This past weekend I had the opportunity to see the off Broadway production of “They Call Me La Lupe” starring Brooklyn born actress and fellow Latina, Lauren Velez.
The story is about the life of the dynamic, freewheeling, uncontainable, but brilliant Cuban singer Guadalupe Victoria Yoli Raymond, the original Queen of Latin Soul. It was a remarkable depiction of one woman’s desire to sing and not let anything or anyone, not even Fidel Castro’s communist Cuba stop her.
Having no choice she fled to New York City where she sang with the likes of Mongo Santa Maria and Tito Puente and became the queen of Latin music starting her own musical Latin revolution. She met with fame and fortune, at one time owning some 15 Cadillacs, and became the first Latin woman to sing in Carnegie Hall. But as with most musical geniuses her personal demons eventually conquered her. La Lupe’s spirit, passion and quest for freedom ultimately led to her downfall.
Lauren Velez’s potrayal of La Yiyiyi’s life was riveting. Watching her was like being lost in an avalanche of emotions. I laughed, cried, felt her pain, sadness and eventually her redemption. It was an exhilirating experience that I am so happy I was a part of.
As I sat there and watched this performance of a Latina’s life story being told through the eyes and voice of a fellow Latina I couldn’t help but feel some sadness that there aren’t more Latino(a) theatrical performances. As evidenced by the sold out shows, there clearly is an audience that wants to see Latino(a) stories told and brought to life on the stage.
In a recent interview with Latina Magazine, Lauren Velez discusses the importance of an actual Latina playing the role of La Lupe, “It does happen! I’m happy about it too. I could be waiting for somebody to do it for me, but I’m not. I hired the writer. I got into production with LATEA Theater and this is the way we [Latinas] have to get things done. Because unfortunately, it’s still not a level playing field, so that means we have to keep pushing and pushing. I’m going to keep pushing for me, and for my niece, and for every single Latina that’s out there who thinks they have to wait for something—you don’t have to wait for anything. Me and Lupe are here to tell you not to wait. No esperes. Brinca!”
I couldn’t agree with her more!