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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!

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As A Latin Music Fan, Here Are My Picks For The 2020 Latin Grammys

Entertainment

As A Latin Music Fan, Here Are My Picks For The 2020 Latin Grammys

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Last year’s Latin Grammys caused an uproar on social media after the nominees list was released. Many fans and artists noticed the lack of representation of the Reggaeton music genre. “Sin reggaeton no hay Latin Grammy,” read many of the posts on social media, but this year seems to be different. 

This year’s nominees accurately represent the changing culture in Latin music as it shifts more towards the reggaeton genre. Here are my top picks for some of my favorite categories. 

Record of the Year

Record of the Year is always one of the toughest picks as many of my favorite songs are included in this category. This year it seems pretty competitive as Bad Bunny’s Vete competes with Karol G and Nicki Minaj’s Tusa. Karol G is competing against herself with the song China by Anuel AA, Daddy Yankee, Karol G, Featuring Ozuna and J Balvin. But at the end, Tusa by Karol G and Nicki Minaj should take the win as the overall production of the song is what makes it so great. From the rhythm to the lyrics, Tusa deserves the Grammy. 

Album of the Year

In 2019, we had a lack of reggaeton nominees in this category, but this year the list includes two reggaeton superstars: Bad Bunny and J Balvin. Both are nominated for their joint album OASIS and their solo albums, Colores and YHLQMDLG. To me, it’s clear that the winner of this category will be Bad Bunny with YHLQMDLG. The 20-song album delivered Latin trap with a variety of moods, whether it was a post-breakup heartbreak, our on-pause summer anthems, or the heartfelt thank you at the end. This album was highly anticipated and it delivered.

Best New Artist

The top contestants in this category are Anuel AA,  Rauw Alejandro, and Cazzu. While Rauw Alejandro has had some big hits this year, such as “El Efecto,” “Tattoo,” “Elegi,” and “TBT,” it is very likely that Anuel AA will take the Grammy home. Anuel AA was snubbed from a best new artist nomination last year, but he has been very successful since then which shows his growth as a new artist. 

Song of the Year

While there are many great songs nominated in this category, “ADMV” by Maluma stands out the most. The song was released during quarantine and was written by the artist as a dedication to all the people in his life that he loves. The song, which touches upon love and growing old with one’s significant other is a very heartfelt balada and one that gives us a whole new side to Maluma. The lyrics of the song and the overall composition gives us all the feels and reminds us to hug our loved ones a little tighter and tell them that we love them. 

Best Regional Song 

The top nominees in this genre include Christian Nodal with AYAYAY! and Natalia Lafourcade con MI RELIGIÓN. While I am a huge fan of Natalia Lafourcade, Christian Nodal will most likely take the win with this upbeat and modern song. What makes the song work for Nodal is that it is still rooted in the regional genre. 

Best Short Form Music Video

If you haven’t seen J.Balvin’s video for Rojo, please do yourself a favor and watch it now! But be prepared with tissues, this video delivers pain, acceptance, and even a message to its viewers. The video starts with Balvin receiving the news that his daughter was born, as he rushes to the hospital on the phone with his mom, he crashes and dies. But he is not conscious of his death and his spirit makes it to the hospital. The rest of the video shows Balvin following the life of his daughter as she grows up. This video delivers an exceptional story in less than 5 minutes and is a grammy-winning performance. 

To see who will win be sure to tune in! The 21st annual Latin Grammys will air on Univision, Nov. 19, 2020.

READ: Maluma Is Keeping Us Up To Date On His Life In Quarantine And I Couldn’t Be More Grateful

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Latino Shows On Quibi Are Up In The Air After Platform Announces Shutdown

Entertainment

Latino Shows On Quibi Are Up In The Air After Platform Announces Shutdown

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Quibi, a short-form streaming platform, offered a variety of content from news shows to comedy to action and more. The streaming service that was launched six months ago, announced that it would be shutting down due to a lack of success in gaining traction with subscribers. It is unknown if the shows on the platform will be renewed on different platforms or canceled.  Here are some Latin shows that were offered on Quibi.

“Thanks A Million”

“Thanks A Million,” executive produced by Jennifer Lopez, first aired on Quibi on April 6, 2020. The show follows celebrities as they kickstart a chain of kindness by gifting money to an individual who must then give half of it to someone else. The first episode features J.Lo herself. Other episodes feature Gabriel Iglesias, Kristen Bell,  Anthony Davis, Kevin Hart, Nick Jonas, and more.

“Flipped”

“Flipped” is an American comedy series that debuted on Quibi, April 6, 2020. The cast includes Latino stars Arturo Castro, Eva Longoria, and Andy Garcia. The show is about a couple who get into the house-flipping business and are kidnapped by drug cartel members and forced to renovate their homes.

“Nikki Fre$h”

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Clean water access, but make it sexy. #NikkiFresh

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Nicole Richie executively produced and starred in “Nikki Fre$h.”  It is a six-episode series on Quibi in which Richie plays her musical persona ““Nikki Fre$h,” a trap artist who makes eco-conscious choices while performing music videos. A couple of the special guests include Bill Nye, the science guy, and Lionel Richie. 

“Pulse News by Telemundo”

Not only does Quibi offer tv shows, but it also offers news. “Pulse News by Telemundo” is a newscast, hosted by Andrea Martinez, that is catered to the English-speaking Latino community. It has aired daily on the streaming platform since the launch of Quibi.

“For the Cultura by Telemundo”

Another Telemundo based news show is “For the Cultura by Telemundo.” It is a Latino-focused entertainment and music news show that is co-hosted by Alfredo Lomeli and Krystal Vega. Like “Pulse News,” the entertainment based news show airs daily. 

“Alternatino with Arturo Castro”

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Happy Mother's Day!

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The American sketch comedy series created by and starring Arturo Castro is not currently on Quibi. It had its first season on Comedy Central and was renewed for a second season and would move to Quibi. The series is described as a “a sketch show based on Arturo’s experiences as a Latino millennial in the United States.” The status of the show is currently unknown due to the shut down of the mobile device streaming platform. 

“Natural Born Narco”

The tv drama is supposed to premiere in fall 2020 as a collaboration between Quibi and Telemundo. The series chronicles the origins of the drug lord Amado Carrillo Fuentes and is inspired by and serves as a prequel to the acclaimed telenovela, El Señor de Los Cielos. The status of the telenovela-like series is unknown due to the shutdown news.

Quibi expects to shut down the streaming service around December 1, 2020.

READ: Arturo Castro’s ‘Alternatino’ Finds New Home With QuiBi Leaving Comedy Central

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