Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Latin American, Iberian and Latino Cultures


Jean Graham-Jones

Committee Members

Elena Martínez

Carlos Riobó

Subject Categories

Latin American Literature | Latin American Studies | Theatre and Performance Studies


cuba, theater, humor, post-Machado, Cuban Revolution, Special Period


This project analyzes the incorporation of choteo in specific Cuban theater texts written during three distinct periods in twentieth-century Cuban history, all of which coincide with specific moments of social, political, and/or economic unrest or transition. Choteo in the theater has served as a tool to demonstrate discontent and frustration with authority figures in various contexts. As that need has altered over time, so too has the approach that playwrights have taken to speak out about these issues. I suggest that by responding to changing circumstances with choteo, confronting a difficult situation is more palatable to audiences or readers than using a more serious approach.

I investigate humor theories from Henri Bergson, Sigmund Freud, and Peter McGraw, along with analyses of choteo by Jorge Mañach, Gustavo Pérez Firmat, and Narciso Hidalgo, to consider how and why choteo is used, and the effects of its use. I put forth a definition of choteo that suits its application in literary texts, and I demonstrate that choteo in the theater exists in various forms. While this is not an exhaustive study of choteo in the theater, a close reading of the selected plays provides various examples of the ways in which choteo has been applied in theatrical texts in order to express discontent with specific situations.

Chapter one examines the years following Machado’s dictatorship and investigates the uses of choteo directed at social classes and social changes related to race, gender, and class. The three plays selected from this period are Y quiso más la vida (1934), by José Cid Pérez, Junto al río (1938), by Luis Baralt, and El velorio de Pura (1941), by Flora Díaz Parrado.

Chapter two analyzes the use of choteo to discuss political unrest during the early years of Castro’s Revolution and the texts from these years demonstrate a lack of change and a fear of repetition of previous political situations in the country. The plays from this period include El flaco y el gordo (1959), by Virgilio Piñera, La paz en el sombrero (1961), by Gloria Parrado, and La muerte del Ñeque (1963), by José Triana.

Chapter three considers choteo in the theater during the Special Period and reflects the economic experiences of Cuban society at that moment. Due to their specific socio-economic foci, I have elected to analyze Manteca (1993), by Alberto Pedro Torriente, Laberinto de lobos (1994), by Miguel Terry, and Vereda tropical (1994), by Joaquín Miguel Cuartas Rodríguez.

I aim to demonstrate that choteo in the theater, specifically that used in plays written during moments of great change in twentieth-century Cuba, serves a greater purpose than simply making the spectator or reader laugh. It is my intention not only to discuss the myriad examples of choteo in certain Cuban plays, but also to explain its function in these works.

While choteo has not necessarily brought about direct or immediate cultural shifts, I believe that it has the potential to aid in the ever-transforming face of Cuban society. Whether it serves as a mere form of temporary escapism, as a means to openly effect change, or something in between, choteo plays a significant role in both mirroring and influencing Cuban society.