Most of the characters in Nilo Cruz’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play “Anna in the Tropics” cannot read or write, but they can recite lines from “Don Quixote” and “Jane Eyre.” Back when cigars were hand-rolled and named for the flush-cheeked heroines of the great romance novels, cigar factory workers set aside a portion of their wages to pay someone who would read to them.
These velvet-voiced lectors were as carefully selected as the tobacco leaves, and the raised platforms from which they read were as practical as they were symbolic. Up high, their voices carried, and their exalted status was confirmed. Women fell in love, husbands threw jealous fits, and factory owners fretted over just where their workers minds were wandering. Learning, and yearning, in the tropics.
Nilo Cruz, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright of “Anna in the Tropics”