Let's Talk About In the Heights and the Erasure of Dark-Skinned Afro-Latinx Folks

Lin Manuel Miranda's hit musical is out soon, but where are all of the leading dark-skinned Afro-Latinx folks?

In The Heights, the highly anticipated TV adaptation of the hit Broadway musical from Lin Manuel Miranda, directed by Jon M. Chu, dropped its trailer over a year ago and folks had questions.

In sum: Where are all of the leading dark-skinned Afro-Latinx folks?

Granted, the trailer (and film) showcased Black dancers and there were certainly Black women in the hair salon, but where are the dark-skinned Black Latinx folks with a storyline? After all, this film is placed in Washington Heights, N.Y., right?!

Advertisement
Advertisement

I had an opportunity to speak with the film’s director and several of the cast members, like Leslie Grace, Corey Hawkins and Melissa Barrera, who said the following when asked about the light-skinned privilege of In The Heights.

“We are all people of color, and we all struggle for the few spaces that we’re given. And to diminish that, and like hate on something, that is already breaking so many molds...is mean.”

But, I acknowledge that the real conversation should be had with Lin Manuel Miranda.

Advertisement

It was tremendously disappointing not to have been approved for an interview with Miranda, the mastermind behind In The Heights, though its stars had been doing press for weeks (our sister site got their content up before we even sat down for an interview).

This conversation, particularly, about the lack of darker-skinned Black Latinx folks is critically important at this very moment in time. Throughout history, there has been the exclusion of and violence towards Blackness within Latinidad. Homogeneity and the illusion of a “race-free culture” within Latinidad is a myth (as Fordham Law professor, Tanya Hernández, previously told The Root). So yes, we absolutely need to discuss why there is only one dark-skinned Black lead (who is portraying a Black non-Latinx character) in the film.

Advertisement

Should I expect cast members (who have no power over casting) to be able to answer questions about pigmentocracy and the privilege of white-passing Latinx folks within Latinidad (who are also starring in In The Heights)? Maybe not.

But I’d gather that the film’s architect can.

In The Heights is in theaters and HBO Max on Friday, June 11.

Afro-Cuban woman that was born and branded in New York. When León isn't actually creating cool videos, she's thinking of cool videos that she can create.

DISCUSSION

fassauntie99
fassauntie99

Anyone who is criticizing the very valid question being asked here has never been to Washington Heights or the Bronx or the parts of the Carribean, Central amd South America colonized by Spain and Portugal. To exclude darker skinned and Black folks and to call the work representative is intentional. And the just be grateful for the background parts” and “we chose the best people for the roles” is giving me very much white liberal vibes. And yes, on the question of Puerto Rican sovereignty, Miranda is very much aligned with the colonizer. And as my mama says, I’ll add some more to that before I take it back.

Advertisement

Advertisement