. (S
obe
s.
ds out t
e gu
.)
irl
t wa
t to] (3: 72…73; 72…73).
s sce
e sets t
ess
t out-
es t
es o
e gu
de, t
ce a
e sto
es t
es.
e gu
as sett
ed
ous
uote, t
e act
P \b\t\n V \t : C\f\r\b \b\t\n A \t\t\b
hiv
lry
D\n  C\t\n\f
Man: [. . .]
t!
e, o
All
irl
at?
t wa
t wa
ead . . . a
e su
e.
, so
t
irl
: (ca
esses
cou
se,
o.
es a su
outs
ts
ot as
. So
t
e a bo
yfri
d? We
. . . ? (
e goes towa
doo
s. S
es.)
eat t
e wate
e goes
out.
GIRL
sto
g, st
P \b\t\n V \t : C\f\r\b \b\t\n A \t\t\b
D\n  C\t\n\f
ese
ted. W
s,
ts t
ectato
ew o
ead
ot e
ipp
ed w
sta
to co
tuat
stead, a
ectato
tuat
s be
eed to
xpl
ed, as ca
be see
e gu
de sa
Expli
cac
os [
Expl
s].Ž
rlin
es t
act t
ed w
edge o
e ab
to co
Thi
s ca
be see
g sce
e gu
de ta
es
xpl
ce.
e gu
ess
kin
ts at
P \b\t\n V \t : C\f\r\b \b\t\n A \t\t\b
ce
ates
eat
e sce
e gu
d, t
us, beco
es a
des
e as a
-betwee
rlin
es t
ecess
at ca
egot
ous s
aces t
e be
g jugg
ed.
ese s
aces
be u
stood o
but
eed a gu
at ca
act as a b
dge„
ectato
s (a
eade
s) a
eed
a cu
s see
e ju
e gu
des sto
uta
ppin
g,
es o
eate
a co
ce betwee
two, t
sua
ectac
ese
tat
aga
st
ectato
s, w
ected w
sce
es accou
t, beco
e co
used betwee
ese
ted act
ses.
ow ca
s sto
be t
ts bac
d?
e sa
e, t
ifi
eat
t. W
at we see o
uest
ot o
nly
e sto
es t
e bee
ted as
act but a
eat
ese
acts.Ž
s wa
uest
g, e
uest
nformación para extranjeros
ed
e betwee
ce t
s see
ese
tat
actua
sodes o
e co
ues
Sce
e se
tee
e, t
xpl
ected at
D\n  C\t\n\f
se burla
): ¡
ta so
ctriz 2
: Sauce, sauce, sauce. ¡
o, e
a casta! ¡
aba,
ctor
á! (
al
olicía
as o
olicía
uest
a es
ada co
uje
ctor 2
: ¿Qué d
ce?
[. . .]
olicía
as, a
ntra otro policía, vestido del mismo modo
olicía 2
: ¿Qué ocu
e,
olicía
(saca del bolsillo una bolsita y la muestra
): ¡
as está
tas! ¡Se
es, a
! ¡O
oso
olicía 2
arrinconando a los actores con su espada
): Va
os, ¡o
os ac
as actrices lanzan una risa incómoda
olicía
as ta
as,
se a dest
o! (
Con tono de
os, se
gobe
ado
be
a se
a de este
ado.
de éste.
jad e
o, e
pli
o. ¡O
ue sea
e!
inm
ata
te
stado, co
azó
oso, e
ato de este do
oso aco
tec
to. (
Saca un
arma del bolsillo, obliga a salir a los actores
Actor #
s gu
to co
oliceman
: (act
g, ca
llin
e,
ctor
o act
de. W
o ca
ed
ou.
et out o
oliceman
ast
o wea
ce
ust su
dead.
ctress
: (jo
kin
g)
dead!
ctress
: (s
gs) W
ow, w
ow, w
ow.
e was c
aste. S
ed t
ee, c
ctor
! (to t
ou beat
oliceman
se
swo
d aga
st a wo
cto
ou ta
lkin
g about?
[. . .]
oliceman
ffi
s, co
e! (
EMAN
s, d
essed
e sa
e st
e.)
oliceman
ats
g, s
oliceman
ows
es just ta
P \b\t\n V \t : C\f\r\b \b\t\n A \t\t\b
ce o
ce o
ffi
zabet
ess, t
s sce
s to doub
e as bot
ous a
ste
rpr
D\n  C\t\n\f
a boca, ¿
ué se
atu
te? (
spera una respuesta
ue obviamente no recibe
All
a! (
etoma su tono profesional
) 6 de ago-
sto de
a casa a
gua, co
as
ta-
es co
o ésta, e
udad de Sa
ta
e.
as
tac
es se
descub
ó 800 g
os de t
e abso
ed
972. (c
ge o
e)
ew a
e ca
ed,
Nin
e cage.
. We
ats
e! (
es t
ated s
ace, goes bac
.) Wa
t!
ow goes o
!] (
7:
xpl
es to
link
ese
ted w
actua
ts t
at ta
ace outs
eat
d,
us, atte
t to ca
ces atte
e cou
s at
es.
s co
xpl
sua
eco
uct
ose t
ts t
fin
eat
ce: t
age
P \b\t\n V \t : C\f\r\b \b\t\n A \t\t\b
to ca
rry
ace
ce.
s sce
e we see a ce
dete
rli
sce
es suc
as t
irl
wet
imp
t as
ect t
at ca
be obse
ed
s
ess
fin
sce
s a desce
tte
sta
ts b
yin
g a ce
uctu
at, w
uta
, test
ifi
es
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ect
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towa
Girl
Sce
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zat
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s act
, as t
tte
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es
ts cu
fin
sce
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es beg
ose t
as
we ca
obse
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o sce
e desc
bed abo
acto
sta
ds w
ce o
ese
tat
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es wou
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des
outes,
imp
sta
teg
zat
ects t
d soc
est
fin
sce
be a
zed at t
D\n  C\t\n\f
uide
: (cutt
P \b\t\n V \t : C\f\r\b \b\t\n A \t\t\b
e co
e sce
e, a
, co
es
kly
ts go out
t. W
e bac
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as bee
ed to
pri
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ed, bod
at,
e gets u
uts o
d wa
s out.
s,
ds.
e gu
des se
ectato
s awa
eat
e se
ce:
¿Qu
ez:
asta a
e,
asta a
o? [W
ce
d:
// o
//
e bou
ds?]Ž (20:
28;
30).
es t
ectato
ues-
eac
e wou
d go.
fin
sce
e, t
tes t
ce bot
lly
lly
st t
act
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ed,
ectato
eade
gated to
ogate
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ow t
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ce.
ace
ectato
hip
ed to
uest
ge
ce.
nformación para extranjeros
Gri
da
s a tou
-de-
ce
hli
ts t
ectato
s
eat
as we
as ou
ass
e co
ce a
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ject
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ectato
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kin
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use
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nformación
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tes a
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sto
ts.
oac
es
ect
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use w
s sa
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ectato
nformación
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, beco
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st t
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hip
D\n  C\t\n\f
ese co
sat
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tte
ts
oss
ese
tat
nformación para extranjeros
use o
e, a debate to w
eed to
Conclusion
Transforming Spectacles
The sacrifice serves to protect the entire community from its own violence.
René Girard
, Violence and the Sacred
This project studied how violence and violent acts were portrayed from
1968 to 1974 in Cuba and Argentina in four canonical plays by Virgilio
Piñera, Abelardo Estorino, Eduardo Pavlovsky, and Griselda Gambaro.
These years were defined by official violence that originated with the state
against its people and by an extra-official violence that came from the non-
governing groups as a way to contest conditions or provoke change. The
violence defined movements on both the left and the right of the political
spectrum and came to be a fundamental part of global events as we see in
such diverse settings as Paris and Havana. This study showed how theater
answered this real, quotidian violence by placing it onstage in order to
highlight the central role it has in everyday lives and the depth of its con-
trol over our lives. As shown here, these plays do not necessarily advocate
an end to violence or didactically teach the spectators how to eradicate
violence from their lives. Similarly, this project does not propose a list of
plays that look at the topic of violence, but studies how violence has been
understood through the stage. Piñera, Estorino, Pavlovsky, and Gambaro
underline the presence of violence in the definitions of everyday life in an
attempt to understand its role. While this can appear to be a simple act,
the varying levels of censorship that the plays have experienced testify to
the radical interventions that this highlighting of violence proposes. These
plays written within a global and local framework of violence move the
communities and the spectators towards a comprehension of the role of
violence within our everyday relationships, our constructions of history,
P \b\t\n V \t : C\f\r\b \b\t\n A \t\t\b
our identities, and our concept of our surroundings. It is in this central role
of violence within our lives that these plays radicalize the stage to redefine
our own relationship with violence in order to move beyond the present to
a more utopian future.
