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The Rich and Fascinating History of Puerto Ricans on Broadway

Puerto Ricans have influenced New York culture for years, and their footprint is nowhere more prominent than it is on the Broadway stage. Although Puerto Ricans officially became US citizens in 1917 with the passage of the Jones-Shrofth Act, the “Great Migration” from PR to NYC truly started in the 1950s with the advent of commercial airline travel. After this initial influx of migrants, the Puerto Rican population of New York City skyrocketed to 12% of the city’s total population.

Naturally, with the sudden and stark change in demographics, New York City’s culture experienced a change too. This change was never more apparent than in the rise of the “Nuyorican” movement, a class of performers, artists and writers who embraced both the American and Puerto-Rican sides to their identity. Like many of the newcomers to New York City before them, on Broadway, Puerto Rican performers revealed themselves as forces to be reckoned with. It is there, on the Great White Way, that this group of actors proved to America that Latinos have as much talent as their white counterparts.

1. Chita Rivera

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Chita Rivera is arguably the most successful Latina–let alone, Puerto-Rican–to ever grace a Broadway stage. This seven-time Tony-nominated, two-time Tony-winner began her Broadway career in the musical “Call Me Madam” in 1951. However, it was her performance originating Anita in the original Broadway production of “West Side Story” that cemented her status as a Broadway icon. She has since appeared in almost 40 productions on stage, received the Kennedy Center Award in 2002 and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009.

2. Rita Moreno

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No introduction is necessary for the ultra-talented, legendary actress of stage and screen Rita Moreno. Although Moreno is probably best-known for her work as Anita in the film adaptation of “West Side Story”, she also has a successful career in theater. In 1975, she earned a Tony Award for her portrayal of Googie Gomez in the stage play, “The Ritz”. She truly is a living legend. She, too, has been awarded a Kennedy Center Award and a Presidential Medal of Freedom.

3. Raúl Juliá

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Best known for playing Gomez in the “The Addams Family” films, Juliá was actually a very well-respected stage actor nominated for multiple Tony Awards before he made the leap to the Silver Screen. He started acting career appearing in plays in Puerto Rico, but soon moved to New York City to try his hand at Broadway. He quickly found success as a celebrated Shakesperian actor, appearing in plays such as “The Two Gentlemen of Verona”, “King Lear”, “As You Like It”, and “The Taming of the Shrew”.

4. Diosa Costello

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Puerto-Rican born actress Diosa Costello is notable for being the first ever Latina to star in a Broadway play, the 1939 musical “Too Many Girls” with Cubano Desi Arnaz. Dubbed “The Latin Bombshell” (how original) by the press, Costello never received super-stardom because she was “reluctant” to take her career to Hollywood.

5. Olga San Juan

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For her incredible work in 1951’s “Paint Your Wagon”, Olga San Juan was the first ever Latina to receive the prestigious Donaldson Award, an award given by the New York theater community for excellence on stage. San Juan even experienced minor mainstream success in hit Hollywood films such as “Blue Skies” and “Variety Girl”.

6. José Ferrer

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Puerto Rican actor José Ferrer was renowned for his portrayal of the famous unlucky-in-love character Cyrano de Bergerac. In fact, Ferrer won a Tony Award in 1947 for his critically-acclaimed performance.

7. Míriam Colón

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Míriam Colón was part of the groundbreaking class of “Method” actors that rose to prominence in the 50s and 60s. Colón became the first Puerto Rican actor accepted into the Actors Studio after she impressed co-founded and visionary Elia Kazan with her audition. Later, she acted as founder and director of the Puerto Rican Traveling Theater in New York City that still exists today.

8. Lin Manuel Miranda

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Of course, we can’t continue this list without mentioning Lin Manuel Miranda–the Patron Saint of Puerto Ricans on Broadway. After establishing himself in the Broadway world with his hit Latinx-centric musical “In the Heights”, Miranda further cemented his place in the annals of Broadway history by writing and starring in the Broadway blockbuster “Hamilton” (you may have heard of it).

9. Anthony Ramos

You may know him as Lady Gaga’s BFF in “A Star is Born”, but Nuyorican actor Anthony Ramos actually got his start playing (and originating) the dual roles of John Laurens and Philip Hamilton in “Hamilton”. When “Hamilton” won the Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album, Ramos held up the Puerto Rican flag during the acceptance speech.

