Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The World on the Stage

In the past few months, I've become completely obsessed with In the Heights. So I was the happiest chick in the world a couple of weeks ago when my sister got us tickets! The music and lyrics are great, and the energy of the show really comes through. Plus, you have to give it up to Lin-Manuel Miranda for creating a brand new musical not based on a book, movie, or play. Their success despite this is a testament to what an incredible piece of art and community it is.

But moving beyond its artistic merit and down-right fun times, I have to comment on what it feels like to be a Dominican immigrant watching this show. Without getting into too many details of what my family does, let me just say that the culture of bodegas and salons is as close to "home" for me as my actual place of residence. And the story of the heroine, Nina, is one I strongly relate to.

For my sisters and I, not going to college or dropping out for whatever reason was simply not an option. My parents worked too hard to bring us to this country to live out their dreams. Straying away from that course feels like adding a weight to their shoulders they just do not deserve. Even now, there is an immense pressure to keep on studying and settle down into a profession, and I really do feel I am letting them down whenever I tell them that I still don't know what I want to do. Add to that family, their friends, old neighbors and everyone else who feels they have a vested interest in my future, and that's a whole lot to live up to!

The feelings are similar for people from other backgrounds, but I think experiencing all of this as an immigrant adds a layer that many don't fully understand. So, seeing that story played out on the stage by people who have an inkling of what that really feels like makes me connect with it so much more.

Can any of you relate to this struggle? How do you think your background and that of your parents' play a role in it?

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