Rita Moreno, a Legend, and Lupita Nyong’o, a Legend in the making

I should be writing papers, so this will be a short one.

At the Screen Actors Guild Awards, Rita Moreno, the legendary Puerto Rican Actress who paved the way for Latinos in Cinema, Theatre, and the world of acting, was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award for her work throughout her lifetime. Rita is indeed a legend, being one of the few individuals to win two Emmys, a Grammy, an Oscar, and a Tony, among a slew of other awards including the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2004.

An inspiration to Latinos in the US, one of the many reasons I admire Rita Moreno is her honesty in what it means to be a Latino in the industry. She famously commented, after winning the Oscar, that she would only be offered roles of the stereotypical Latina in Westerns, and that even after her breathtaking performance in West Side Story and her Oscar win, the diversity of roles was limited to the stereotypical Latina.

While at the vanguard of the battle for Latinos to be represented in media and the visual world, Rita Moreno, as she was honored at the SAG Awards, not only recognized her Puerto Rican identity and how important it is to her, but that the battle has not yet been won, and that she won’t see it won in her lifetime.

But perhaps her most important statement was that until we overcome the battle for immigration reform and how we view immigrants in the US, we won’t be able to overcome the barriers Latinos face in the entertainment industry. She also said, the key to her story was “perseverancia”, and translated accordingly for those who didn’t understand her native tongue.

To Rita Morena, congratulations, and thank you for everything you’ve done for us.

Another striking and beautiful moment was when Lupita Nyong’o won the SAG for best supporting actress for her role in 12 Years a Slave. But what was most beautiful was what she said during her speech,

“Thank you Steve McQueen, thank you for taking a flashlight and shining it underneath the floorboards of this nation and reminding us what it is we stand on. You are love personified.”

True words were spoken that night, in front of many who have never looked underneath the floorboards. Not often enough do we, as a nation, look at our darker past and learn from it. Lupita, well done and well deserved. To hoping you win the Oscar. Congratulations and thank you.


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