10. Ednita Nazario

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Although Ednita Nazario is primarily known as being a singer, this Puerto Rican powerhouse made waves in the theater community with her performance in the short-lived 1998 musical “The Capeman”. Although the musical faced harsh criticism, Nazario herself earned a Drama Desk Award for her performance

11. Josh Segarra

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Actor of Puerto Rican descent Josh Segarra graduated NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts with a degree in theater. Afterward, he quickly made a name for himself by originating the role of Emilio Estefan in the hit Broadway musical based on Gloria Estefan’s life “On Your Feet!”.

12. Luis Salgado

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Puerto Rican performer Luis Salgado is a respected choreographer who had much to do with the stunning dance visuals of Lin Manuel-Miranda’s “In the Heights”. He’s appeared in musical productions of “Rocky” and “On Your Feet!”. Of being a Puerto Rican actor on Broadway, Salgado says: ““The funny thing is that they still ask Puerto Rican actors: ‘Do you have documents to work here?’ There’s so much one wants to reply to that question…”

13. John Leguizamo

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Already a famous Hollywood actor, John Leguizamo took his talent to the Great White Way with “Latin History for Morons”, a critically-acclaimed play he wrote and starred in. The play was nominated for a 2018 Tony for Best Play.

14. Ariana DeBose

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Ariana de Bose is an actress from Texas of Afro-Puerto Rican descent. Her Broadway credits include “Bring It On”, “Motown: The Musical”, “Hamilton” and “A Bronx Tale”. You’ll definitely be seeing de Bose more in the future, as she’s set to play Boricua Anita in the new movie adaptation of the “West Side Story” musical.

15. Jimmy Smits

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Jimmy Smits made history when he appeared in the 2003 play “Anna in the Tropics” that premiered at the prestigious El Royale theater. Along with fellow Poricua performer Priscilla López, Smits was part of an all-Latino cast that he (rightfully) called a “historic moment”.

16. Priscilla Lopez

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Tony-Award winning singer, dancer, and actress Priscilla Lopez is best known for originating the role of Latina hopeful Diana Morales in “A Chorus Line” (a play notably written by fellow Nuyorican Nicholas Dante). According to Lopez, the character of Diana was based off of Lopez’s own life: “For many years, I felt guilty because I was working on Broadway while many other fellow Latino actors were not.”

17. Josie de Guzman

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Legendary actress of Puerto Rican descent Josie de Guzman is notable for being handpicked by composer Leonard Bernstein to play Maria in the 1980 Broadway revival of “West Side Story”. She earned a Tony Award nomination for her acclaimed performance. You can still catch her lighting up the Broadway stage once in a while.

18. Paola Lazaro

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Paola Lazaro is a Puerto Rican playwright whose career is “dedicated to relating to Latinxs everywhere”. She most notably wrote the Dascha Polanco-starring off-Broadway production “Tell Hector I Miss Him

19. Ruben Santiago-Hudson

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Journeyman actor of Afro-Puerto Rican descent Ruben Santiago-Hudson is best known for his 1996 Tony Award-winning performance in August Wilson’s “Seven Guitars”.

20. Robin de Jesús

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Robin de Jesús is a Nuyorican two-time Tony nominee for his acclaimed performances in “In The Heights” and “La Cage aux Folles”. According to de Jesús, he was inspired to get into musical theater when his high school drama teacher told him he’d “never make it” because he was “too short and Hispanic”. Looks like he proved her wrong!

‘Roma’ Star Aparicio Is Named UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador And Will Advocate For The Rights Of Indigenous Peoples

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‘Roma’ Star Aparicio Is Named UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador And Will Advocate For The Rights Of Indigenous Peoples

Within a matter of just a year, Mexican actress Yalitza Aparicio has made a name for herself as both an artist and an activist. Earlier this year, the 25-year-old actress, born in Tlaxiaco, Mexico, made history as the first indigenous actor nominated for the best actress award at the Academy Awards for her breakout role in the film “Roma.” In the months after the film came out, the actress has worked hard to display her Mixteco language and heritage, financially support Oaxan students from her hometown, and combat any stereotypes or ignorant impressions you might have of indigenous people. For her work, the young actress is, once again, being honored. 

This time, it’s with a wonderful new role with the United Nations’ cultural agency United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as a goodwill ambassador for indigenous people.

