"Dame dame dame, que te voy a dar ... una guayabita de mi guayabal."


Ay, Dios mío: Dominican Yorks on Broadway

The NY Times theater section has a review of "In The Heights," a new Broadway show that takes place in Wash Heights. Aside from the relative positive and negative points of bringing the Hts. to Times Square (see below), the best part of the review is the old (white?), if to his credit, enthusiastic, fuddy-duddy who wrote it - lines like "the rhymed verse currently known as rap" (um, yeah, since about 1975), and "zesty choreography."

The fact of Dominican visibility on Broadway is definitely a good thing (the only other pop culture representation of a Dominican I can think of is Tracy Morgan's Dominican Lou character), as is the fact that writer/actor Lin-Manuel Miranda could get it out there. But the thing fairly reeks of cutesiness. Remember the movie version of Mambo Kings, with the irrepressibly plucky pair of brothers running around being plucky, gazing deep into chicks' eyes, dancing around with trombones or whatever, and crossing themselves every five minutes? Shit like that starts to grate real fast, and we all know there's going to be plenty of zest, vivaciousness and pluckiness in "In the Heights." Well, that's what they want from us so that's what we (or at least "In the Heights," Mambo Kings, and that ilk) are gonna give 'em. (Talk about Latinos, Inc.) That all of this goes hand-in-hand with the gentrification of El Barrio just speaks to the deep links between multiculturalism and neoliberalism. So it goes. Like Audre Lorde said, the way they get you is that you've got to tear the master's house down with his own tools.


Caro said...

Couple of things. One, loved "In the Heights" despite its lightness -- which you are right to critique, but which is getting young Latin audiences to the theater, and there is some value in that. My bigger quibble is with a Wash Hts that has more Puerto Ricans than ever historically existed there (not a lot outside of Lin Manuel's family).

Two pop culture representations of Dominicans on TV: Carla the nurse on "Scrubs" (she even sings about being Dominican in a "musical" episode), and the badly written twin characters in Heroes (the ones who cry black blood and are played by a Dominican actress and a Puerto Rican son a a Dominican comedienne, Charytin Goico).

mbq said...

Caro - thanks for your comments. One thing I loved about "Carla" and Scrubs in general (despite the odious Zach whatsisface) was the way it portrayed everyday racial politics in ways that people of color feel - preoccupations about tokenism, the aesthetics and politics of Carla's hair, stuff like that. I have to say I haven't seen Heroes but I'll take your word for it. And I agree with your point, as much trash as I talked in the post about Mambo Kings, the movie is actually pretty great as far as portraying that time and place.