Later in the day, we all traveled to Miami Dade College’s Koubek Memorial Center, home of Teatro Prometeo, for an opening night paella dinner. The meal culminated with a Lights for Liberty rally—a nationwide vigil intended to call for an end to the detention centers across our border. The LTC conveners placed lights at the base of a red sculpture that represented freedom of expression, part of a larger exhibition known as “The Route to Human Rights,” which featured other visual arts pieces. Olga Sanchez Saltveit led us in a ritual of solidarity; it felt nice to acknowledge what’s happening beyond our convening.
Our first day ended with the opening night performance of Cartas de Jenny by Compañía Teatro Imagen, a Chilean theatre company based in Santiago. It was part of the thirty-fourth International Hispanic Theater Festival of Miami—potentially the longest-running Spanish-language theatre festival in the United States—which was produced by Teatro Avante. I sat throughout the performance only half understanding, due to my Spanish being intermediate. Because of this, the complex story was lost; there were just broad brushstrokes of movement, staging, and actor portrayals. I then realized that language, and language barriers, would become a major thread over the next couple of days.
Day Two: Guts and Desire
Day two began with an extra cute trivia y cafecito to get the day started. We were split into teams, and, as the only Miami native in mine, I felt a sudden pressure to represent my city as best as I could. We dubbed our team “the Winners,” and it felt like some karmic force was at play when we turned out to be the lowest-scoring team. I still felt like a winner, though, because I ate at least three plates of pandebono, croquettas, and pastelitos.
The convening organizers had set a specific intention for the second day, which was for participants to find, at some point, “A Moment of Self-Definition / Momento de Autodefinición,” the name of the first session. We followed an inner circle–outer circle framework. Most of us sat in the outer circle while Miami folks sat in the inner circle to discuss local issues, challenges, and opportunities. The community frequently asked itself why it was so “siloed,” having a general lack of awareness about what else was out there, and talked about smaller (but still significant) issues of transportation and access to the arts. Eventually, the conversation opened up to thoughts from all parties.
Hearing that hybridity in our art is actually part of our DNA and our heritage was a profound moment for me.
Much was revealed about the Miami community that I didn’t know. In particular, there was an instance of blackface at a 2018 production by Teatro Trail that resulted in outrage from the national Afro-Latinx and Latinx theatre community. Orlando Addison, founder of an Afro-Latinx advocacy group in Miami called the Ernesto Gamboa Project, stated that this actually resulted in a positive outcome: a conversation was facilitated where the company apologized and there was a reconciliation. I was surprised by this outcome because it felt like something that would never happen in Philly. Philly, by its own leftist nature, has difficulty bridging gaps like these—especially through conversations. I have a lot of theories as to why the situation in Miami unfolded this way, one of which is due to a huge unifying force: our mutual Latinx heritage.
While this commonality might make some things easier, a shared culture isn’t enough to stave off issues of anti-Blackness. “I thought, We’ve figured out racism in Miami. There’s no racism, there’s no problem,” said Victoria Collado, member of the Abre Camino Collective. Her comments used an understanding of Miami’s own shortsightedness to explain the Teatro Trail situation. “And then all of a sudden you feel it in your town and you’re like, Whoa whoa whoa, I thought we were woke because we speak Spanish and we ask for colada instead of a tall macchiato. It’s a deeper issue in Miami.”