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Danielle Roper
Friday, February 26, 2021, 03:00pm
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Blackface in Miami: Catedracismo in the age of Obama

When Senator Barack Obama announced his candidacy for the presidency of the United States, late night talk show hosts across the United States intensely followed his rise to power.   Obama’s rise occasioned the curious emergence of the blackface character Yeyo Vargas on the Spanish-language late-night program “Esta Noche Tu Night” (Tonight Tonight) produced in Miami and hosted by the Cuban comedian Alexis Valdes.  Decentering U.S blackface minstrelsy as paradigmatic of a global form, this study reads Yeyo Vargas as a modern “negro catedrático” figure of Cuba’s teatro bufo theatre tradition and examines the role of blackface tropes from Latin America and the Caribbean in mediating the rise of the first black president in the United States. 

Danielle Roper is the Neubauer Family Assistant Professor in the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures at the University of Chicago.  Roper's work engages racial and queer performance in contemporary Latin America and the Caribbean. She holds a Phd in Spanish and Portuguese and MA in Performance Studies from New York University.  She is currently writing a book "Hemispheric Blackface: Impersonation and Racial Formation in the Americas."  Roper is a former Thomas J. Watson fellow. She is from Kingston, Jamaica.