Walking into the theater to watch In The Heights, I had no idea what was about to come. I had only seen the trailer and heard the original “In The Heights” song years before.
This was also the first time I had gone to a movie alone, so the entire experience felt nice. I had a whole row to myself, and since it was a midday show there was not much foot traffic either.
In The Heights is a movie adaption of the musical of the same name written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, and it was released Thursday in theaters and on HBO Max. The film features a Latinx community in New York City and their experiences living in Washington Heights.
From the very beginning, the movie reminded me of home. The movie allowed people like me to be seen and to fall in love with a small community and their experiences.
The main character Usnavi, portrayed by Anthony Ramos, dreams of a life back in the Dominican Republic where he says he had the best days of his life prior to migrating to the U.S. with his father. This reminded me of how my parents always reminisce on their time in Mexico before they came to the U.S.
Throughout the entire movie, Usnavi saves his money to return to the Dominican Republic, but he comes to learn that his best days are happening now with the community he has in Washington Heights.
The film allows us to learn about the experiences of multiple characters rather than just one. I found it interesting that although the main character is Usnavi, it also tells the story of others within the community.
The characters are people like me, and the movie hit home.
Recently I’ve been struggling to grasp why I wake up every day and what keeps me going. I always hit a bump in the road that makes me wonder about this, but since the pandemic, I find myself wondering about it more often than not.
This movie reminded me, a first-generation college student, that I do this for my people — my family and my culture — my accomplishments aren’t just for me but for everyone that has lived before me and for those after me.
Prior to when the movie takes place, the character Nina Rosario, portrayed by Leslie Grace, went off to Stanford University, and it was all she dreamed of. The film did a good job of portraying how some first-generation college students feel when going off to university, especially to schools predominantly with white students.
Rosario didn’t have a community when she arrived at Stanford, but the community in Washington Heights supported her from afar. She was the one that left and could improve the community for them.
The film also tackles gentrification in their community. The character Kevin Rosario, portrayed by Jimmy Smits, plays Nina’s father who sold part of his business when Nina first went off to Stanford. A white-owned dry cleaner’s shop opens where part of Kevin’s business once stood, and there, the new owner charges high prices to dry clean.
Eventually, Kevin sells the rest of their business to pay for her tuition. Nina doesn’t like that, but I know parents of first-generation college students would do anything to see their children succeed better than they did.
She ends up returning to Stanford to help improve the pathway for those who are undocumented; she saw Stanford as an opportunity to make change in the world.
The music and the community allowed me to see people who looked like me on screen and the importance of culture in our communities, from the food to the music.
The song “Carnaval Del Barrio” is probably my favorite song on the soundtrack. The song is sung in the middle of summer when they are faced with a blackout that lasts weeks, but they make the best of a bad situation. It reminds me of how, no matter what happens, most Latinx communities look for the good in bad situations.
This scene also includes different communities within Washington Heights, and the flags of their home countries including Mexico, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and more. It was a beautiful thing to see.
From the characters to the music, it is overall a must watch for the summer.
This movie can teach you how important family and community is to the Latinx community. I highly recommend everyone watch this because it tackles issues that our community faces.
Our communities will not be powerless, and there will always be room for us.