The Carpa Cubana and Sabino Gomez Photograph Collections
What's Inside this Collection.
The Witte Museum's Carpa Cubana and Sabino Gomez Photograph Collection documents the Mexican American tent shows that traveled Mexico and the Southwestern United States. Active from around 1910 until the 1940s, the "carpas" combined traditional circus acts such as acrobats and clowns with theatrical performances such as singing, dancing, and comedy routines.
The carpas have had a lasting influence on contemporary Mexican-American Theater and have created characters such as the pelado, or underdog, who used comedy to comment on working-class Mexican American life that would be familiar to today's audiences.
San Antonio was the hub of carpa activity in Texas. Several carpas were based in San Antonio, most notably La Carpa Garcia and La Carpa Cubana. These family based carpa troupes were a popular form of entertainment amon working class families with roots in Mexico. The carpas primarily traveled to and performed in rural Texas towns, but some traveled as far as away as New Mexico, Arizona, and California.
Sabino Gomez was a performer in La Carpa Cubana. The photographs in his collection date between 1901 and 1945 and document the performers of La Carpa Cubana and his friends. La Carpa Cubana was operated by the Virgilio Abreu family of San Antonio. The photographs in the collection date between 1921 and 1957 and document the daily life of the family, their friends and fellow performers.