Entertainment

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

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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!

A Geographer Just Created A Digital Map Of Mexico Highlighting Taco Shops And It’s A Thing Of Beauty

Culture

A Geographer Just Created A Digital Map Of Mexico Highlighting Taco Shops And It’s A Thing Of Beauty

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One of the biggest changes that the so called digital revolution has brought to our lives is the capacity that today’s computer systems have to process huge amounts of data. Processors today are able to run algorithms that bring together millions of data entries to find trends, cluster groups of similar objects and generate visualizations that can help us understand even the most complex aspects of science and culture. This is known popularly as “big data” and has changed the ways in which governments and companies understand reality and make decisions. For example, before high speed processing mathematicians took literally years to make sense of census data and find correlations between factors such as socioeconomic status, ethnicity, age and literacy levels.

Guess what? This can be done today with a few clicks as computers bring together millions upon millions of data entries and make sense of it all. It all sounds very geeky, but big data is defining how we live our lives, from how traffic lights coordinate to how much tax you gotta pay each year.

So all this geeky, nerdy stuff should be put to good use, o no?

Enter Mexican geographer Baruch Sangines, a true wizard when it comes to generating great data visualizations.

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Credit: @datavizero / Twitter

This young scientist is the Chief Data Scientist at a company called Jetty, and he does some pretty groundbreaking research on pressing social issues such as housing and poverty.

His LinkedIn profile is pretty impressive: “Experience in public and private sector with skills to analyze and visualize data related to: commuting, transit, housing, tourism, migration, security, and urban environment. Expert in territorial analysis and passionate about the cartography and the use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to visualize small and big data”. Wow. hold your horses, Einstein! He is a proud graduate of Mexico’s National University and has Master’s Degree on Demographics and Statistics. 

So why did he go viral on Mexican social media in the past few days? We mean, science is sexy but not viral sexy (sadly!). All because of this map:

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Credit: @datavizero / Twitter

No, it is not a visualization of WiFi points in Mexico. No, it is not a rendition of cartel activity. No, it is not a highlight of the areas in which development runs at a faster pace. It is about something much, much more relevant to everyday life in Mexico lindo y querido. Any guesses?

Nothing is more important than a delicious taco when you most need it! 

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Credit: The Splendid Table

Just look at that tortilla, a bit crispy, a bit soft… and that perfectly marinated meat… 

Well, Baruch created a visualization of taco stands in Mexico and nos ponemos de pie ante tal maravilla! 

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Baruch called this visualization Taco Universe, and it showcases all the registered taco stands and shops in the country. We can clearly see that there is a high concentration of taco shrines in the capital Mexico City, and that hotspots like Cancun and Cabo are also highlighted, perhaps thanks to gringo tourism craving fish tacos. The scientists used the database Directorio Estadístico Nacional de Unidades Económicas (Denue) (Statistical National Directory of Economic Units) from the federal census agency INEGI. The map highlights how taco culture is primarily based in the center of the country, with local varieties such as Puebla’s tacos arabes (a shawarma like type) increasing the traffic in that area. 

But it is important to note that many taco stands are not accounted for (and that is not this scientist’s fault).

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Thousands of Mexicans subsist in an informal economy with businesses that are not registered and pay no taxes. Among these businesses, mobile taco stands reign supreme. There are hundreds of taco stands all around the country that are set up informally. Sometimes you can find the most delicious tacos there! You can also find informal vendors selling tacos de canasta, a variety that is literally carried in a basket. This map does not take these informal enterprises into account, even though they are key to Mexico’s taco culinary tradition. 

So you are curious about tacos de canasta now, aren’t you? 

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Well, just look at these crispy, sweaty, fat-rich babes. Tacos de canasta are filled with guisados or stews, or with refried beans. We are almost sure that Baruch did not include them in his map, but we can forgive him for making us crave unos taquitos (we bet you are calling your comadres or compas right now to hit the taco stand) and showing us how Mexico is a country that despite its many challenges still finds time to live up to the old adage: barriga llena, corazon contento. 

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