The daily presence of violence in everyday lives can be seen in these
plays, though not all of them refer directly to it. Piñeras
Dos viejos páni-
portrays Tota and Tabos fearful life in their own house, where vio-
lence manifests itself as an interpersonal element of their relationship
with one another. Violence allows the couple to hide their fear from each
other and paradoxically becomes a tool that permits them to hide from
reality. Estorinos
La dolorosa historia
uncovers the role of violence in
the construction of Cuban history and, consequently, in Cuban political
events. Violence here is an inherent part of historical interpretation that
simultaneously allows Estorino to allude to his own violent moment in
Cuban history. Pavlovskys
La mueca
places the plays action in a bour-
geois couples apartment and foregrounds the violence inherent in con-
structions of identity of class, gender, and sexuality. Violence becomes
an instrument used to create and inspire ones own and others identity
forced from without. Gambaros
Información para extranjeros
violently
transforms normative theatrical structures by dictating that her play
should unfold in a house rather than in a theater and that the spectators
should be guided through the rooms as the play progresses. These violent
and radical gestures to the conventional notion of theater in Gambaro
are multiplied by the violent acts portrayed in the plays scenes. Thus,
Gambaro creates a piece that engages its spectators and questions the
national context in which it was written. Within the spaces represented
by these playwrights, violence cannot be denied as part of an every-
day existence. These plays allow us, then, to understand the presence
of violence in our lives so that we can control it rather than allow it to
control us. Nevertheless, at the same time, violence is revealed to be an
unpredictable, powerful force that can be contradictory. The playwrights
endeavor to show the multiplicity and complexity inherent in violence
and the need to comprehend its role within lives and communities in
order to not be dominated by violence.
The four plays studied here exemplify the kinds of responses that the-
ater offered to the political context of the late 1960s and early 1970s. They
all focus on how violence manifests itself within a community, and how
it should be destroyed or kept in check. The fascination with violence in
these four plays is undoubtedly a legacy from earlier theoreticians con-
siderations of its inevitable role within our lives. Antonin Artaud believed
that the use of violence in theater would make it impossible for specta-
tors to recreate violent acts outside of a representation. For René Girard,
T\b\t\t S \b 
violence was a necessary part of primitive societies that could be expelled
through ritual sacrifice. Elaine Scarry and Michel Foucaults writings
highlight the role of spectacality in violence and, thus, connect it with
theater and representation. Piñera, Estorino, Pavlovsky, and Gambaro use
the inherent relationship in theater between the word and the image to
stress their own visions of the violent contexts in which they interact in
order to create a spectacle that offers an alternative response to violence.
Their vision is, in many ways, utopian„for they believe that an end to
violence can only come about by means of an act of consciousness of its
place in our lives.
Piñera, Estorino, Pavlovsky, and Gambaro present violence in their
plays in intersection with other aspects of life. As we saw with the analy-
sis of the Padilla Affair, violence and spectacle formed a pivotal part of
Latin American communities of the 1960s and 1970s. The Padilla Affair
and the events that surrounded it constructed a representation that both
sides attempted to manipulate and control. On one side, the revolution-
ary officials tried to muzzle Padillas criticism and to orchestrate a public
confession that would discredit the poet and silence future critics through
fear. Padilla, on the other hand, used the genre of the public confession
to ironically expose his sins and, in the process, uncover the strong-arm
techniques and the repressive measures of the Revolutionary government.
He presented himself as the penitent intellectual, playing the part that
the Revolution demanded of him. The Revolution, in turn, demanded the
presence of other writers and artists and succeeded in sending a message of
fear. However, neither side can be said to have won. Padilla suffered tor-
ture and eventually exile and the intellectual community in Cuba endured
years of silence and censorship. The Revolution, for its part, revealed its
repressive tactics for an international audience. Looking further afield, this
Affair unveils the central role that the creation of spectacle held, an impor-
tance that these playwrights used in their theater.
In this study, I have used the topics of fear, history, identity, and spec-
tatorship as starting points that allowed me to understand how violence
is manifested in these works. In the course of my analysis, I came to the
conclusion that violence covers or uncovers something that specifically
relates to each of the characters and the situations presented. That is, the
playwrights speak to the particular context in which they write. The quote
from René Girard that opened this chapter maintains that sacrifice pro-
tects its community. In these plays, though, the violence on stage aims to
open a dialogue and make visible the central role that violence was already
playing in the surrounding communities, in order to unmask the violent
tendencies that were prevalent. Theater wanted to reveal this role to its
spectators to create a situation where the audience was aware of its own
P \b\t\n V \t : C\f\r\b \b\t\n A \t\t\b
actions and the consequences inherent in them. This would, in turn, create
a community where violent acts would be understood before their destruc-
tion could be irreversible, and could be stopped. Theater here becomes a
utopian tool to intervene against violence and its manifestations in a vio-
T\b\t\t S \b 
and recognized in order to be understood and controlled. These plays
engage their audiences and their communities in ways that underscore the
importance of the genre and allow theater to have a central role in their
national contexts. Theater, in the words of Augusto Boal, is political and,
thus, offers a pivotal, ever-changing dialogue on the place of violence in
our world.
Notes
P \b U\t\n \b\t\n\t  P\b  T \b 
\t S\b\t A \b
1. Adam Versényi,
Theatre in Latin America: Religion, Politics, and Culture from
Cortés to the 1980s
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993) 1…35.
2. Diana Taylor,
Theatre of Crisis: Drama and Politics in Latin America
(Kentucky:
University Press of Kentucky, 1991) 2.
3. Versényi 59…62.
4. Jill Lane,
Blackface Cuba, 1840…1895
(Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania
Press, 2005) 15.
5. Versényi 72…78.
6. Sandra Cypess essay on twentieth-century Spanish American theater in the
Cambridge History of Latin American Literature
should be consulted for more
details on the theatrical production of this century. She examines the theater
of the 1920s and 1930s through an exploration of three areas: Mexico, Puerto
Rico, and Argentina and how the theater began to define itself autonomously
in writing and theater groups. From this point, Cypess offers a broad view of
the theater of the twentieth century through a presentation and examination
of the major contributors and their works. This essay is, without a doubt, a
much more complete overview of Spanish American theater of the twenti-
eth century. Sandra Cypess, Spanish American Theatre in the Twentieth
Century,Ž
The Cambridge History of Latin American Literature. Volume 2:
The Twentieth Century
, ed. Roberto González Echevarría and Enrique Pupo-
Walker (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996) 497…525.
7. Antonin Artaud,
El teatro y su doble
, Trad. Enrique Alonso y Franciso Abelenda
(Barcelona: Edhasa, 1978) and
Theater and Its Double
, Trad. Mary Carolina
Richards (New York: Grove Press, 1958). Martin Esslin,
The Theatre of the
Absurd
(Woodstock, NY: Overlook Press, 1973).
8. Artaud 79.
9. George Woodyard, The Theatre of the Absurd in Spanish America,Ž
Comparative Drama
111.3 (1969): 186.
10. Raquel Aguilú de Murphy,
Los textos dramáticos de Virgilio Piñera y el
teatro del absurdo
(Madrid: Editorial Pliegos, 1989). Daniel Zalacaín,
El
N 
teatro absurdista hispanoamericano
(Valencia, España: Ediciones Albatros
Hispanófila, 1985).
11. Eleanor Jean Martin, 
Dos viejos pánicos
: A Political Interpretation of the
Cuban Theater of the Absurd,Ž
Revista/Review iberoamericana
9 (1979): 50…56.
Terry L. Palls, El teatro del absurdo en Cuba: El compromiso artístico frente
al compromiso político,Ž
Latin American Theatre Review
11.2 (1978): 25…32.
Woodyard 183…192.
12. Fernando de Toros comprehensive
Brecht en el teatro hispanoamericano
offers an in depth view of the Brechtian theory and theater and how it influ-
enced and manifested itself in Spanish America. Fernando De Toro,
Brecht
en el teatro hispanoamericano
, Buenos Aires: Editorial Galerna, 1987.
13. Bertolt Brecht,
N 
a spectacle. I will use spectacularity to refer to this concept throughout this
project.
2. Bertolt Brecht,
N 
circulated as a manuscript when it was first written (Diana Taylor, Theater
and Terrorism: Griselda Gambaros Information for Foreigners,Ž
Theatre
Journal
42.2 [1990]: 168).
19. Idelber Avelar,
The Letter of Violence: Essays on Narrative, Ethics, and Politics
(New York: Palgrave, 2004) 1.
20. Eric Hobsbawm,
The Age of Extremes: A History of the World, 1914…1991
(New
York: Vintage-Random House, 1996) 22.
