I remember her fondly as Anita in the 1961 film adaptation of West Side Story, one of the only Puerto Rican actors in a film wherein half the cast is meant to be Puerto Rican. My favorite scene with Anita is where she comes into Maria’s bedroom after Tony has just slipped from the window ledge and she realizes Maria has been with him, even after knowing Tony has slain her own brother, Anita’s love.
During the time of the film, by 1960 the 41,000 Puerto Ricans who lived on the Upper West Side between 58th and 110th Streets made up 14 percent of the neighborhoods’ population. After that, “slum clearance” was the political slogan of the day, and the streets where the 1961 movie version was filmed were dismantled to make way for high-rises and Lincoln Center. Now Puerto Ricans in that same area amount to just 6,700, about 3 percent of the total. <via New York Times>
‘American actress Rita Moreno has managed to have a thriving career for the better part of six decades despite the institutional racism that has plagued the entertainment industry, particularly the anti-Latino bias that stereotyped Latino women as “spitfires” and sexpots. Rita was born Rosita Dolores Alverío in in Humacao, Puerto Rico on December 11, 1931. She moved to New York City in 1937 along with her mother, where she began a professional career before she was a teenager.’ A surprise to me, she voiced the character Carmen Sandiego on ‘Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?’
With so few Puerto Rican style icons in our collective memory, I proudly count Rita Moreno among them: