Dominican Republic: The Passing of the Multi-Talented Luisito Martí

In the Dominican Republic, the funeral to bid farewell to Luisito Martí [es], a versatile comedian who died on January 3 after suffering from stomach cancer, was attended by hundreds of people from the country's President to the simplest of citizens. The scene was described by Reynaldo Brito of the blog Imágenes Dominicanas [es]:

Su imagen perdurará, aún en su sepelio y en el trayecto a su tumba, la risa de Luisito Martí brillaba entre la multiud que fue a darle el último adiós. Con alegría, entre aplausos, con merengues, proyecciones de sus películas, fue sepultado el polifacético hombre que dio vida a decenas de personajes que recrearán por siempre la alegría con la que vivió.

His image will endure, even during his funeral and on the way to his tomb, the laughter of Luisito Martí shone through the multitude that went to say their last goodbye. With joy, applause, the dancing of merengue, screenings of his movies, it was the burial of the multi-talented man, who gave life to dozens of characters who will forever be recreated with the joy with which he lived.

Photo of spectators to pay their final respects to Martí. Photo by Nicolas Monegro and used with permission.

Photo of spectators to pay their final respects to Martí. Photo by Nicolas Monegro and used with permission.

Born in Santo Domingo on February 1, 1945 as Luis Bernardo Marte Hernández, Martí started in show-business in the 1970s alongside the well-known merengue artist Jhonny Ventura, and became a part of Combo Show, where he played the conga drums. In 1975, he scored a hit with the song “La Muerte de Martín” (The Death of Martín), the first of his many hits, which ranged from songs to celebrated characters that perfectly reflected the Dominican idiosyncrasies.

Photo of Luisito Martí by Imagenes Dominicanas and used with permission.

Photo of Luisito Martí by Imagenes Dominicanas and used with permission.

In the 1980s, Martí developed characters, including the popular Balbuena, Casimiro Valdez, Lamparita, El Chino Bichán y Belarminio. Of these, Balbuena had an international reach, when he became the lead in the 1995 Dominican film, “Nueba Yol: Por Fin Llegó Balbuena!” directed by Angel Muñíz, and which chronicled the reality of the Dominican immigrant that arrives to New York in search for the famous “American dream.” Rita Tejada analyzes the film and writes [es]:

La película Nueba Yol (1995) es la representación visual del costo para lograr ese sueño. Nueba Yol fue éxito de taquilla cuando se presentó en los cines dominicanos. Tanto en la República Dominicana como en los Estados Unidos, esta película se ha convertido en material de referencia, por ser uno de los pocos largometrajes dominicanos con cierta calidad y por tratar un tema tan vigente como lo es la emigración.

The film Nueba Yol (1995) is the visual representation of the cost to achieve that dream. Nueba Yol was a box-office success when it was shown in Dominican theaters. In the Dominican Republic, as well as in the United States, this film has become a reference point, for being one of the few high-quality Dominican films that has been able to address the current issue that is emigration.

For Dominicans, Luisito Martí has left a lasting legacy, which is summarized by José Rafael Sosa:

Tu legado es la alegria.

Tu herencia el talento que brindaste.

Tu aporte: el haber desmostrado que el trabajo de hacer reir era una misión demasiado seria

Your legacy is the joy.

You leave behind the inheritance of your talent that you gave us.

Your contribution: being able to show that the job of making us laugh was a very serious mission

Translated by Eduardo Ávila

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