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Another racist blackface controversy erupts in the Cuban community, this time in Hialeah

Cuban comedian Jose Perez, aka Carlucho, in blackface for a video ad for the Hialeah department store Nooo Que Barato.
Cuban comedian Jose Perez, aka Carlucho, in blackface for a video ad for the Hialeah department store Nooo Que Barato.

A video ad for the Hialeah department store Ñooo Qué Barato features a Cuban comedian in blackface — reminiscent of a racist episode in 2018 in Little Havana.

UPDATED May 4 10:35 am

Four years after a Cuban-American play staged in Miami was widely condemned for having a character in blackface, another similar racism controversy has arisen in the Cuban diaspora — this time involving a commercial for a well known Hialeah business.

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The discount department store Ñooo Qué Barato! is a Cuban-American institution in Hialeah. But right now it’s the subject of racism accusations. A video advertisement the store has been showing features a popular — and white — Cuban comedian in blackface promoting Afro-Cuban Santería-style clothing.

The comedian — José Pérez, known as Carlucho — also wears exaggerated red make-up around his mouth and a white Santería turban on his head.

Ñooo Qué Barato!’s owner, Serafín Blanco, told WLRN the commercial reflects "Cuban tradition" and he didn't originally consider it offensive — even though blackface is now generally viewed as racist.

"I don't consider myself racist," Blanco said. "I voted for [Barack] Obama. I thought he was a good president."

But Tuesday afternoon the store took the ad offline after criticism began building on social media.

Blanco said he now understands and will not repeat videos like that in the future.

As Blanco suggested, blackface was — and critics say too often still is — popular in Cuban entertainment culture both on the island and in the diaspora. In 2018 a comedy staged in Little Havana, "Tres Viudas en un Crucero" (Three Widows on a Cruise), featured a white actor in blackface playing an Afro-Cuban. Public outcry forced the production to take that out.

It was thought to have raised more racism awareness in Miami’s Cuban community.

Tim Padgett is the Americas Editor for WLRN, covering Latin America, the Caribbean and their key relationship with South Florida. Contact Tim at tpadgett@wlrnnews.org
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