Explore the stories of ten outstanding Afro-Cuban actresses who deserve your attention. Uncover the varied paths they’ve taken, from memorable roles that have made a lasting impact to emerging talents reshaping the cinematic scene. Learn about their successes and challenges, their contributions to both art and activism, and how they play a pivotal role in broadening our comprehension of Afro-Cuban identity and culture.
Back in 2015, Cuban actress Yordanka Ariosa made headlines at international level. During the 63rd edition of San Sebastian Movie Festival, she was given the Silver Shell for the leading role played in El Rey de La Habana (The King of Havana), directed by Spanish Agusti Villaronga. With that award, she joined the list that also comprises Ava Gardner, Audrey Hepburn and Mia Farrow, just to mention some of those stars.
Ariosa, who has developed a remarkable career in the theater realm, has been nominated to the Goya Awards as revelation actress and the Platinum Awards of the Latin American Movie. In January 2016, she was one of the three actresses that performed Vaginas, directed by Osvaldo Doimeadios and based on an initiative by Monse Duany. Vaginasis a version, according to Cuban circumstances, of the famous text written by U.S. Eve Ensler.
The writing of that play had a special meaning because, as expressed by Duany, “besides the vagina there was another taboo on stage: three good actresses that showed an interesting parallelism”. Definitively, the trio made up of Monse Duany, Yordanka Ariosa and Linnett Hernandez, had a significant impact.
As for the last actress mentioned in that trio, some time ago young and prestigious playwright Rogelio Orizondo, confessed his astonishment during a rehearsal of Antigonon, un Contingente Epico (Antigonon, An Epic Contingent), when Linnett Hernandez read one of her monologues on stage. “I had never seen an actress defending one of my texts with such power (…) when she took the heeled shoes and said that text, I knew she’d made a huge impressive on every people listening to her. Linnett is a lucky black actress, with a lot of work”.
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Hernandez has had the opportunity, with some of her characters, to go beyond the stereotype that is sometimes established in the Cuban art, where most of roles written for black actresses are conceived as prostitutes, slaves or marginal people. In Caballos (Horses) (2015), Fabian Suarez’s opera prima, she plays Galaxia and, in Rogelio Paris’ Kangamba (2008), she played a dramatic role.
These women, her conflicts and talents, encourage us to think about some of the most renowned Afro-Cuban actresses, in Cuban theaters, the big screen or the small one. Besides the three above-mentioned actresses and others that will be left out of this subjective and always imperfecta classification, there is another young star that stands out.
Claudia Muñiz has worked with director Kiki Alvarez, after Venecia she was handed the prize to the Best Actress in movies festivals held in Guadalajara (2015) and Gramado (2015) and she has also been seen in Los Dioses Rotos (The Broken Gods, 2008) and 7 Dias en La Habana (7 Days in Havana, 2012).
In this sort of inaccurate enumeration, we forget to mention the acclaimed career of Luisa Maria Jimenez; La Tojosa, in Sol de Batey; Niña Lala, in Tierra Brava, an actress that has also played roles in movies directed by Belkis Vega (Santa Camila de la Habana Vieja, 2002), Juan Carlos Cremata (Viva Cuba, 2005) and Humberto Solas (Barrio Cuba, 2005).
On the other hand, when it comes to talking about Aurora Basnuevo we can say that the molded an artist and, at the same time, this woman’s work has given the radio a substantial legacy. Estervina, as she’s also known for her role in Alegrias de Sobremesa show, has been respected by the Cuban public for over 50 years.
There is no way this selection, which follows no specific pattern, could disregard Alicia Bustamante because this woman has lived the movie magic in over a dozen films. With a solid theater career, the versatility of this woman makes her stand out.
Irela Bravo hasn’t developed a memorable career in the movies or on TV, but she deserves to be included on this list. As Maria Silvia, in Elpidio Valdes, her voice in Vampiros en La Habana, her leading role in Entre tu y yo TV show and her presence, every Monday, in Vivir del cuento comedy show as Cachita, have fostered her popularity among the public.
There are two young actresses that are also worth mentioning due to their presence on Cuban television. One of them, Ariana Alvarez, has become very popular because of her capacity to play different roles. The other one, Edenis Sanchez, former presenter of Piso 6 musical show and has been also acclaimed for role in Tras la Huella crime series.
These artists are just a sample of those great Afro-Cuban women, since the list of immortal stars in Cuban movies, television and theater also includes Asenneh Rodriguez, Adela Legra and Alina Rodriguez.
By Jennifer Veliz Gutierrez / PanamericanWorld – Havana