On Friday, UNESCO— a Paris-based organization— announced that they had appointed Aparicio to help them advocate for gender equality and indigenous rights. 

yalitzaapariciomtz / Instagram

In an interview about her newest role, Aparicio said that she felt “proud to be an indigenous woman” and would like to aim “to go hand in hand with UNESCO in the best way, to be able to support these indigenous communities.”

According to NBC News, the young actress also said that it was her hope that she would pass on the traditional wisdom of indigenous communities as well as combat racism. “As my grandparents used to say: ‘You have to take care of the land because you eat it.’ So hopefully we learn this part,” she said.

During her announcement of her new role, Aparicio said that it would also be her goal to shed light on the various legal complications that indigenous people face in the government systems around the world. 

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“There are several cases where there are indigenous people who are judged in a foreign language, without the right to have a translator and I think it’s something that we should take action on”, she said.

There’s no doubt that based on the year Aparicio has had that she is a woman who understands first hand why advocacy for indigenous people is so important. 

yalitzaapariciomtz / Instagram

The Academy Award-nominated actress Yalitza Aparicio became the first Mexican woman to receive such an honor. However, despite the respect and esteem, she should have earned, it wasn’t uncommon for her to receive unwarranted racism from her community of actors in Mexico. At one point, telenovela star Sergio Goyri used racist slurs to say that he didn’t feel Yalitza Aparicio deserved an Oscar nomination. In a video posted to the veteran actor’s Instagram, he  commented that Aparicio should not have received a nomination for an Academy Award saying  in Spanish “Que metan a nominar a una pinche india que dice, ‘sí señora, no señora’, y que la metan a una terna a la mejor actriz del Oscar.

In English, his offensive and vulgar language translate to “That they nominate an Indian click that says, ‘Yes ma’am, no ma’am’, and that they put it in a shortlist for the best Oscar actress.”

Later the actor apologizes saying that it was “never my intent to offend anyone. I apologize to Yalitza, who deserves [the Oscar nomination] and much more,” the 60-year-old said on Instagram. “For me, it is an honor to see a Mexican be nominated for an Oscar.”

Staying above it all like always, Aparicio responded to Goyri’s offensive remarks by stating that she was proud of who she is and where she is from. 

“I am proud to be an Oaxacan indigenous woman, and it saddens me that there are people who do not know the correct meaning of words,” Aparicio said in a statement to The Guardian.

“Roma” director, Alfonso Cuarón, also came to the defense of Aparicio this week by saying that Goyri’s words should be a broader discussion as to why people, particularly in Mexico, have those feelings, and also why the media perpetuates stereotypes.

With all that Aparicio has experienced, we’re excited to see what she does for Indigenous people in her newest role.

Aparicio has continued to prove this year that she is nothing but a rising star on the scene. Despite the fact that English was not a language she knew fluently when she took up her first Hollywood film (and first film!) she continues to be the face of international success and proof that anyone can come from any circumstance and get to the top. We hope that her new role she will outshine any ignorance and cruelty that might come her way and that she will continue the fight for freedom for Indigenous people everywhere.

The Trailer For Harley Quinn’s Spin-Off ‘Birds Of Prey’ Dropped And We’re Loving The Diversity of The All-Female Super Hero Troupe

Entertainment

The Trailer For Harley Quinn’s Spin-Off ‘Birds Of Prey’ Dropped And We’re Loving The Diversity of The All-Female Super Hero Troupe

DC Films

Harley Quinn is back and she’s Joker-free in the upcoming ‘Suicide Squad’ spin-off. The first full trailer for DC’s ‘Birds of Prey And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn’ dropped this week and we’re loving everything about it. The film is set to be released early 2020 and when it does, it will feature a pretty diverse cast of badass ladies.

Most details of ‘Birds of Prey’ had been kept under wraps, except for a little sneak peak shared by Dr. Harleen Quinzel herself.

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Aside from the sneak-peek we got in January in the form of an Instagram post from Miss Harley Quinn herself, captioned “Miss me? 💋HQ”, and a tiny teaser trailer, most details of ‘Birds of Prey’ had remained under wraps. But after watching the first full official trailer we have enough details to piece the plot together.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YjpsGw7YlU8

In ‘Birds of Prey’ Harley gathers a group of uncongenial super-powered ladies to search for revenge.

