Through iconic and awarding winning roles in West Side Story as Anita and on the Electric Company to historic accomplishments like being the first latina and Puerto-Rican to win the pinnacle of acting awards known as the EGOT, Rita Moreno’s impact spanning eight decades has indisputably paved the way for young latino filmmakers, actors, and directors. Born in the small town of Humaco, Puerto Rico as Rosa Dolores Alverio in 1931, Moreno grew in poverty and faced adversity living in a rural area with little social mobility and economic opportunities. Despite these challenges, Moreno’s mother saved enough money to move Moreno and her brother to New York in search of a better life. In New York City, Moreno’s mother enrolled her in dance classes and Moreno subsequently appeared in Spanish language versions of American films and made her Broadway debut at age 13 in a production known as “Skydrift”. Getting her film debut in So Young, So Bad, Moreno began her work as a film actress and would later appear in smaller roles for MGM Entertainment where she earned a seven year contract under the stage name of Rita Moreno. However, despite the fast pace of Moreno’s career, she faced the enduring challenge of finding roles that casted her beyond racial and ethnic stereotypes like as “exotic” or “hypersexualized” characters that lacked true depth and development. As a result of her persistent typecasting as ethnic characters ranging from Native Hawaiian to Filipino, Moreno was rarely featured in prominent roles despite her appearance in the 1956 Film King and I as a young Burmese servant named Tuptim which shows Hollywood’s tendency to cast women of color as servile and submissive characters. Despite Moreno’s typecasting, Moreno was casted in the 1961 film West Side Story, an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet set in Manhattan's Upper West Side, as the “fiery” Anita who was sister-like figure to protagonist Maria who was portrayed by Natalie Wood. For her role as Anita, Moreno became the first Hispanic person and woman to win an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.
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As the first Gen Z and Afro - Cuban congressman, Representative Maxwell Alejandro Frost of “Florida 10th congressional district”, is a historic figure who has contributed to a new wave of grassroots activist policymakers who use social media and other spaces to advocate for a litany of issues especially gun control and abortion rights. Also, as an activist for voting rights, Frost has been instrumental in bolstering college students’ voter registration and overall participation in both primaries and general elections leading to his own election victory. With the emergence of increased youth activism in the increasingly common wake of school shootings like Parkland and Uvalde, greater public scrutiny must be applied upon our elected officials ensuring sensible gun safety measures are passed preventing the seemingly unending onslaught of gun violence. While political inaction is the symptom of a greater issue of political corruption, there must be greater shame placed on the National Rifle Association which has predominantly levied its immense monetary, social, and political capital to challenge any and all efforts to reform US gun policy. After the tragedy of Parkland in February 2018, Frost and others were instrumental in the formation of March for Our Lives, a student-led organization seeking to end gun violence in schools. Also, as the representative for Florida’s 10th Congressional District encompassing the city of Orlando, Frost’s constituency includes those whose family members perished during the Pulse nightclub killing 50 people and leading to a three hour standoff with authorities. In fact, in the very beginning of 2023 alone (roughly 64 days), there have been alarmingly 80 mass shootings already, outpacing 2022 figures rapidly.
“[Celia Cruz] no es una pasa de moda]” sings the legendary Celia Cruz, the iconic Queen of Salsa and arguably, one of the most synonymous singers with Cuban music. Born in Havana, Cuba, on October 21, 1925, Cruz was born of humble beginnings and would become a fixture in dance halls and clubs during her 20s. As an Afro-Latina woman, Cruz was raised believing in the diasporic religion of Santeria which fuses West-African folklore traditions and music orally preserved by African enslaved people in the Caribbean. From her youth onward, Cruz’s music embodies the rich and centuries old customs of Santeria and other African beliefs fused with the Spanish language. Fast forward to the 1950s, when Havana was emerging as a bustling center of Latin music and culture, Cruz started her career as a singer for the orchestra band Sonora Matancera and became its first black lead singer. Cruz would become a common fixture on television and radio across Cuba. Finally, getting her career breakthrough, Cruz starred in various Mexican films and dominated the silver screen. During her tenure with Sonora Matancera, Cruz released Canta Celia Cruz (1956) and headlined at Havana’s Tropicana Club. Despite Cruz’s shining career start, Cruz had to contend with the upheaval of the Cuban Revolution and the authoritarian rise of Fidel Castro, who she vocally criticized through her music and platform. Evidently, as Castro’s power soared and threatened Cruz’s freedom, Havana’s once thriving nightlife and club scene evaporated, forcing Cruz and the Sonora Matancera to flee Cuba for the United States, seeking refuge and greater opportunities for their music and ideas.
Keeping the failed government response to Hurricane Maria in mind, ongoing crises of poor energy policy and crumbling infrastructure remains clear as Puerto Rico was ravaged by Hurricane Fiona, experiencing week-long power blackouts.