Saturday, June 4, 2011


In honor of the United Nations naming 2011 the year of Afrodescendents I wanted to honor the story of an AFROCUBANA.

For one night only check out award winning actress and star of Showtime’s hit series Dexter, Lauren Velez, in “They Call Me La Lupe.” The one-woman show was written by James Manos, Jr., the Emmy award winning writer of The Sopranos, and Luis Caballero and is directed by Veronica Caicedo. “They Call Me La Lupe” is playing in NYC for one night on Saturday, June 4, 2011 at 7:00pm at Hostos Center for the Arts and Culture, 450 Grand Concourse at 149th Street.

In “They Call Me La Lupe,” Velez takes us on a journey through La Lupe’s life from the launch of her career in Cuba to arriving to NYC. We travel into the world of Santeria and her fame with Fania Records. Then we spiral down with La Lupe through her failed relationships with men, when she breaks her back, her house catches fire and she becomes homeless.

Back in January I had the opportunity to speak with Lauren Velez after her performance at Teatro Latea. I attended two performances intentionally. I went to the opening and closing nights. I wanted to see how the play was born and its continued development as the weeks went on.

As I watched Lauren transform into La Lupe I could see where people might confuse her passion for singing to that of being possessed by some spirit. The amazing thing was that it felt as if the spirit of La Lupe came through Velez. People fear what they don’t understand. And what people don’t understand they want to destroy and get rid of.

Guadalupe Victoria YolĂ­ Raymond, “La Lupe,” left Cuba and was discovered by Mongo Santa Maria and later would join Tito Puente. She became the Queen of Latin Soul. La Lupe was the first Latin woman to sing in Carnegie Hall. “They Call Me La Lupe” is a story of a woman’s “Strength of Spirit,” La Lupe would not take no for an answer! An important theme in the play is this idea of a woman rising to fame in a sea of men.

“The more he pulled the more I slipped away. Men are always afraid of women who have their own power.” Lauren Velez, in They Call Me La Lupe

AAS: Why is important for you to tell La Lupe’s story? Why now? Why is the story of an Afrolatina, an Afrocubana important?

LV: Because she contributed so much to Latino music. She changed it. She was a pioneer. She was the first woman to come here and rise in a male dominated field (before Celia) and for her not only to be a woman but an Afrocaribena was incredible and she was uniquely herself. This incredible force of nature—who was unapologetic and fierce and fearless. She was just a dynamo and they tried to squash her because she was so individualistic, so unique and people did not know what to do with her. La Lupe left us with an incredible legacy of music and spirit and people need to know and remember who La Lupe was.

Lauren did an amazing job transforming into La Lupe. She cared about the integrity of the story. When I spoke with director, Veronica Caicedo she told me, “I’ve been directing one person shows for a long time. You need a creative mind to build so many characters. The most important part is to connect the characters with La Lupe and so what Lauren does as she becomes these other characters must be determined – it needs to be clear for those transitions to work.” Lauren worked that stage. Her performance was fantastic. It felt personal to me. La Yiyiyi was present. There were moments I just watched in awe. I felt Lupe's pain, her strength, her joy of life. I wanted more.

AAS: How does her story affect you? Why are you the person to tell this story?

LV: I don’t know why but it comes out of me.

AAS: Is it a calling?

LV: Yes! You can say it’s a calling. I’ve always responded to her story to her. I come from a fierce tribe of women who are incredibly strong and to me La Lupe is just that spirit. She is the spirit of so many women that I grew up with and it just feels natural to me. It’s an inspiring story about somebody who comes from another country and makes such a success for themselves. Almost showing people--don’t let what happen to her– those people who tried to kill her spirit… happen to you. In the end she succeeded, in the end she kept going and she found herself, in the end she found God. She was really thrown down and dealt with a lot of evil.

Music changes La Lupe’s life and in many ways saves it. Lauren and I talked about negative energy and jealousy in the industry. When it seems like La Lupe is at her worst hour she gets up and walks with her two children in the streets of New York saying to herself “Yo soy la lupe, I am La Lupe, I am La Lupe.” She never forgets who she is.

AAA: What’s the one thing you want people to know about La Lupe? What’s the one thing from this show? What do you want people to leave with – to get right?

LV: That she was a warrior, a guerrera. That no matter what was going on in her life she was going to keep on fighting for what she believed in—honoring HER TRUE SELF.

This is a story of forgiveness, a search for self and peace found in the end. Despite all of the adversity La Lupe held on to her spirit, a spirit that still lives on today. That’s the point of the journey… it points you inwards. If you haven’t seen the play, bring it to your city. Let’s help Lauren Velez bring this play to Broadway. Let's help Lauren bring this story to the big screen!!!

Pictures courtesy of Nancy Arroyo-Ruffin

Peace, light and LOVE~

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

June 4th really? Almost a month ago. Damn. I missed her again.