April 23, 2003
Latino history was made earlier this month when Cuban-American playwright Nilo Cruz won the Pulitzer Prize in Drama. The judges hailed his play, "Anna in the Tropics," for its poetry, imagery and symbolism. Cruz's style has brought many comparisons to the great Spanish poet-playwright Federico Garcia Lorca. But the similarities don't end there. Like Lorca, Cruz is a gay Latino.
Despite their sexual orientation, the plays these men have created are not gay-themed. Nor do they have to be. Members of the Latino community, as well as the general public, should acknowledge the totality of these great artists. We should not be embarrassed of them for loving individuals of the same sex.
If this were not such a homophobic society, all individuals could enjoy a right to their sexual privacy. But in our times, there is a need for accomplished and visible gay and lesbian Latinas and Latinos. Visibility helps bring equal rights. And too many Latinos, along with too many other Americans, harbor bigotry against gays and lesbians.
In his award-winning play, Cruz illuminates the "lector" tradition brought from Cuba to Florida in the 19th century. In a cigar-making factory, the lector reads literature to the workers while they work -- a novel and humane idea in itself. So, to a great extent, the play deals with the transformative power of art.
If our society were to take this one step further and look at the totality of the individuals who create art, they would find many a gay or lesbian artist behind the work. In this way, perhaps, we could find the humanity in all individuals regardless of their sexual orientation.
If the likes of Lorca, Tennessee Williams and Oscar Wilde -- to name a few -- were identified in classrooms as great playwrights who were also gay men, society might have a higher regard for gay people and their contributions to the betterment of society.
For those who balk at a need for visible gay and lesbian people, one need only to remember the tragic end of Lorca's life. He was a genius murdered by a fascist regime at the height of his career for his political beliefs and his "lifestyle."
By winning the Pulitzer, Cruz may play the role of "lector" in our society. He can teach us a lot about equality and humanity.
Adelina Anthony is a lesbian Chicana artist living in Los Angeles. She can be reached at email@example.com.