Chicago in the 1960’s was a mix of segregated neighborhoods and people could tell where you lived according to your nationality. For Cubans coming to Chicago for economic opportunities, fleeing their homeland and leaving their families behind was a painful price to pay. With dreams of seeing their loved ones again slowly vanishing as the years went by and thoughts of returning home are even less possible, life in America became a contrast between joy and tragedy.
However, somewhere on the corner of Belmont and Sheffield led a little piece of Cuban Heaven called La Havana Madrid, which became a safe haven and a beacon of light for the Latino community. A place where you can reminisce about your family, your friends and your home, this Latin nightclub was a place where life could begin again and you could feel safe among your new family of lost souls in a land of hope called Chicago.
A Musical History Lesson of Survival
“La Havana Madrid” was written by playwright and costar Sandra Delgado and directed by Cheryl Lynn Bruce; it is a combination of true life stories of Latino immigrants coming to Chicago with dreams of living a decent life only to experience racism, gentrification, displacement, relocation, poverty, and continual fears of deportation.
Adapted into a musical monologue of several immigrants telling their stories of coming and living in Chicago, each character’s emotional journey is captured within their melodic words of hope and trepidation. Blending in a band which played the beautiful sounds of mambo and salsa music, each story became a musical history lesson of how each person survived and rose above their current situation.
One of the characters Roberto “Carpacho” Marin (Marvin Quijada) shared his life experiences that depicted the plight that immigrants faced fearing ICE officers (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) sending them back to Cuba. And the real life legendary Colombian-American musician Roberto “Carpacho” Marin and his band of 30 years play live at each show.
As early as the 1950’s, Cubans began migrating to Chicago. The attraction of economic opportunities brought many to Chicago, however most were political dissidents fleeing Fulgencio Batista’s repressive regime. Being victorious in the Cuban revolution in 1959, some returned to Cuba but the majority stayed, leaving approximately 2,500 Cubans in Chicago in 1960. During that time, Chicago’s Puerto Rican communities were living on the west side of Lincoln Park between the intersection of Armitage Avenue and Halsted Street.
Opposition to the new Castro government and the “freedom flights,” which permitted Cubans to reunite with their families in the United States, brought in an estimated 20,000 additional Cubans to the Chicago area between 1960 and 1973.
Sandra Delgado, the writer of this magnificent play, brilliantly captures some of these escapades in such a warm and touching way that it makes you want to learn more about the amazing stories of immigrant historical journeys of freedom.
Although some of the testimonials that were shared of the Latinos journey were disheartening, Director Cheryl Lynn Bruce danced into our hearts with upbeat and fun performances about this pivotal piece of Chicago history.
Our only negative is the seating which is set up like a night club; there were times when the actors sat on the stage and we lost visual contact with them, which to us hurt our connection with their story. We believe a simple high chair on the stage could have resolved that issue.
We recommend “La Havana Madrid” if you want to learn about one of Chicago’s increasingly forgotten parts of history in Lincoln Park, which is now among the most expensive and least diverse neighborhoods in the city. Through this production, you will step into Chicago’s legendary La Havana Madrid where you will be taken back in time to the 1960’s at the long-gone Caribbean night club.
The cast Includes:
Sandra Delgado (La Havana Madrid)
Tommy Rivera-Vega (Henry)
Donovan Diaz (Carlos)
Mike Oquendo (Tony)
Krystal Ortiz (Maria)
Marvin Quijada (Carpacho)
Valeria Rosero (Maruja)
Claudia Quesada (Myrna)