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Carmen Vásquez  (b. 1861, d. 1934)
Teatro Carmen, Tucson
Carmen Vásquez Historic Site Marker for Teatro Carmen Teatro Carmen Entrance, 348 S. Meyer Street, Tucson
Carmen Soto de Vásquez, founded Teatro Carmen, a Spanish-language theatre in Tucson's barrio. It became the most elegant theatre of its era from 1914 to 1922. The theatre provided a venue for the performance of outstanding Spanish language literary productions as well as operas, musicals, and melodramas. This colorful building still stands in one of Tucson's oldest barrios.

Region: Tucson and Southern Arizona
Theme: Arts and Architecture

Carmen Soto de Vásquez, a member of a prominent Tucson pioneer family, launched a new business and cultural venture when she was in her fifties, opening Teatro Carmen, a Spanish-language theatre in Tucson's barrio. Tucson became a Southwestern cultural center in the 1920s as music, operas, and theatrical productions became an important part of life in the desert town.

Carmen Vásquez commissioned a renowned architect and builder, Manuel Flores, to build Teatro Carmen. He designed the building in the Sonoran-mission style at 348 S. Meyer. Opening in 1914, the theatre provided a venue for the performance of outstanding Spanish language literary productions as well as operas, musicals and melodramas, attracting troupes from Spain and Mexico who performed for appreciative audiences in the little western city. It became the most elegant theatre of its era, from 1914 to 1922. For the Mexicanos of Tucson, Teatro Carmen represented self-identity and proof of the power, depth and beauty of their culture. Teatro Carmen had an ample stage, excellent lighting and decorations and seated 1,400 patrons.

Carmen Soto de Vásquez acted as producer of events at Teatro Carmen for nine years. The venture was a success financially, but more than that, it provided an opportunity to showcase art characteristic of the Mexican culture. However, by the early 1920s, movies and boxing matches began to take the theatre's audience, and 1922 was the last year the theatre featured Hispanic drama. During the final years, Carmen Soto Vasquez booked dancing and boxing matches, prior to selling the theater in 1926. In 1924, she moved to Nogales with her husband and family.

This colorful building still stands in one of Tucson's oldest barrios at 348 S. Meyer. This building is privately owned and is a drive-by site.

Photo Credits:
Carmen Vásquez - Courtesy of Arizona Historical Society, Tucson

 

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