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Birds of Prey is originally a DC Comics series based around an ever-changing line-up of female heroes, villains, and anti-heroes. The trailer for the movie opens with a drunk Harley Quinn pointing out that “a harlequin’s role is to serve; it’s nothing without a master.” She goes on to explain that her relationship with the Joker is through, and she’s looking for a “fresh start”, but as it turns out, Harley  “wasn’t the only dame in Gotham looking for emancipation.” After the breakup and naturally, a post heartbreak haircut, Harley puts together a group of uncongenial anti-heroines with similar motives, looking for revenge.

The team of iconic DC Comic ladies includes Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez), from the Gotham City Police Department; the Black Canary/Dinah Lance (Jurnee Smollett-Bell), who gave us a hint of her super-powered voice while singing in a club in the trailer; the crossbow-wielding Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead); and perhaps the DC Universe’s most lethal set of hands, Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco).

Margot Robbie is the person behind Harley Quinn’s own spin-off movie and she wanted to make sure to get a diverse team on-screen and behind the camera.

During an interview with Yahoo!, to promote her movie Terminal, actor turned producer, Margot Robbie, talked about how important it was for her to make sure to cast diverse leads. “real life isn’t so one specific image,” said Robbie, “We’ve got to reflect that onscreen.”

Television and film are supposed to depict our realities, right? That should mean showcasing characters of all races, genders, nationalities, sexual orientations, etc. as thought-out and well-developed characters, instead of relying on tactless stereotypes for laughs. Who we see on the screen needs to mirror the diverse world we live in. And while there has been a slight improvement in the last couple of years, the industry has still got a long way to go and it’s crucial that we begin to see diverse casts, directors, writers, producers, and film crews. 

Margot Robbie, the person behind Harley Quinn’s spin-off,  worked hard to build a diverse team for this movie, both in front of the camera and behind it. Robbie describes ‘Birds of Prey’ as an “R-rated girl gang film”. “I was like, Harley needs friends, Harley loves interacting with people, so don’t ever make her do a standalone film,” she said about her pitch during an interview with Collider. “She’s got to be with other people, it should be a girl gang. I wasn’t seeing enough girl gangs on screen, especially in the action space. So that was always a big part of it.” 

Just watching the trailer and seeing the group of diverse anti-heroes and women of color playing strong badass action-driven characters has us counting the days until the premiere. A study by the Creative Artists Agency (CAA) says that films with more diverse casts perform better at the box office than less diverse ones —Confirming what people and actors of color have been saying for years!

For the film, Robbie casted women with vastly different backgrounds and secured a female director and screenplay writer.

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The “Birds of Prey” are all women with different and vast backgrounds. Jurnee Smollett-Bell who’s playing Black Canary has described herself as “Blewish” aka black and Jewish and is 100% proud of her biracial ancestry. Rosie Perez (who plays Renee Montoya), was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY, but considers herself Puerto Rican fist and foremost and has shown the world her pride for her heritage in the documentary “I’m Boricua, Just So You Know“. 

When “Birds of Prey” debuts in theaters next year, so will Ella Jay Basco. Bringing the character Cassandra Cain to life will be the young actress of Korean and Filipino ancestry’s big-screen debut. “I really want to represent the Asian community – that alone inspires me to act because representation and diversity in the industry is super important to me.” Basco revealed in an interview with A Book Of.

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Director Cathy Yan has reportedly been tabbed to direct the movie, marking her first Asian female director to helm a DC movie. “…And then, of course, having a female director to tell that story,” Robbie said to Yahoo! “And giving a female director the chance to do big budget stuff, they always get ‘Here’s the tiny little film’… I was like, ‘I love action. I love action films. I’m a girl. What, are we meant to only like a specific thing’? So it was a hugely important to find a female director for this, if possible. But at the end of the day — male, female — the best director gets the job and Cathy was the best director.” she continued. The screenplay was written by Christina Hodson, who also wrote the Transformers sequel ‘Bumblebee’ starring Hailee Steinfeld, and who will also be writing DC’s “Batgirl” movie. 

“Birds of Prey and the Fantabulous Emancipation of a One Harley Quinn” is set to release on February 7, 2020. Other upcoming DC Extended Universe films include Wonder Woman 2, Cyborg and Green Lantern Corps.