21. Hobsbawm 24.
22. Hobsbawm 26.
23. Thanks to a travel grant from the University of Floridas Latin American
Collection, I was able to conduct extensive research at the Universitys library
on the Padilla Affair and record how it unfolded in the contemporary journals
and magazines.
24.
El caimán barbudo
opened an inquest about this since, as they say, Oteros
novel had sold out within a week.
El caimán barbudo
15 (1967).
25. As we can see with the passage of time, Cabrera Infantes novel was clearly
superior.
Tres tristes tigres
continues to be read and discussed vigorously
whereas Oteros
Pasión de Urbino
is not.
26. Manuel Díaz Martínez details the pressures that the Cuban jurists felt dur-
ing this process in his essay El caso Padilla: crimen y castigo (Recuerdos
de un condenado).Ž
Inti: Revista de literatura hispánica
46…47 (Otoño 1997…
Primavera 1998): 157…166.
27. Declaraciones de la UNEAC acerca de los premios otorgados a Heberto
Padilla en Poesía y Antón Arrufat en Teatro,Ž
Fuera del juego
de Heberto
Padilla (Miami: Ediciones Universal, 1998), 115. Translation mine.
28. Primera Carta de los intelectuales europeos y latinoamericanos a Fidel
Castro,Ž
Fuera del juego
de Heberto Padilla (Miami: Ediciones Universal,
1998), 123. Translation mine.
29. Segunda carta de los intelectuales europeos y latinoamericanos a Fidel
Castro,Ž
Fuera del juego
de Heberto Padilla (Miami: Ediciones Universal,
1998), 160…1.
30. Segunda carta de los intelectuales europeos y latinoamericanos a Fidel
CastroŽ 160. Translation mine.
31. Fidel Castro, Discurso de clausura,Ž
Casa de las Américas
9.65…66 (March…
June 1971) 25.
32. Castro 27. Translation mine.
33. As quoted in Heberto Padilla, Intervención en la Unión de Escritores y
Artistas de Cuba, el martes 27 de abril de 1971,Ž
Fuera del juego
(Miami:
Ediciones Universal, 1998), 135. Translation mine.
34. Padilla,
Fuera del juego
135. Translation mine.
35. Claudia Gilman discusses the role of journals in Latin America in the 1960s
in the introduction to her seminal study
Entre la pluma y el fusil
. Claudia
Gilman,
Entre la pluma y el fusil: debates y dilemas del escritor revolucionario en
América Latina
(Buenos Aires: Siglo veintiuno editores, 2003) 22…26.
36. Lourdes Casal maintains that this was most likely José Antonio Portuondo,
a well-known Revolutionary critic who would also preside over Padillas
N 
self-criticism at UNEAC headquarters. However, Roger Reed asserts
that this was really Luis Pavón, the magazines director, a statement that
Ambrosio Fornet supports in 2006. Lourdes Casal, Literature and Society.Ž
Revolutionary Change in Cuba
, ed. Carmelo Mesa-Lago (Pittsburgh:
University of Pittsburgh Press, 1971) 20; Roger Reed,
The Cultural Revolution
in Cuba
(Geneva: Latin American Round Table, 1991) 106; Ambrosio Fornet,
El Quinquenio gris: Revisitando el términoŽ (Havana 2006. http://www.
criterios.es/pdf/ fornetquinqueniogris.pdf) 9.
37. Leopoldo Ávila, Las provocaciones de Padilla,Ž
Verde Olivo
9:45 (1968)
17…18. Translation mine.
38. Leopoldo Ávila, Sobre algunas corrientes de la crítica y la literatura de Cuba,Ž
La Gaceta de Cuba
Noviembre-Diciembre 1968, 3. Translation mine.
39. Heberto Padilla,
Provocaciones
(Madrid: Ediciones La Gota de Agua, 1973)
p 41. Translation mine.
40. Reinaldo Arenas, El caso y el ocaso de Padilla,Ž
Fuera del juego
de Heberto
Padilla (Miami: Ediciones Universal, 1998), 164.
41. Reed 117.
42. Reed 119…120.
43. Padilla,
Fuera del juego
13…14; Heberto Padilla,
Sent off the Field: A Selection
from the Poetry of Heberto Padilla
, trans. J. M. Cohen (Great Britain: Andre
Deutsch, 1972).
44. Piñeras theater has been the object of many academic studies, most notably
Rine Leals 2002 prologue to Piñeras
N 
47. Though Estorino is considered one of the most important playwrights of
the Cuban Revolution, there has been very little written on this play spe-
cifically. Jorge Febles article on the use of verse in
La dolorosa historia del
amor secreto de don José Jacinto Milanés
is the one exception. Jorge Febles,
Recontextualización poemática en
N 
 W A\b\n  V P \b: V \t \b\t\n
F \b \t
VIEJOS
PÁNICOS
()
1. Marifeli Pérez-Stable,
The Cuban Revolution
(New York: Oxford University
Press, 1993) 98…99.
2. Julio Matas, Theater and Cinematography,Ž
Revolutionary Change in Cuba
ed. Carmelo Mesa-Lago (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1971)
432. Antoni Kapcia,
Havana: The Making of the Cuban Culture
(Oxford: Berg,
2005) 140.
3. Kapcia 140.
4. Cinema was another artistic genre that initially benefitted from the
Revolutions desire to foment the arts, as outlined in Julio Matas article.
In March of 1959 the
Instituto cubano del arte e industria cinematográficos
(ICAIC [Cuban Institute of Cinema Arts]) was formed with Alfredo Guevara,
a former student leader interested in the arts, as the head. Many of the impor-
tant figures of Cuban cinema quickly joined the staff and the ICAIC con-
fronted some revolutionary topics in its first few years. However, like theater,
things began to change around 1961. Initially, this stemmed from a contro-
versy around the film
P.M.
by Sabá Cabrera Infante and Orlando Jiménez. It
portrayed a Saturday evening on the water in the capital where people were
looking for entertainment, drinking and dancing. This was seen to be a friv-
olous topic and the ICAIC refused to allow the filmmakers space to screen
the movie and confiscated it. This sparked a fierce debate involving
Casa de
las Américas
and the final decision upheld that of the ICIAC. Cinema, like
the other artistic genres, would need to confirm the ideals of the Revolution.
Furthermore, production slowed around 1968 due to a shortage of film. This
resulted in most of the movies made being documentaries that were favorable
to the Revolutionary goals. Perhaps the most well-known movies from the
1960s are
La muerte de un burócrata
(1966),
Memorias del subdesarrollo
(1968)
both from Tomás Gutiérrez Alea, and
Lucía
(1968) by Humberto Solás. Matas
438…442.
5. Abelardo Estorino. Personal interview. May 8, 2007.
6. Kapcia 141.
7. Kapcia 141.
8. Paul Christopher Smith, Theatre and Political Criteria in Cuba: Casa de las
Américas Awards, 1960…1983,Ž
Cuban Studies/Estudios Cubanos
14.1 (1984):
43…47.
9. Georgina M. Dopico Blacks comprehensive essay on censorship in Cuba, The
Limits of Expression: Intellectual Freedom in Postrevolutionary Cuba,Ž details
three possibilities of censorship: literature may be promoted, prohibited, or
marginally tolerated by the official apparatusŽ (108). For each of these three
options, Dopico Black offers a discussion of what this meant within the Cuban
context and examples of how this was employed. This article is one of the most
interesting and wide-ranging discussions of the employment of censorship in
Cuba from the beginning of the Revolution until the fourth UNEAC Congress
N 
in January of 1988. Antonio Benítez-Rojo responded to this reading of
postrevolutionary Cuban censorship in Comments on Georgina Dopico
Blacks The Limits of Expression:Intellectual Freedom in Postrevolutionary
Cuba Ž by expanding her views. Benítez-Rojo underlines the importance of
the author, not just the work, within the decision to censor or not and ques-
tions Dopico Blacks view that the 1988 UNEAC Congress demonstrated an
opening in intellectual freedoms. Additionally, in the 1980s and 1990s Carlos
Ripoll wrote a series of pamphlets published by the Cuban-American National
Foundation on censorship and Stalinist methods in Cuba that, while perhaps
biased against the Castro government, offer an interesting discussion and
examples of limitations on artistic freedom. Roger Reeds
Cultural Revolution
in Cuba
(1991) is a comprehensive study of how the Castro government has
influenced cultural production.
10. Anthony Kerrigans What Are the Newly Literate Reading in Cuba? An
Individualist MemoirŽ speaks directly to the question of what was available
to the people to be read in Cuba. Kerrigan published this essay in 1989 and
it reflects his experience looking for certain books in Havana in the summer
of 1986. Though this is mostly an anecdotal essay without a long term study
that upholds his informal findings, it is an interesting account of what could
be found easily in Havana in the middle of the 1980s, a time of a bit more
economic and political stability than that of the 1970s, though it was also a
time on the edge of great change that would result from the end of the Soviet
Union and the Eastern bloc at the end of the 1980s and the beginning of
the 1990s.
