Exploring identity in ¡BIENVENIDOS BLANCOS! or WELCOME WHITE PEOPLE!

A special message from our partner, FringeArts:

By: Kyle O’Kane 


This April, FringeArts and Team Sunshine Performance Corporation present
¡ BIENVENIDOS BLANCOS! OR WELCOME WHITE PEOPLE!, a world premiere
collaboration between the Philadelphia-based theater company and Cuban theater artists. The play tackles pressing contemporary issues like economic oppression, race, and embargoes, and it’s a show that sprung from questions of identity. In Bienvenidos Blancos, identity is fractured, as individuals struggle to reconcile their Latinx identity with their American one.

Cuban-American director and Team Sunshine co-founder Alex Torra is the lead artist behind Bienvenidos Blancos ’ magic. When asked in an interview about the title, he replied, “Back in 2015, I had an opportunity to travel to Cuba for the first time. I was really taken aback by how many of my interactions were tourism-based…focused on getting white tourists to have a great time and spend money. It’s for the sake of survival, for sure, but it makes me deeply uncomfortable.” On his experience in America, Torra shares, “ A big complication for me is my white Latinoness. I present white…but I’m part of a Latinx minority group. Along the way, I deleted my Miami accent, and I worked hard to fit and succeed. I ‘whitened’.” With Bienvenidos Blancos, he hopes to go back to his roots and dig deep into what it means to be Cuban-American.

A term relevant to the themes of identity in Bienvenidos Blancos is “double-consciousness,” coined by W.E.B DuBois in The Souls of Black Folk . With it, DuBois touches on the idea of the fractured identity, when you contain more than one social identity and it becomes difficult to develop a sense of self. Torra definitely feels this double-consciousness in his life, reflecting, “ I find myself in Anglo spaces and find myself not quite fitting in…[and] when I go to Miami or Havana, I don’t quite fit in anymore in Cuban spaces. I feel a little stuck.” It’s a challenging place to be in, and in a society that focuses heavily on putting us into a single category, how do we as people maintain an identity that ticks multiple boxes?

Bienvenidos Blancos is the latest game-changing production from Team Sunshine Performance Corporation. Past productions include The Sincerity Project (2014 and 2016)—an anti-play ritual where the same ensemble comes back every 2 years to discuss the memories and lives they’ve made— Henry IV: Your Prince and Mine (2014), and JapanAmerica Wonderwave (2011). Bienvenidos Blancos is their most ambitious work yet, bringing together artists from Cuba with Cuban-Americans and white Americans. Torra is specifically excited to show this to university students, stating, “Our audience has always skewed young, and because the piece is rooted in my particular questions, in a 1 st generation Latino encountering his ‘home’ culture, that felt like an experience that a lot of young Latinx individuals could relate to.”

This performance runs from April 18 – April 28 at FringeArts’ waterfront headquarters, 140 N. Columbus Blvd. (at Race St.) and will feature local Afro-Cuban Rumba performers each night of the run. Tickets cost $15 for students and are available by phone online at FringeArts.com . College Night with Campus Philly is April 19th, where the first 50 Open Arts members to register can see the production for free.