How ‘In the Heights’ Could Flip the Script on Hollywood’s Sketchy History With Latino Culture

·1-min read

In “Carnaval Del Barrio,” one of the many show-stopping numbers in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “In The Heights,” the alleys of Washington Heights in the northern tip of Manhattan are draped in flags from all the countries its immigrant residents come from as the cast cries out “¡Alza la bandera!” — “Raise the flag!” The flags of Mexico, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Dominican Republic and even Jamaica all fly as the characters express their pride not just in their nationalities, but in the community they call home. “My mom is Dominican-Cuban, my dad is from Chile and P.R.” sings the gossipy salon worker Carla. “Which means I’m Chile-Dominica-Curican…but I just say I’m from Queens!”That awareness of the wide spectrum of Latino immigrant cultures is present in every second of Jon M. Chu’s film adaptation of the Tony-winning Broadway musical, from the Puerto Rican piraguas served during hot summer days to the Cuban guayaberas and Panama hats worn by the dancers as Abuela Claudia (Olga Mendiz) reflects on her mother’s decision to leave Havana in the song “Paciencia Y Fe.” They are, to quote Claudia, “little details that tell the world that we are not invisible.” Chon Noriega, professor at the UCLA School of...

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