11. This speech took place in June of 1961 at the National Library in Havana. For
the complete text, see
http://www.min.cult.cu/historia/palabrasalosintelectuales.
html
. Hugh Thomas has a study of the importance of this speech for Cuba
and Cuban intellectuals in
Cuba, or, The Pursuit of Freedom
(1465…1473).
Chapter five of Marifeli Pérez-Stables book analyzes the political context
in the decade of the 1960s and Roberto González Echevarrías essay consid-
ers literature and its criticism in Revolutionary Cuba (Pérez-Stable 98…120;
González Echevarría). Roberto González Echevarría, Criticism and Literature
in Revolutionary Cuba.Ž
Cuba, Twenty-five Years of Revolution, 1959…1984
ed. Sandor Halebsky and John M. Kirk (New York: Praeger Publishers, 1985)
154…173. Marifeli Pérez-Stable,
The Cuban Revolution
(New York: Oxford
University Press, 1993). Hugh Thomas,
Cuba, or, The Pursuit of Freedom
(New York: Da Capo Press, 1998).
12. Hugh Thomas
Cuba, or The Pursuit of Freedom
is the seminal work on Cuba
from the eighteenth century to the first decades of the Revolution of 1959. His
chapter The GuardiansŽ examines how the Revolution constructed itself in
the 1960s. Thomas 1463
13. As quoted in Matas 434…435.
14. It is interesting to note that in the 1930s the Soviet censors more and more
turned their attention to eradicating ambiguity in the texts. Jan Plamper, in
the article Abolishing Ambiguity: Soviet Censorship Practices in the 1930s,Ž
explores how one can see an obsession with reducing signs to a single meaningŽ
N 
(526). Similarly, in the latter half of the 1960s, the Cuban government began
to refine more and more what it meant to write within the Revolution. We can
see this in how the literary contests rules defined unequivocally what made
a revolutionary text. For example, despite its earlier award-winning appear-
ances, absurdist theater would be no longer acceptable, seen as counterrev-
olutionary (Virgilio Piñeras
Dos viejos pánicos
being the most well-known
having won the Casa de las Américas prize for theater in 1968). Nevertheless,
when making these differences, it is important to remember the differences in
sheer numbers between Soviet and Cuban censorship. The amount of victims
in the Soviet example number in the millions; this is not the case for Cuba
given the size of the country. The connections between Cuban and Soviet
practices have been the question of many inquiries, but the early 1970s offer
the most evidence of an association between the two. Carlos Ripoll in his
Los
fundamentos del estalinismo en Cuba
, concludes that Cuban communism has
strongly been inspired by the methods of Joseph Stalin and that this doctrine
was prolonged only through tyranny.
15. Cabrera Infante had managed to publish in Spain a version of his
Tres tristes
tigres
in 1967, for which he won the Premio Biblioteca Breve in Spain.
However, the portrayal of sex in the novel is considered by some to have led to
his loss of work with the Cuban government and his defection in 1965.
16. Guillermo Cabrera Infante,
Mea Cuba
, trans. Kenneth Hall (New York:
Farrar Straus Giroux, 1994) 68…69.
17. The
Zafra de los diez millones
was an effort by the Cuban government to har-
vest ten million tons of sugar in 1970, what would be the biggest harvest ever.
This was framed as an undertaking which would provide a moral victory at
a time when the Revolution was being questioned at home by figures such as
Heberto Padilla and others. However, the harvest, while still the largest ever,
did not reach ten million tons and was thus seen as a failure.
18. It must also be pointed out that Cuba is still exercising under the same gov-
ernment of the 1960s and, therefore, access to papers and documents about
the process of censorship is not available. It is still to be seen how much Fidel
Castros resignation of February 19, 2008 will affect access to archival records
of the 1960s and 1970s.
19. In her essay Literature and Society,Ž Lourdes Casal points out that while roy-
alties did not previously represent a large income for Cuban artists, receiving
a salary from the state increased their dependence on the government (457).
This can, obviously, be seen to curtail artistic freedoms.
20. The censorship and repression that surrounded much of the literary produc-
tion of the late 1960s and especially that of Arenas is detailed in Gays and
the Cuban Revolution: The Case of Reinaldo ArenasŽ by Rafael Ocasio. It
is interesting to note, however, that it is not only in the United States that
there has been a renewed interest in these years. Raúl Castros government
has allowed more self-examination, including the Casa de las Américas con-
ference The Cultural Politics of the Revolutionary Period: Memory and
Reflection,Ž of which Ambrosio Fornets discussion of the
quinquenio gris
formed a part.
N 
21. Casal 457.
22. For Dopico Black, José Lezama Lima represents the third category of censor-
ship: marginally tolerated but subtly controlledŽ works (128). Because of his
international renown, Lezama Limas works could not be simply suppressed
or censored as would happen to Reinaldo Arenas.
23. It appears that there was a reading of
Dos viejos pánicos
in Cuba when it was
awarded the Casa de las Américas prize for theater (Forster 105). This will be
explored in more detail at the end of this chapter.
24. Virgilio Piñera,
N 
American Theatre Review
11.2 (1978): 25…32. George Woodyard, The
Theatre of the Absurd in Spanish America,Ž
Comparative Drama
111.3
(1969): 183…192.
35. Woodyard 186.
36. Palls 25.
37. Palls 30.
38. Martin 55.
39. Martin 56.
40. Diana Taylor,
Theatre of Crisis: Drama and Politics in Latin America
(Kentucky:
University Press of Kentucky, 1991) 9.
41. Taylor 9.
42. As quoted in Matías Montes Huidobros study of Cuban theater. Montes
Huidobro, Matías,
Persona, vida y máscara en el teatro cubano
(Miami:
Ediciones Universales, 1973) 212.
43. Piñeras theater often plays with names to make a deeper suggestion about the
characters and the plays arguments. This employment can also be seen in José
Trianas landmark
La noche de los asesinos
(1965), where the grown siblings are
named Cuca, Beba, and Lalo„an act that emphasizes their status as children
and their desire to emancipate themselves from their parents. Triana, José,
La
noche de los asesinos
(Madrid: Cátedra, 2001).
44. The
planilla
, while difficult to translate, refers to a sort of questionnaire that
was common in Cuba in the 1960s. As in the play, a
planilla
contained a num-
ber of official questions that were to be answered and then handed back to the
official department from which it was issued.
45. Montes Huidobro (1973) 212…213.
46. José Corrales, Los acosados, Tabo, Tota, Montes Huidobro y Piñera.Ž
Círculo:
Revista de cultura
29 (2000): 122. Translation mine.
47. For example, I can read dos viejos pánicos as two old people, filled with
fear and apprehension, and thus put an initial emphasis on the human fig-
ures. At the same time, one might read it as two old fears, and in that way
put stress on fear as an ancient emotional state related to the mythic god PanŽ
(Forster 106).
48.
Diccionario de la lengua española
, ed. La Real Academia Española
http://
www.rae.es/
�. Translation mine.
49. Corrales 120. Similarly, Forsters article details the connection between
Arrabal and Piñera in a footnote. Merlin H. Forster, Games and Endgames
in Virgilio Piñeras
Dos viejos pánicos

In Retrospect: Essays on Latin American
Literature
, ed. Elizabeth S. Rogers and Timothy J. Rogers (South Carolina:
Special Literary Publications, 1987) 113…114.
50. As quoted in Francisco Torres Monreal, Introducción,Ž
Teatro pánico
By Fernando Arrabal (Madrid: Cátedra, 1986) 15. Emphasis from the
original.
51. Torres Monreal 24.
52. Torres Monreal 19.
53. Torres Monreal 38.
54. Cabrera Infante 68…69.
N 
55. Artaud 82.
56. Severino João Albuquerque,
Violent Acts: A Study of Contemporary Latin
American Theatre
(Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1991) 83.
57. Torres Monreal 43.
58. Forster 107. In his essay, Forster makes these references in order to connect
Piñeras play with Samuel Becketts
Endgame
and suggest the former play as a
significant example of accommodation and transformationŽ of theater of the
absurd (105).
59. While Torres Monreal points out that circularity and repetition are charac-
teristics of much absurd and modern literature, he establishes two types of
circularity in Arrabal: En Arrabal distinguiríamos dos tipos de obras: las
unicirculares
(el final vuelve al principio) y las
pluricirculares
(en el interior
de la obra, la misma estructura vuelve sobre sí mismo en repetidas ocasiones)
[In Arrabal we see two types of plays: the
unicirculars
(the end returns to the
beginning) and the
pluricirculars
(in the interior of the play, the same struc-
ture returns to itself repeatedly]Ž (46).
