Why can’t ‘Western Story’ just cast a Puerto Rican Maria?

When it comes to my identity, I highlight three things about myself above anything else: I’m a woman, I’m Puerto Rican, and I’m a full-fledged playwright. I grew up thinking that everyone, not just my family, eats Arroz Son Gandules (rice and beans) and pernil (pork) in their holiday meal. And I was only 9 years old when I got my first solo performance in a Philadelphia community musical Annie.

This is why when casting news came out about Steven Spielberg’s remake West story musical I was delighted beyond belief, and then deeply disappointed. Again, the actress who plays Maria is not Puerto Rican, and I don’t understand why.

Before you grab your pants (or in the context of this piece, your knives and pocket necklaces), I know that director Spielberg went to great lengths to make this movie “right.” as he should. Usually, people who use it for the first time received the movie very, very wrong. He consulted with students and professors from the University of Puerto Rico to ensure that Puerto Ricans were accurately represented in the film, even asking what they wanted to see more of. He invited Hispanic actors to play the characters of that nation in the film, which was much more than the original directors Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins had ever done. He also certainly doesn’t want Rita Morena, who in the remake of the movie and the original, forced to wear brown this time. Seriously, it happened. Even Moreno himself, who To be The Puerto Rican, stamping her approval on the film, told Chicago Sun Times that Spielberg “fixed all that” and that “everyone of Hispanic [character] really spanish. ”

However, in addition to identifying as a Puerto Rican theater geek, I am also a perfectionist, and Spielberg missed out on a spot. He Rachel ZeglerActor to play the role of Maria. I can’t deny it, she’s incredibly talented. Unlike the original Maria, Natalie Wood, she’s Latina. But, Zegler is not Puerto Rican. She Polish and Colombian. I wanted this to be enough for this remake to feel “right”, but it doesn’t. When I sent the casting news to my mother, who is also Puerto Rican and whose biological mother loved the original film, she was not impressed. To be honest, she was furious.

“I hate that, again, Maria is not represented by a Puerto Rican actress. It’s not like there isn’t any [Puerto Rican] actresses out there. I won’t see it,” she texted me.

I agreed. Colombians and Colombians have their fair share in the struggle and victory in this country and I have no problem with Zegler. I have a problem with Hollywood again when it comes to finding the easiest opportunities to elevate a Puerto Rican actress. They seem to think it’s enough that the actors are Hispanic.

Except that no, for me or other Puerto Ricans, longing to see themselves on screen, they might collapse from dehydration. This choice further perpetuates the stereotype that Hispanics in this country are one block, which is evident every time someone “jokes” me about being Mexican or Puerto Rican or Cuban. are all the same, or when people call Puerto Ricans Americans. , deportation.

Film adaptation of the play by Lin Manuel Miranda In the heights partially chronicled the Latinx experience of working-class and poor New York but considering how diverse each of our cultures is, a film barely scratches the surface of our story. We’ve had Puerto Rican actresses in movies, like Rita Moreno, Jennifer Lopez and Zoe Saldana, but West story is one of the few movies that focuses the story on our specific experiences.

It must be a work of art that we can point to and say, yes, this is who we are and our experience and the experience of our grandparents and great-grandfathers as Americans. who was not and still is not fully accepted as such. What does it say about representation in the movie when the protagonist is supposed to be particularly Puerto Rican, yet the casting cast chooses someone who isn’t?

Perhaps this decision wouldn’t sound like a sarcasm if the United States, or non-Hispanic America, had supported Puerto Rico and the assimilation of Puerto Ricans into mainland culture throughout history rather Not stalled during hurricane Maria write off debt, Denial of health care for US citizens of Puerto Rican descentor as part of more sinister actions against the people of the territory — including sterilization of Puerto Rican women for 40 years without their full consent.

Perhaps it wouldn’t matter much if there were countless stories told about the Puerto Rican experience, the experience of the people who make up the entire territory of this country, many of whom are struggling to make ends meet. it becomes a state. But there is not. So I’ll tell you what this choice says to me: No Puerto Rican actress is good enough. You are not good enough. But hey, at least this movie doesn’t include the line “Let it sink back into the ocean.”

Maybe the film’s third remake will finally feature a real Puerto Rican Maria. And the people of this theater, and her mother, are really looking forward to seeing it.

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