Rita Moreno was one of the first prominent Puerto Ricans in Hollywood—one of the first , period—and remains a source of inspiration as one of Hollywood’s most talented. The first boricua to EGOT—Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony, though no doubt Lin-Manuel Miranda’s up for that next—Moreno’s first iconic role was Anita in the 1961 film adaptation of West Side Story. (She won an Oscar for that, and was one of just a small handful of Latinos in a film whose characters were largely Puerto Rican immigrants, which gives you an idea of the kind of racial disparity and discrimination she was up against.)
For Moreno’s work and legacy as a groundbreaking talent, she was honored at this year’s Kennedy Center with a speech from Gina Rodriguez, who succinctly articulates how important Moreno’s been from both a global and personal perspective. (Moreno currently has a part on Jane the Virgin, playing Rodriguez’s fancy paternal grandmother.) Very real is the intro, when Rodriguez recounts asking her mother if Puerto Ricans had recently “come about” because she never saw them on television. Moreno was the person to which Rodriguez’s mother pointed.
“You gave me hope, you gave me a reason to fight and to speak up. How can I thank you? I’m not sure I know how, but let me tell you this,” said Rodriguez. “When you followed your dreams, Rita, you gave me allowance to follow mine.” It’s not just inspiring—it’s another reminder that representation in media really, really matters.
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