60. See Katherine Ford, El espectáculo revolucionario: El teatro cubano de la
década de los sesenta,Ž
Latin American Theatre Review
39 (2005): 95…114. In
this essay, the word revolutionŽ is used in the double sense of a break with the
past and as a repetition to point out the duality that Cuban theater is seeing
in the context of the 1960s.
61. Ford 97.
62. Ford 105…106.
63. Woodyard 188.
64. Montes Huidobro (1973) 435.
65. Torres Monreal 52.
66. Torres Monreal 52.
67. Torres Monreal 53.
68. This attempt to break with the past through deathŽ is reminiscent of the
siblings attempt to break with their tyrannical parents through murderŽ in
La noche de los asesinos
. Here, the three siblings rehearse their parents mur-
der and imagine their own reactions to this horrific act. Inherent in these
imaginings exists a desire to begin again, though this is truncated by the fact
that these actions are never fulfilled but remain imagined.
69. The use of light here remembers the use of light in Piñeras La isla en
peso,Ž the essential poem that considers the effect of the islands insular-
ity on constructing the poet. In the poem, the light, seen in the dazzling
sunlight of the day, like the water that surrounds the island, weighs heavy
and overwhelming on the bodies that it takes in. Matías Montes Huidobro
discusses the importance of light in Piñeras work. He believes that it is at
this moment that fear becomes another personality within the play and con-
nects this with Piñeras
Electra Garrigó
. Piñera, Vigilio, La isla en peso,Ž
La
vida entera
(La Habana: UNEAC, 1968) 25…42. Montes-Huidobro (1973)
436…437.
70. Girard 10.
N 
 C\r! \r  M ": H" \b\n !
V \t \t A\r \b\n E\t
DOLOROSA
HISTORIA
DEL
AMOR
SECRETO
DON
ACINTO
ILANÉS
()
1. This is, of course, a simplification of the complex and multi-faceted circum-
stances in which Cuban independence was advocated. Hugh Thomass essay
La colonia española de CubaŽ in
Historia del Caribe
offers a much more
detailed and richly-hued conversation on Cubas continued status as a colony.
Hugh Thomas, Capítulo 2: La colonia española de Cuba,Ž In
Historia del
Caribe
(Barcelona: Editorial Crítica, 2001) 39…55.
2. Thomas,
Historia del Caribe
47; Tulio Halperín Donghi,
The Contemporary
History of Latin America
, ed. and trans. John Charles Chasteen (Durham, NC:
Duke University Press, 1993) 156.
3. Hugh Thomas,
Cuba, or The Pursuit of Freedom
(New York: Da Capo Press,
1998) 205…206. For a more detailed discussion of the Conspiracy and its implica-
tions both in the nineteenth century and beyond, see Robert L. Paquettes
Sugar
N 
8. The information about Milanés supplied here comes from Salvador Arias
Tres
N 
12. Vivian Martínez Tabares, La dolorosa búsqueda de los recuerdos,Ž
Teatro
cubano contemporáneo
(Madrid: Sociedad Estatal Quinto Centenario,
1992) 349.
13. Jorge Febles, Recontextualización poemática en La dolorosa historia del
amor secreto de don José Jacinto Milanés,Ž
Latin American Theatre Review
31.2 (1998), 79.
14. Febles 81.
15. This is taken from an interview with Abelardo Estorino in May of 2007.
When asked about the connection between writing and premiering, he
answered that he had had much success in the Havana theaters publishing
what he wrote until
La dolorosa historia
: Todas mis obras se han estrenado
durante su tiempo por otros directores hasta que yo tuve un fracaso con mi
primera obra de Milanés. Porque tú sabes que yo tengo dos. Y mi obra primera
la tomó un director muy importante cubano que es Vicente Revuelta.
l hizo
un montaje muy experimental, en un espacio que no era un espacio conven-
cional del teatro italiano sino lo ensayó en un patio. La ensayó así porque el
teatro que teníamos, que es el Hubert de Blanck que era donde trabajábamos,
estaba en reparación. Cuando las reparaciones terminaron, era el turno para
que él la llevara para el teatro pero él tardó mucho en convertir esa obra que
estaba montada en un espacio, convertirla en otra cosa. Mientras tanto, el
teatro necesitaba abrir las puertas, ya estaba arreglado, y empezar a trabajar. Y
él nunca llegó a estrenarla. Entonces, eso es lo que me dio a mí un pie para yo
tratar de dirigir mis propias obras porque no quería que me pasara. [All of my
plays have premiered in their time by other directors until I had a failure with
my first play on Milanés (
La dolorosa historia
). Because you know I have two.
The first was taken on by an important director, Vicente Revuelta. He did a
very experimental staging, in a space that wasnt a conventional Italian theater
space, but a patio. He rehearsed it there because the theater that we had, the
Hubert be Blanck, was being repaired. When the reparations were done, it
was his turn to put on the play, but he took so long to change it to this space.
In the meantime, the theater needed to open its doors and start work. So he
never premiered it. Thats when I decided to direct my own works because I
didnt want that to happen.]Ž
16. Estorino returned to the figure of José Jacinto Milanés in 1993 with
Vagos
rumores
, a play that Estorino himself sees as a re-write and clarification of
La
dolorosa historia
, as he told me in an interview conducted on May 8, 2007.
Vagos rumores
tells the same story of Milanés, but with less detail and charac-
ters. In this second play, Estorino has three characters: Milanés, the Mendigo,
and Carlota, Milanés sister. The Mendigo and Carlota take on other charac-
ters within the play where, in
La dolorosa historia
, Estorino would have used
another actor. The argument of this second play is much the same as the
first, though it premiered soon after it was written in the Hubert de Blanck
theater.
17. Abelardo Estorino,
Memorias de Milanés
(Matanzas, Cuba: Ediciones
Matanzas, 2005) Prólogo 28. This collection was a commerative edition that
published
N 
with the play
Vagos rumores
, which was another exploration of Milanés,
though shorter. All text references will come from this edition. References are
to the scene (designated with a one-word title) and the page of this edition.
Translations are mine. Hereafter, the quotes will be cited parenthetically with
reference to the scene and the page where they can be found.
18. Abelardo Estorino, personal interview. May 8, 2007.
19. Born Gabriel de la Concepción Valdés (1809…1844), Plácido was the illegit-
imate son of a Spanish dancer and a mulatto hairdresser, born in Havana.
At his birth, he was abandoned by his mother, the dancer, and given to
the care of his paternal grandmother. Not having enough money to study,
he became an apprentice to a carpenter at age twelve, around the same time
he began writing verses. He later practiced as a comb salesman in both
Matanzas and Havana. He gained renown in 1834 with his poem La siem-
previvaŽ and began to sign his poems with the pseudonym Plácido. José
María Heredia invited him to move to Mexico in order to escape the limita-
tions that the Cuban society placed on him because of his race, though he
declined.
20. Matías Montes-Huidobro, El discurso teatral histórico-poético de Abelardo
Estorino: entre el compromiso y la subversión,Ž
Alba de América
9.16…17
(1991): 250.
21. Throughout
La dolorosa historia
, José Jacinto Milanés obsesses over the idea of
being forgotten and this will be explored later on in this chapter. Nevertheless,
this is an important connection to point out at this time, given its role through-
out the play.
22. Montes-Huidobro, El discurso teatral histórico-poético de Abelardo
Estorino: entre el compromiso y la subversión,Ž 250…251.
23. This is the year that many literary critics have identified a marked change in
Milanés poetry towards socio-political topics due, in part, to his relationship
and correspondence with Domingo del Monte. Many critics have also noted
that these poems tend to be more valuable for their intention than for their
own achievements as poems, though El mendigoŽ has been seen as an excep-
tion (Arias,
N 
A la piñaŽ is his most anthologized poem and is one of the early songs in cele-
bration of the Cuban flora (Henríquez Ureña 99…103;
Historia de la literatura
cubana: Tomo 1
70…80).
27. The first four lines of the scene quoted are analyzed in Matías Montes-
Huidobros essay as evidence of the merging between time periods, given that
the question is asked in the present (llega [arrives]Ž), referring to the smell
of flowers in the past (había [there were]Ž). This is an excellent example that
solidifies Montes-Huidobros argument about the anti-temporality in the
play. Nevertheless, it is not my pur
pose
here to discuss temporality but the use
of poetry in the dramatic work.
28. Montes-Huidobro, El discurso teatral histórico-poético de Abelardo
Estorino: entre el compromiso y la subversión,Ž 247.
29. Montes-Huidobro, El discurso teatral histórico-poético de Abelardo
Estorino: entre el compromiso y la subversión,Ž 254.
30. Federico Milanés did, in fact, dedicate himself to preserving his brothers lit-
erary work and memory. He was a playwright and poet in his own right.
