'Latins on Ice' takes comical look at life for Latino newcomers to Minnesota

Cast members talk about enduring icy temps as well as cold shoulders from Minnesotans

Latins on Ice.
The production of Latins on Ice takes place on frozen Lake Nokomis this weekend. It gives a comical real-life look at the issues and culture shock Latinos face when they move to Minnesota from areas that have large, warm and friendly Latino communities.
Courtesy photo by Maxwell Collyard

Imagine being Latino and moving to Minnesota from Miami, Los Angeles or Houston.

The subzero temperatures. Minnesota Nice. Isolation.

These are some of the real-life issues tackled by the actors in the “Latins on Ice” production taking place Saturday and Sunday. And as the name implies, the show is staged on frozen Lake Nokomis, as part of the Great Northern Festival.

Sabrín Diehl moved to Minnesota from Miami to attend college where he graduated with a degree in theater. 

The idea for “Latins on Ice” surfaced during the summer of 2020, Diehl said. As the pandemic had shut everything down, he was trying to figure out what to do.

“I was kind of freaking out because all the theaters were closing. And I actually thought I had plans to move to Los Angeles because I was like, ‘I'm not going to be in this cold during a pandemic,’” Diehl said.

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While speaking with his mentor, Diehl asked about theater productions for the winter. He jokingly asked if they performed Shakespeare on ice. 

That comment became the catalyst for “Latins on Ice.”

The production, which runs about 45 minutes and is made up of a series of sketches, looks at issues that native Minnesotans may not see as problematic for newcomers.

And those problems go beyond the cold temperatures.

Isabella Dunsieth loves the cold, so extreme temperatures weren’t an issue. For her, it was the other type of cold that was difficult to adjust to. It was the people and Minnesota Nice. She learned how to behave around that, she said.

“But it was very shocking to me. Because at home, my mom and I scream at each other to show our affection. And we’re loud and boisterous. And we say what we feel. And if we have a problem with you. We’ll say it to your face,” Dunsieth said.

As Dunsieth spoke, Diehl jumped in and pointed to a line written by Dunsieth that spoke to this.

“You have a great line that you wrote. That is like, ‘everyone warned me about the cold, but no one warned me about the loneliness,’” Diehl said.

People will provide tips on buying the proper boots and jackets, Dunsieth said. But there are things that no one mentions.

“There’s this other side of things that, you know, some people can get very hostile towards people of color, toward Latinos specifically. And it can be rough,” she said.

Xochi de la Luna wrote a sketch in tribute to a very famous Latino sitcom. She wouldn’t mention the name because she wants it to be a surprise. But the premise is that the entire vecindad, neighborhood, gets transported to the frozen lake.

“And then we see what ensues after that. It’s speaking to the culture shock that any Latino would feel from experiencing winter for the first time,” de la Luna said.

It’s something her own cousin, who moved here at the age of 10, experienced.

“He was so excited to see the snow,” de la Luna said. “He runs out there just in pajamas and jumps into the snow. And then, like a few seconds later, starts screaming and running around, like ‘Oh my God, it burns!’ And you know this is something that they don’t tell you that this beautiful white powder stuff is dangerous.”

The theme of ice not only represents the cold, it’s also used to talk about that other ICE – U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Diehl said. The production also touches on that political aspect, he said.

Poster for Latins on Ice.
The production of Latins on Ice will take place on Lake Nokomis this weekend.
Courtesy image

But the show is also celebrates Latino culture. 

Antonio Rios-Luna said the show is written for and about Latinos.

“I think the show is very special,” said Rios-Luna. “And it’ll be made even more special if the people we’re really writing this for were there to enjoy it. And to enjoy it with us.” 

Latins on Ice will have three free performances. Saturday’s shows are at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. and Sunday at 11 a.m.

Vicki Adame covers Minnesota’s Latino communities for MPR News via Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues and communities.