“What about immigration? Politicians be hating. Racism in this nation has gone from latent to blatant!”
One of the best moments from the musical “In The Heights” was Sonny’s rap in 96,000. While all the characters dream of fancy jobs, houses, and luxury; Sonny thinks about what he can do to help others like himself.
Sonny is one of my favorite characters in this movie. We find out through his father that he doesn’t have American citizenship and therefore doesn’t have the same rights as all of his friends. One of the most heartbreaking moments of the movie was Sonny’s realization that he wouldn’t be able to go to college due to his immigration status.
This movie really touched me. It not only made me feel more connected to my roots, and encouraged me to continue connecting to my heritage more, it also made me think of how people speak and think of immigrants in this nation. It blows my mind how people can so easily say things like “They’re here to steal our jobs. They don’t contribute. Make them go back.”
The ignorance in all of those statements is mind blowing.
This movie did an amazing job of humanizing the experience of true immigrants. Though no two stories are the same, Sonny and Abuela Claudia show us the realities of being an immigrant in America. They’re two people just trying to live their best lives. They love, they laugh, they work (I’d argue even harder than most of us given all of their limitations), and we wouldn’t know their immigration status if it weren’t for them revealing it.
The truth is, this image of job-stealing useless people coming into our country is racist.
Having negative pre-fixed notions on people simply because they weren’t born in this country doesn’t make sense. It’s racist, insulting, and it’s ruining lives.
In “Paciencia Y Fe” we get to see the journey of a young lady who grew up in La Vibora and was moved to New York by her mother for work opportunities. She says things throughout the song that blatantly tell us that she preferred the beauty of her home over New York, but as she says, “Nueva York was far, but Nueva York had work, and so we came.”
The most telling portion of the song was this:
All of society welcoming Mami and me! AH!
You better clean this mess!
Paciencia y fe…
You better learn ingles!
Paciencia y fe…
You better not be late
You better pull your weight
Are you better off than you were with the birds of La Vibora?
While some people, who were born and raised here and know nothing about the reality of immigration, see immigrants as “invaders”, those who have actually experienced immigration understand that it is not a greedy desire to steal from Americans that brings people here. In fact, America has a terrible reputation these days. It just so happens democracy is the “Best-worst system we have.” Though things suck here a lot, in comparison, they may suck less than where someone has come from because politics are everywhere. Sadly. And in most places people don’t get a say in their politics.
Poverty is rampant in America, but it can be worse in other places. Crime exists in America, but it can be worse in other places.
This place is so imperfect, but there are simple rights we have here in America that exist in few other places. Like Abuela Claudia shows us, she was just a young girl who needed food. She loved her home, and the beauty of it, but if she wanted to eat she had to leave with her mama.
She worked hard her whole life to get to where she was. She “spent her life inheriting dreams (from her mother).” And in the end she was a beloved, strong, caring person who made her neighborhood a better place.
Sonny was the same. He loved his family, he worked hard at his cousin’s shop, and all he wanted was to give himself and kids like him more opportunities. He is a great example of a gen-z person. He went out to protest, he used his voice to speak up about the issues around him, and he spent his time thinking of others.
What would you do with $96,000?
There’s nothing wrong with taking care of yourself, but there is something beautiful about using your talent and efforts to help the whole.
If I got $96,000 I would do a little bit of what Usnavi said and a lot of what Sonny said.
After all, “it takes half of that cash just to save my ass from financial ruin.”
But the other half should go to people who deserve it.
People who deserve to stop being treated like less than others. People who have families, dreams, and hopes just like the rest of us.
“Politicians be hating”, but they need to stop.
“I grew up in an immigrant neighborhood. We just knew the rule was you’re going to have to work twice as hard.” ~ Lin-Manuel Miranda
I don’t have $96,000. So for now, I will use my voice and my political powers to fight the discrimination on immigration. I will continue to educate myself and speak up in the ways I can.
Thank you Lin-Manuel Miranda for making this movie and making me reconnect with the things that matter most.
People are people. Let’s stop the hateful mentality built up against immigrants and let’s start doing something about the institutionalized discrimination.
Until next time,
Stay Psyched and Stay Vocal