Column: “In The Heights” fell short in diversity goal

Kyara Morales-Rodriguez, Opinions Writer

Editor’s note: This writer uses “Latine” as a gender-neutral word for people of Latin American descent. Some people prefer this term as it is easier to pronounce than “Latinx,” another popular gender-neutral term.


The highly anticipated movie adaptation of “In the Heights” hit theaters Friday, June 11, and while it seems the general public enjoys this film, it’s hard to ignore the controversy surrounding it.

I, for one, am so glad that there’s a film out there that celebrates Latine cultures and shares them with the world, since I can name few movies out there that do so.

However, the Washington Heights is known for its vibrant Black Latine community, so where are they in the movie? Why are there Black dancers and Black background actors, but no dark-skinned Black Latines leading the film?

This past week or so, people have taken to Twitter and other social media sites to criticize the film for its lack of visibly dark-skinned Afro-Latine characters, and honestly, I’m glad they’re doing so.

This movie musical would have been a great opportunity to showcase Afro-Latine cultures. If it had included more Afro-Latine characters, people could see cultures that are often erased, ignored, or overlooked, but the casting directors gave entirely too many of the roles to whiter Latines.

When confronted about the issue of colorism in “In the Heights” by The Root’s Felice León, director Jon M. Chu repeatedly said that it’s “a good conversation to have.”

I think we are way past the conversation portion of this issue. The conversation has been had time and time again, and it’s time for something to actually get done about it.

Chu also pointed out that there were Black dancers but having Black dancers in the background of some shots is not the same as having a dark-skinned Black Latine lead the film.

Having a Black Latine lead could have been a breakthrough for Hollywood, especially with a movie this big. If this film would have been done right, maybe its success would have made a much-needed shift happen in Hollywood.

I’m not going to sit here and pretend like the movie is all bad. I’ve heard great things about the way it represents all the experiences and issues that come with being Latine, including economic hardship and struggling to fit in, among many other experiences.

Though “In the Heights” has won praise for its beautiful depiction of Latine cultures, this major spot where the film fell short is hard to ignore and it might overshadow the film’s intention.

I hope this “In the Heights” controversy is a lesson to the people of Hollywood, so we won’t see these types of issues arise again. I hope it means that more people will come out and tell these stories and do it right.

Kyara Morales-Rodriguez is a junior English major. She can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].