Nevertheless, none of his plays has survived and his most-anthologized poem
is Aniversario,Ž written in memoriam of his late brother.
31. Del Monte, as stated before, refers to the nineteenth-century intellectual
Domingo del Monte, the man who held the
tertulias
. Cirilo Villaverde (1812…
1894) is the author of the influential Romantic novel
Cecilia Valdés
. Ramón
de Palma y Romay (1812…1860) is another important Romantic novelist who
wrote Matanzas y Yumurí,Ž which is said to be the first indigenous narrative
in Cuba. He is considered, together with Villaverde, as the initiator of the
narrative form in Cuba (Henríquez Ureña 280…286, 288…289).
32. Here the literary men mainly discuss a written theater that would premiere in
smaller or less accessible theaters. To understand the workings of the popu-
lar theater that was largely seen and available in Cuba during the nineteenth
century, see Jill Lanes
Blackface Cuba
. In this excellent examination of the-
ater in nineteenthth century Cuba, Lane details and examines the connection
between blackface performance, a budding sense of nationalism and populist
theater. Jill Lane,
Blackface Cuba, 1840…1895
(Philadelphia: University of
Pennsylvania Press, 2005).
33. It must be remembered that because of his health Milanés was not able to
travel to Havana for the premiere of his play given his mental condition.
34. Lane 52.
35. In
Torture and Truth
, Page duBois states that the Greek word for torture
means first of all a touchstone used to test gold for purity; the Greeks
extended its meaning to denote a test or trial to determine whether something
or someone is real or genuine (7)Ž This suggests that torture was then used as
a way to test if a statement was true, meaning that a slaves testimony would
only be accepted if he or she had been tortured. Page duBois,
Torture and
Truth
(New York: Routledge, 1991) 1…8.
36. duBois 47.
37. Herbert Lindenberger,
Historical Drama: The Relation of Literature and Reality
(Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1975) 45…46.
N 
 F\t  B\f  : D \t\t I\n \t"
! V \t \t E\n\f\b\n P\b##$"
MUECA
()
1. Matías Montes-Huidobro, Psicoanálisis fílmico-dramático de
La mueca

Monographic Review/Revista Monográfica
7 (1991): 298…299.
2. Jorge Dubatti, Estudio preliminar,Ž
N 
Abierto was a phenomenon repeated in the following years and helped to
begin to recuperate voices that had been violently pushed to the margins.
10. Alfonso De Toro, El teatro
postmoderno de Eduardo Pavlovsky o el
Borges/Bacon del teatro: De la periferia al centro,Ž
Gestos
31 (Abril 2001):
101. Although this quote examines Pavlovskys theater more generally, de
Toros article admirably studies how this collective process unfolded for the
specific example of Pavlovskys
Poroto
11. David Rock,
Argentina 1516…1982: From Spanish Colonization to the Falklands
War
(Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1985) 359.
12. Rock 360.
13. Eduardo Pavlovsky,
La mueca
(Buenos Aires: Ediciones Búsqueda, 1988)
Act 1: 16, 18.
14. Pavlovsky
La mueca
Act 2: 37. Text references are to the act and the page
of this edition. Translations are mine. Hereafter, the quotes will be cited
parenthetically with reference to the act and the page where they can be
found.
15.
Diccionario de la lengua española
, ed. La Real Academia Española http://
www.rae.es/�.
16. Charles B. Driskell, Power, Myths and Aggression in Eduardo Pavlovskys
Theater,Ž
Hispania
65.4 (1982): 573.
17. Richard Schechner,
Performance Theory
(New York: Routledge, 2003) 191.
18. George O. Schanzer, El teatro vanguardista de Eduardo Pavlovsky,Ž
Latin
American Theatre Review
13.1 (1979): 10.
19. Schanzer 10.
20. Schanzer 10.
21. Montes-Huidobro, Psicoanálisis fílmico-dramático de
La mueca,
Ž 298…299.
22. Laura Mulvey, Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema,Ž
Visual and Other
Pleasures
(Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1989) 16…17.
23. Mulvey 17.
24. Mulvey 17.
25. Mulvey 17.
26. Mulvey 19.
27. De Toro 102.
28. Martin Esslin, Violence in Modern Drama,Ž
The Theatre of the Absurd
(Woodstock, NY: Overlook Press, 1973) 177…178.
29. Marvin Carlson, in his essay What Is Performance?Ž for
The Performance
Studies Reader
, finds three separate definitions of performance: So we
have two rather different concepts of performance, one involving the dis-
play of skills, the other also involving display, but less of particular skills
than of a recognized and culturally coded pattern of behavior. A third
cluster of usages takes us in rather a different direction. When we speak
of someones sexual performance or linguistic performance or when we
ask how well a child is performing in school, the emphasis is not so much
on display of skill (although that may be involved) or on the carrying
out of a particular pattern of behavior, but rather on the general success
N 
of the activity in light of some standard of achievement that may not
itself be precisely articulated (70).Ž For this play, the word performance
is being used in conjunction with the second definition: the idea of a
pattern of behavior that is both recognized and coded socially. Marvin
Carlson, What Is Performance?Ž
The Performance Studies Reader
(New
York: Routledge, 2004).
30. Dubatti (1997) 14.
31. This questioning of the accepted manner of events can also be seen in José
Trianas
La noche de los asesinos
, the Cuban play in which Lalo and Cuca clash
over their different ways of thinking:
CUCA
: El cenicero debe estar en la mesa y no en la silla.
LALO
: Haz lo que te digo.
CUCA
: No empieces, Lalo.
LALO
Coge el cenicero y lo coloca en la silla
). Yo sé lo que hago. (
Apuña
el florero y lo instala en el suelo
). En esta casa el cenicero debe estar
encima de una silla y el florero en el suelo. (76)
32. Mikhail Bakhtin, Epic and Novel,Ž
The Dialogic Imagination
, ed. Michael
Holquist, trans. Caryl Emerson and Michael Holquist (Austin: University of
Texas Press, 1981) 23.
33. Gary Saul Morson and Caryl Emerson,
Mikhail Bakhtin: Creation of a Prosaics
(Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1990) 443.
34. De Toro 102.
35. Mikhail Bakhtin,
Rabelais and His World
, trans. Hélène Iswolsky,
(Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1984) 7.
36. Claudia Gilman,
Entre la pluma y el fusil: debates y dilemmas del escritor
revolucionario en América Latina
(Buenos Aires: Siglo veintiuno editores,
2003) 58.
37. Gilman 51.
38. Rock 355.
39. Gilman 66.
40. This connection between class and authority recalls the famous Argentine
short story El mataderoŽ from Esteban Echevarría in that the intruders obvi-
ous social status does not afford him a position of authority in the neighbor-
hood of Buenos Aires that he has stumbled upon. Instead, the greater number
of those who belongŽ in that area allows them to exercise authority over the
intruder. Here, as in
La mueca
, numbers dictate authority, not social class, as
Helena would like to believe. Esteban Echeverría, El matadero,Ž
Antología
del cuento hispanoamericano
, ed. Fernando Burgos (México: Editorial Porrúa,
1991) 1…16.
41. Judith Butler, Performative Acts and Gender Constitution: An Essay in
Phenomenology and Feminist Theory,Ž
Performing Feminisms: Feminist
Critical Theory and Theatre
, ed. Sue Ellen Case (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins
University Press, 1990) 278.
42. Judith Butler,
Excitable Speech: A Politics of the Performative
(New York:
Routledge, 1997) 2.
N 
 D\n " C\t\n\f: T V \t 
S \b \t G \n\b G\b\r\b
NFORMACIÓN
PARA
EXTRANJEROS
()
1. Susana Tarantuviez,
La escena del poder. El te
atro de Griselda Gambaro
, Buenos
Aires: Corregidor, 2007 (332).
2. Griselda Gambaros theater is the subject of hundreds of articles and numer-
ous books. Diana Taylor is one of the most well-known scholars of Gambaros
drama, though the Marguerite Feitlowitzs Introduction to the English trans-
lation of three of her plays stands out as a study. Also, the recent publication
of Susana Tarantuviezs work on Gambaros theater is an important addition
to this growing body of scholarship. See Diana Taylor,
Disappearing Acts:
Spectacles of Gender and Nationalism in Argentinas Dirty War
(Durham,
NC: Duke University Press, 1997), her essay Paradigmas de crisis: La obra
dramatic de Griselda GambaroŽ in the collection
En busca de una imagen:
Ensayos críticos sobre Griselda Gambaro y José Triana
, ed. Diana Taylor,
Canadá: Girol Books, 1989) and
Theatre of Crisis: Drama and Politics in
Latin America
(Kentucky: University Press of Kentucky, 1991). Marguertite
Feitlowitz, Crisis, Terror, Disapperance: The Theater of Griselda Gambaro,Ž
In
Information for Foreigners
(Illiniois: Northwestern University Press, 1992).
