Cuban puppet theatre. Teatro Papalote was founded in 1962 in the city of Matanzas by director René Fernández Santana. The company is recognized in Cuba and internationally for its emphasis on Afro-Cuban folklore and culture.

As Papalote’s director and playwright, René Fernández Santana has received a number of awards and other honours. Papalote’s cast has included over the years Migdalia Seguí, Rubén Darío Salazar, Freddy Maragoto, Lea Milagros Hernández, Mayda Seguí and Arneldy Cejas. Other members of the group are technicians and specialists dedicated to puppet making, music and stage design, costumes and administration. The talent and creativity of Zenén Calero Medina was a fundamental element of the group (up to the time when this designer left the company in 1994 to found Teatro de Las Estaciones with Rubén Darío Salazar). The sets and puppets of each production reflect his original vision.

For over fifty years, Teatro Papalote’s productions have drawn upon local and classical literature, most of them adapted or written by René Fernández Santana. The most notable include: Okin, eiyé ayé (1988); Otra vez Caperucita y el lobo (Once Again Riding Hood and the Wolf, 1991), a free version of the work of Charles Perrault; Una cucarachita llamada Martina (A Cockroach Named Martina, 1991); Los Ibeyis y el Diablo (The Ibeyis and the Devil, 1992); Disfraces (Disguises, 1992); El poeta y Platero (The Poet and Platero, 1993); Divertimento Moderato (1993); Historia de burros (Story of Donkeys, 1994); Obiaya Fufe lele; Romance del Papalote que quería llegar a la Luna (Romance of the Kite that Wanted to Go to the Moon); El tambor de Ayapa (Ayapa’s Drum); Nokán y el maíz (Nokán and the Corn); Tierra a la vista (Land Ho!).

The company has premiered over one hundred works in Cuba and abroad. It has participated in over twenty festivals in different regions of Cuba (Havana, Camagüey, Topes de Collantes, Cienfuegos, Santiago de Cuba). It has participated in international festivals in Biels Kobiala (1984), at the Latin-American Festival in Cádiz and theatre exhibition in Mérida, Spain (1985), the Gira Artística por Andalucía in Andalusia, Spain (1987), Puppet Art 88 International Festival of Puppet Schools in Ljubljana, Yugoslavia (1988), Teatro Malic in Barcelona, Spain, the Festival Internacional de Títeres Ollin Yoliztlli, Mexico (1988), Festival Mondial des Théâtres de Marionnettes in Charleville-Mézières, France (1991), Theatre Tour in Gothenburg and Stockholm, Sweden (1991), and the Festival Theatre Centre Lund in Sweden (1994).

Since 1994, Teatro Papalote has organized the biennial Taller Internacional de Títeres de Matanzas (TITIM, International Puppetry Workshop) held in the city of Matanzas. The theatre company has also been an important partner in publishing the Boletín de Títeres la Mojiganga (Bulletin of the Mojiganga Puppets), which appeared for several years. In 2007, René Fernández was the recipient of the National Award of Theatre. To date, he is the only leader in the genre of puppet theatre who has won this important Cuban award.

Teatro Papalote is still operating after more than fifty years of existence and with René Fernández as its director. With a new generation of puppeteers, the more recent plays he has directed include Tres somos tres (Three are Three) and Nubes azules (Blue Clouds).

René Fernández Santana is also the current President of UNIMA Cuba.

(See Cuba.)