Off stage, others know Merlina by another name: Maria Ibanez. The Cuban-American is one of the few female magicians in Florida, and one of few Hispanic women that performs full time. There’s even less that can perform both in Spanish and English and integrate their own story of immigrating into their act.
Merlina was born in Havana Cuba and is the only child of a petroleum
engineer and a housewife, she spent her early years in Cuba, surrounded by her
family. Her only experience with magicians came when she was about 6 years old,
and it was very unpleasant. Her family escaped the communist regime a
couple of years later, after her father had been imprisoned five times.
As soon as her father was able to repay the year of financial assistance
they had received, he took his family down to the Refugee Center and he returned
the $1,200, the amount they had received for support. “For him it was very
important to return this, he was also very grateful to this country that
welcomed us with open arms” says Ibanez.
Merlina has the distinction of having served as President of the oldest magic society in the world, founded in 1902; the Society of American Magicians. She was installed by another Past National President, the well known and highly respected, Cesareo Pelaez of Le Grand David of Beverly, Massachussets, on 7-7-07 in Dallas, Texas. She is the third woman ever to have been elected to the position by the S.A.M. (acronym the society is known by) When speaking about her rise to the S.A.M. Presidency, “It has been quite a ride: a magic carpet ride” she jokes.
Obtaining the incredible is nothing new to Ibanez. She is also the only woman to serve as President of the Florida Magicians Association.
“Being female and Hispanic has never closed doors for me” she says. “I believe, in fact, it has helped me. Men have always given their support”.
Other magicians have confidence in Merlina. George Schindler, magician, actor, internationally famous comedian, the DEAN of the S.A.M, says it is the personality and persistence of Ibanez and not her latin roots which has made her such a success on and off the stage. “She always stands out. I am sure she will inspire many people” he says “She is a dynamo and she knows how to make herself heard. Even though she is a small woman, she produces huge waves”. Ibanez truly is full of energy; she is a whirlwind of smiles, words, and laughter. She has a presence and a personality that commands attention and creates followers. Schindler remembers jobs undertaken by Ibanez that brought much needed attention to this form of art.
Ibanez performs at schools, libraries, conventions, conferences, clubs and parties and has performed for well known and wealthy clients including the Royal Family of Saudi Arabia. However, there is nothing more satisfactory for her than to do charity work with sick children, usually terminally ill. “Making them laugh is the only pay I need”, she says. “What I enjoy the most is spending time with the children, watching their reactions and answering their questions”, she says. “I would rather do less shows and spend more time with them”.
Her husband, Jay,
manufactures most of her effects which is a great help as some can be quite
costly. Ibanez uses diverse outfits for different occasions, among them a
Halloween and a Bugs Bunny vest. Her business cards are not cardstock, they
are large brass tokens.
It is probable
that the most colorful of all she uses is her bunny, named Bugs and some of her
40 birds. Most of the birds live in a large aviary in her garden; Ibanez hand
feeds and personally handles the babies until they are tame and trained.
She is the recipient of countless awards and recognitions such as
Merlina has been on the cover of several publications including The Miami Herald, The Miami News, Readers Digest, M.U.M. - the official publication of the Society of American Magicians, in addition to appearing in numerous publications in articles. She has also appeared on TV on several occasions not just in the U.S. but overseas as well.
Ana Veciana-Suarez of The Miami Herald sums Merlina and her performances:
305-258-3414 -- MERLINA@MERLINA.COM
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