Susana Tarantuviez,
La escena del poder. El teatro de Griselda Gambaro
(Buenos
Aires: Corregidor, 2007).
3. Despite its difficult history of representation,
Información
has been the sub-
ject of much research and discussion in academic circles, especially in the US.
Some names that stand out as most important in reference to this play are
Jason Cortés, Myriam Yvonne Jehenson, Mady Schutzman, John Fleming,
Rosalea Postma, and Dick Gerdes. Jason Cortés, La teatralización de la
violencia y la complicidad del espectáculo de
Información para extranjeros
de Griselda Gambaro,Ž
Latin American Theatre Review
35.1 (2001): 47…61.
Myriam Yvonne Jehenson, Staging Cultural Violence: Griselda Gambaro
and Argentinas Dirty War,Ž
Mosaic: A Journal for the Interdisciplinary Study
of Literature
32.1 (1999): 85…104. Mady Schutzman, Calculus, Clarivoyance,
and Communitas,Ž
Women and Performance: A Journal of Feminist Theory
10
(1999): 117…33. John Fleming, Argentina on Stage: Griselda Gambaros
Information for Foreigners
and
Antígona furiosa

Selected Proceedings: Louisiana
Conference on Hispanic Languages and Literatures
, ed. Joseph V. Ricapito (Baton
Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1994). Rosalea Postma, Space and
Spectator in the Theatre of Griselda Gambaro:
Informacion para extranjeros

Latin American Theatre Review
14.1 (1980): 35…45. Dick Gerdes, Recent
Argentine Vanguard Theatre: Gambaros
Información para extranjeros

Latin
American Theatre Review
11.2 (1978): 11…16.
4. This alteration of the traditional, linear plot that moves from page one through
to the end can also be seen in Julio Cortázars
Rayuela
, where the reader is
invited to jump from chapter to chapter in an apparent lack of order. Here,
N 
however, Gambaros written script has no
Tablero de dirección
to lay out her
intended direction for reading for the reader. Instead, the reader, upon her
own initiative is invited to move through the scenes and to stage a mental
order according to her own ideas and considerations. The physical representa-
tion, in turn, does progress upon an order prescribed by the guide of the group
of spectators, but this also differs from Cortázars layout in
Rayuela
. Cortázar
is the one who dictates the order in his monumental novel. Gambaros play,
like all theater, encourages a collaboration between all elements involved„the
playwright, the actors, the director, the audience„that, no matter how small
in one particular production, is greater than that of a novel. Julio Cortázar,
Rayuela
(Madrid: Cátedra, 2004).
5. Griselda Gambaro,
Teatro 2. Dar la vuelta. Información para extranjeros.
Puesta en claro. Sucede lo que pasa
(Buenos Aires: Ediciones de la Flor, 1987)
68. Griselda Gambaro,
Information for Foreigners: Three Plays by Griselda
Gambaro
, ed. and trans. Marguerite Feitlowitz (Illinois: Northwestern
University Press, 1992) 67. All text references in Spanish will come from the
former and in English are from the translation by Marguerite Feitlowitz.
References are to the scene and the page. The scene is the same in both edi-
tions and is not repeated; the page numbers are different. Hereafter, the quotes
will be cited parenthetically with reference to the scene and the pages where
they can be found.
6.
Diccionario de la lengua española
, ed. La Real Academia Española http://
www.rae.es/�.
7. Rosalea Postma identifies how the role of space becomes a central issue in the
plays objectives in her article: The entire theatrical space becomes the stag-
ing area, and therefore the spectator is engulfed by the dramatic action. The
structure of
Información
forces the spectator to struggle with the confinement
of space. The spectators traditionally passive role in going to the theatre
becomes active. While no audience reaction is fully predictable, every dra-
matic text functions to program a potential response; and while we have no
performance data on
Información
, its script presumes performance. [. . .] The
larger spaces in the set for
Información
are fragmented into smaller divisions,
and the already narrow hallways are further restricted by the clutter of lockers
of various sizes, each with a louvered door. Each guide maneuvers his group
of spectators through these hallways, up and down stairways, in and out of
roomsŽ (37).
8. Tarantuviez 201…202.
9. Antonin Artaud,
Theater and its Double
, trad. Mary Carolina Richards (New
York: Grove Press, 1958) 96.
10. Gerdes 12.
11. Gerdes 12.
12. Postma, Rosalea 38.
13. Idelber Avelar,
The Letter of Violence: Essays on Narrative, Ethics, and Politics
(New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004) 3…4.
14. Postma 40.
15. Gambaro 70.
N 
16. Taylor,
Disappearing Acts
167.
17. Cortés 54. Translation mine.
18. Artaud 82.
19. Stanley Milgram,
Obedience to Authority: An Experimental View
(New York,
HarperCollins Publishers, 1974) 3.
20. Milgram 3.
21. I use the masculine pronoun here to refer to the student because in the play it
is El joven.Ž
22. Milgram 3…4.
23. Elaine Scarry,
The Body in Pain: The Making and Unmaking of the World
(New York: Oxford University Press, 1985) 4.
24. Cortés 50.
25. Diana Taylors
Disappearing Acts
examines the use of performance and the
manipulation of images during the Dirty War. This is an interesting discus-
sion in light of
Información para extranjeros
considering that the play was writ-
ten only three years before the Dirty War began.
26. Artaud 82.
27. Bertolt Brecht,
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Abdala
, xi
Absurdist Theater, xiv…xv, 34
Aguilú de Murphy, Raquel, xiv, 34
Aire frío
, 33
A la diestra de Dios Padre
, xvi
Albuquerque, Severino João, 9,
43…44, 56
Alianza argentina anticomunista
(Triple A), 102, 140
Alienation,
see
Distancing
Allende, Salvador, 11
Anderson, Thomas F., 32
Andreu, Olga, 63
Aramburu, General Pedro Eugenio,
100, 101, 140
Arenas, Reinaldo, 14, 30
Arendt, Hannah, 5…6
Areyto
, xviii
Aristotle, 5
Arrabal, Fernando, 38…40, 44, 46,
48…49
Arrufat, Antón, xiv, 12, 13, 15, 16,
26, 27, 30, 31, 60, 61, 63, 145,
153, 163
Artaud, Antonin, xiii…xiv, xvii 3, 33,
43…44, 56, 176
Avelar, Idelber, 9, 148
Ávila, Leopoldo, 15…16, 61
Aztecs, ix
Bakhtin, Mikhail, 118, 120, 122
The Bald Soprano
, xiv, 34, 36
Barranca abajo
, xii
Batista, Fulgencio, 26
Beckett, Samuel, xiv, 34, 35
Belavel, Emilio, xviii
Berman, Sabina, xix
Biron, Rebecca, 9
Blanco, Roberto, 20, 57, 64
Boal, Augusto, xvi…xvii, 3, 4, 179
The Body in Pain
Borges, Jorge Luis, 31
Brecht, Bertolt, xv…xvi, 3, 138,
163, 172
Brene, José, 27
Breton, Andre, 39
Bruguera, Tania, xix
Buenaventura, Enrique, xvi
Butler, Judith, 125, 129…130
Cabildo Teatral, 27
Cabrera Infante, Guillermo, 12, 15,
29, 40, 61
Calvo, César, 12
Campbell, Joseph, 39
Cámpora, Héctor, 102, 140
