"En el Barrio": A Musical That Celebrates Latin Culture

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The film "En el barrio" is based on the acclaimed Broadway musical written by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Quiara Alegría Hudes.

Still from the movie 'In the heights'

A film that has just been released, and that is the best example of the Latin feeling, seeks to enhance that taste for music: "En el Barrio." Photo: YT-Warner Bros. Pictures

LatinAmerican Post | Theoscar Mogollón González

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Leer en español: "En el Barrio": un musical que celebra la cultura latina

To talk about the golden age of musicals, we would have to go back to the 40s and 50s, when that genre was one of the most popular on the big screen. Although in more recent times films such as "Moulin Rouge", "The Greatest Showman" or "La La Land" have emerged, many viewers have still failed to appreciate the magic of this heir-to-Broadway cinema. However, a film that has just been released, and that is the best example of the Latin feeling, seeks to enhance that taste for music: "En el Barrio."

This production is based on a 2008 hit play created by Lin-Manuel Miranda, one of the biggest names on Broadway today. Although everything seemed to indicate that the film adaptation was not going to come to light, since the project was stopped for more than a decade because it was not considered attractive enough to reach theaters, the immense work of Quiara Alegría Hudes as the scriptwriter and Jon M. Chu as director made the dream of an entire Latino community come true.

"En el Barrio" has had a very positive receptivity and that is evident from the first minutes when we notice the good vibes and the modern mixing with the touch of a classic musical. Latin American love, dance, and pride are not only the protagonists here but also the culprits of making us get up from our seats to dance and sing to the rhythm of hip-hop, salsa, merengue, and reggaeton. Without a doubt, a whole euphoric celebration that will touch the hearts of more than one Latino immigrant.

A forceful and exuberant musical

There are several highlights of the film such as its spectacular songs, the color, and the dances that only musicals are capable of performing. But beyond all that magic, the true center of everything is the Latino community that lives in the United States and that day by day do everything possible to fulfill their dreams. Miranda's vision, added to the respective contributions of Hudes and Chu, transports us through the lives of four characters who will fight until they cannot make those dreams come true -one way or another.

In the first place, we have Usnavi, protagonist, and owner of a store who yearns to return to his native Dominican Republic to reopen the bar that his father had on the beach. Then we meet Vanessa, a charming young woman whose goal is to become a fashion designer, plus she is the girl who stole Usnavi's heart. They are both friends of Nina, a genius who plans to give up her university studies after being rejected by her classmates. And finally, Benny, who works as a taxi dispatcher, and among his great ambitions is to return with his ex-girlfriend, Nina. All of them will intersect in the different places of the Washington Heights neighborhood of New York.

The performances of the rest of the cast are noteworthy, as they also steal the show with their little special touches. Grandma Claudia makes a magnificent interpretation of the theme of patience and faith; Daniela is the owner of a beauty salon where festivity and joy stand out; and even little Sonny, who does not want to return to the Dominican Republic because he assures that his dreams are in the United States. Each one of them becomes faithful confidants of the protagonists' sorrows and promoters of their goals.

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Patience and faith to fulfill the dreams

And just as the acting work does its thing, it is not for less what was done by the director, who did a great job with the adaptation and managed to put on a colorful show that overflows with color, intensity, and passion. "En el Barrio" surprises us with its musical numbers that are accompanied by talented dancers capable of infecting us with that vibe with the different rhythms and melodies. The mix of sounds that enhances the Latin culture makes this musical a must-see, exuberant, and full of life production.

Likewise, it should be noted that the film makes visible some inconveniences that Latin Americans often face in North America: injustices, discrimination, and lack of opportunities. We are witnessing how they have to work more than the rest to survive, and even the obstacles of the system that do not allow them to pursue their university studies. To all this is added another harsh reality such as the stealthy disappearance of the neighborhoods themselves, those communities full of joy that at the time gave a small sense of belonging to those who left their country of origin behind.

From its first beats to its effusive final musical act, this irresistible film will be able to make us laugh, dance, and even cry. Although some see it as a depressing drama about the delusion of the so-called American dream and the problems that immigrants experience daily in the United States, what Miranda wanted to show us is the true representation of what it is to be a Latino who left behind a whole life to replace it with a better future in a foreign country. With patience and faith, our "little dreams" can be fulfilled.