Camus, Albert, xiii, 33
Carballido, Emilio, xiii, xv
Carpentier, Alejo, 26
Carrió Mendía, Raquel, 33
Casa de Comedias
, xi see also
Teatro
de la Ranchería
Casa de las Américas, 30, 33, 60,
61, 100
Casal, Lourdes, 15
Casas, Myrna, xviii
Caso Padilla
, 2…3, 11…18, 28, 32, 57,
58, 60, 177
see also
Padilla Affair
Index
NDEX
216
Castellanos, Rosario, xviii
Castro, Fidel, 1, 11, 13, 14, 16, 18,
28, 29, 30, 40
Castro, Raúl, 1, 60, 61
Censorship in Cuba, 28…30, 31,
54, 66
Censorship, Soviet, 29
Chávez, César, xix
Chingana
, xi
Ciclón
, 32
Cohen, J.M., 12
Condorcanqui, x
Congress on Education and Culture,
58, 60
Conjunto Dramático de
Oriente, 27
Conspiración de la Escalera
, 58, 59,
65, 67, 84…94
Copernicus, 17
Cordobazo,
101, 103, 124
Corrales, José, 37, 38
Cortázar, Julio, 153
Cortés, Hernán, ix
Cortés, Jason, 153, 158
Cossa, Roberto, 100
Costantino, Roselyn, xviii
Cristal roto en el tiempo
, xviii
Cuban Communist Party, 26
Cuban Missile Crisis, 29
Cuban Revolution, xvi, 11, 14, 15,
16, 17, 18, 20, 26, 27, 32,
34…35, 44, 48, 58, 59, 60,
63, 66, 73, 79, 94
Cuentos fríos
, 31
Cuza Malé, Belkis, 13
Cuzzani, Agustín, xv
Dadaists, 39
de Beauvoir, Simone, 13
de la Cruz, Sor Juana Inés, x, xviii
del Monte, Domingo, 62, 77,
81…82
Del sol naciente
, 139
de Palma, Ramón, 81…82
de Toro, Alfonso, 110, 120, 122
de Toro, Fernando, xv
de Zequeira y Arango, Manuel,
74…76
Díaz, Jorge, xiv, 35
Díaz Martínez, Manuel, 12
Díaz Ordaz, Gustavo, 11, 26
Dictionary of the Real Academia
Española, 38 105, 106, 142
Dirty War,
see
Proceso de
Reorganización Nacional
Discépolo, Armando, xii
Distancing, xv, 138
Dos viejos pánicos
, 8, 19…20, 25…56,
58, 97, 176, 178
Dragún, Osvaldo, xv
Driskell, Charles B., 105
Dubatti, Jorge, 99, 113
duBois, Page, 90
Eidelberg, Nora, xvi
Ejército Revolucionario del Pueblo
(ERP), 102, 124, 140
El caimán bardudo
, 12
El campo
, 139
El cepillo de dientes
, xiv
El conde Alarcos
, xi, 63, 64, 82…83
Electra Garrigó
, 32, 36
NDEX
217
Estorino, Abelardo, 19, 20, 27,
57…95, 137, 144, 145, 175,
176, 177, 178
Falkland Islands War, see La Guerra
de las Islas Malvinas
Falsa alarma
, 36
Fanon, Frantz, 5, 6
Febles, Jorge, 63
Ferrigno, Oscar, 100
Fornet, Ambrosio, 60…61
Forster, Merlin H., 37, 38, 45
Foucault, Michel, 4, 5, 148,
163…164, 177
Freire, Paulo, 2
Frondizi, Arturo, 100…101
Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias
, 61
Galileo, 16…17
Gambaro, Griselda, xiv, xviii, 19,
21…22, 137…173, 175, 176,
177, 178
García Chichester, Ana, 32
García Márquez, Gabriel, 13
Gerdes, Dick, 147
Gilman, Claudia, 123…124
Girard, René, 5, 55, 84, 176…177
Gombrowicz, Witold, 31
González, Aníbal, 9
Gorostiza, Celestino, xiii
Grotesco criollo
, xii
Grupo de Actores Profesionales
(G.A.P.), 100
Grupo de estudios del teatro
argentino (GETEA), 141
Guevara, Che, 1, 4, 11, 26
Guido, José María, 101
Guillén, Nicolás, 26
Gutiérrez, Eduardo, xii
Heredia, José María, 81…82
Herlinghaus, Hermann, 9…10
Hernández Espinosa, Eugenio, 27
Hobsbawm, Eric, 10…11
Hubert de Blanck, 64
Huerta, Jorge, xix
Illia, Arturo, 101
Indigenous theater, ix…x
Información para extranjeros
, 8, 21…22,
137…173, 176, 178
Institute of the Book, 29
Ionesco, Eugene, xiv, 34, 35
Jodorowsky, Alejandro, 38
Juan Moreira
, xii
Juventud Peronista, 102
Kriegar Vasena, Adalbert, 101
La Bamba
, xix
La caja de zapatos vacía
, 33, 46
La carne de René
, 31
NDEX
218
Manzano, Juan Francisco, 87
Marqués, René, xv
Martí, José, xi
Martin, Eleanor Jean, xiv, 34…35
Martínez de Perón, María Estela
Isabel,Ž 102, 103, 140…141
Martínez Tabares, Vivian, 63
Milanés, Carlota, 70…71, 78, 79…80
Milanés, Federico, 65, 78…80
Milanés, José Jacinto, xi, 20, 57, 58,
59, 62…87, 92…94, 137
Milgram, Stanley, 154
Mira de Mescua, 63
Molinero, Rita, 31
Montes Huidobro, Matías, 37, 67…68,
70, 73, 77…78, 98…108
Montoneros, 101, 102, 124, 140
Mulvey, Laura, 108…110
National Council of Culture, 61
Nuevo Teatro Popular, xvi
Ocampo, Victoria, 31
Ollantay
, x…xi
Onganía, General, 101
On Violence
Orígenes
, 31
Otero, Lisandro, 12
Othello
, 166…168, 170, 171
Padilla Affair, 2…3, 11…18, 28, 32, 57,
58, 60, 177
see also
caso Padilla
Padilla, Heberto, 12…18, 26, 27, 30,
60, 61, 66, 91, 92, 94, 177
Palls, Terry, xiv, 34
Pan, 38…40
Panic Theater, 38…40, 44, 46, 47,
48…49
Pavis, Patrice, 21, 145
Pavlovsky, Eduardo, 12, 20…21,
97…135, 139, 175, 176, 177, 178
Pavón Tamayo, Luis, 61
Pavonato
, 61
Paz, Octavio, 13, 28, 60
Pedagogia do oprimido
Performance, 21…22, 138
Perón, Isabel, see Martínez de Perón,
María Estela IsabelŽ
Peronism, 100…103, 140
Perón, Juan Domingo, 100…103, 140
Piñera, Virgilio, xiv, 1, 19…20, 25…56,
61, 63, 64, 97, 175, 176, 177, 178
Plácido, 59, 65, 84…87, 91…92
Planilla
, 25, 26, 47…51, 52
Poesía en Voz Alta
, xviii
Ponte, Antonio José, 31
Postma, Rosalea, 145, 148, 150, 171
Proceso de Reorganización Nacional,
99, 103 141, 173
Quinquenio gris
, 14, 32, 60…61
Raznovich, Diana, xix
Reed, Roger, 16…17
Revolución
, 40
Revolution of 1959, see Cuban
Revolution
Revuelta, Vicente, 4, 64
Rock, David, 102
Rodríguez, Jesusa, xix
Rotker, Susana, 9
Rozenmacher, Germán, 100
Ruiz de Alarcón, Juan, x
Sánchez, Florencio, xii
Santí, Enrico Mario, 32
Sartre, Jean Paul, xiii, 13, 28, 33, 60
Scarry, Elaine, 6, 156, 177
Schanzer, George O., 107
Schechner, Richard, 106
see also
caso
Padilla
Solórzano, Carlos, xv
Somigliana, Carlos, 100
Somos
Spectacularity, 2, 18
Stalinism, 14, 17, 29, 124
Stefano
, xii
Storni, Alfonsina, xviii
NDEX
219
Sur
, 31
Surrealists, 39
Tacón Theater, 64
Tallet, José Z., 12
Tarantuviez, Susana, 138, 145
Taylor, Diana, ix, xviii…xix, 21…22, 35
Teatro Abierto, 100
Teatro bufo
,xi, 35
Teatro Campesino
, xix
Teatro de la Ranchería, xi
see also
Casa
de Comedias
Teatro del oprimido
, 2, 3
Teatro Escambray, 27
Teatro Estudio, 4, 61
Teatro Experimental de Cali
(TEC), xvi
Teatro gaucho
, xii
Teatro Irrumpe
, 20, 57, 64
Teatro Orientación
, xiii
Theater of Cruelty, xiii, xvii, 33, 43,
56, 145
Theater of the Absurd, xiii…xv, 19,
33…36, 37, 47, 98
Theatre of crisis, 35
Theatre of the Oppressed
, xvi…xvii
Thomas, Hugh, 28
Topor, Roland, 38
Torres Monreal, Francisco, 48, 49
Triana, José, 26, 44, 46, 63, 84
Tzu, Sun, 148
Ulises
, xiii
Un hogar sólido
, xviii
Unión Nacional de Escritores y Artistas
de Cuba
(UNEAC), 12, 13, 16,
17, 28, 30
Usigli, Rodolfo, xii…xiii
Verde olivo
, 15, 16, 61
Verfumdung
, see Distancing
Versényi, Adam, ix…xii
Viborazo
, 140
Vida de Flora,Ž 31, 32
Villaurrutia, Xavier, xiii
Villaverde, Cirilo, 81…82
von Clausewitz, Carl, 148
Waiting for Godot
, xiv, 34
Weiss, Judith A, xvi
Wolff, Egon, 100
Woodyard, George, xiv, xv, 34, 47
Ximeno, Isabel, 62, 65
Zafra de los diez millones
, 29, 59
Zalacaín, Daniel, xiv, 34
Zoot Suit
, xix

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