From “Our Latin Thing” to “In the Heights:” Colorism & Criticism

I’ve always said that history repeats itself but in different ways. The recent bruhaha over “In the Heights” has crystalized that adage.

Today’s criticisms over the movie’s lack of Afro-Latinos are the antithesis of the strong opinions against the 1972 movie “Our Latin Thing/Nuestra Cosadepicting Latinos and the nascent salsa movement of that time.

The Cine 2 Theater where “Our Latin Thing” premiered that hot summer of July 21st of ’72 was sold out. …

Last night I saw the devil: a cockeyed, cone-headed demon his face contorted from the turmoil of the Orishas that he daily dishonors with his vile contempt for humanity.

His ubiquitous beats, as impotent as his will for sustained oppression, cry out in shame with every slap of the demon’s swollen, calloused hands who steal from the innocent, who defiles his fellow man.

It took all I had not to pelt him with rocks from my trembling hands, not to scream liar, abuser, and thief.

But my mother’s voice whispered, don’t take the bait, don’t fall for his tricks.


You emerged from the dark well,

startled by the lights,

looking at the sights

of different colored faces

touching, pulling, yanking you out of me.

For 3 days you played hide & seek,

dropping deep into the abyss

then hitting your head against the birth canal only to retreat back inside,

where it was warm,

where it was wet,

where it was dark and only you and I could hear our hearts beat as one.

You didn’t know who or what you were.

Screaming, you grabbed grandma’s finger and wouldn’t let go

-but you knew my voice; your head turned

Goin’ down to shoot my ol’ lady. Ya know I caught her (W.A.P.) messing ‘round with another man. The Cardi B controversy.

The fallout over Cardi B’s top-charting W.A.P. performance over the Grammy Awards stirred a second sanctimonious tsunami of garment-gashing jazzers and Latin music artists exploding with indignation all over Facebook days into weeks later. Twitter still sizzled from the big night as did Instagram and the social media online chat rooms of the National Association of Recorded Arts & Sciences (NARAS ). Never mind that Snoop Dog — someone who’s howled at females to snap their snatches at…

The Medium is the Massage.

Marshall McLuhan’s prescient book on how information is received is alive and well in the age where tweets replace news articles, emojis conversation. Social media defines our current culture of interactive and interconnected communication. When the book was published more than fifty years ago, television rapidly replaced radio as our means of ingesting news and entertainment. Media outlets grew with New York as the international news capital establishing a mainstream press. Advertising and Public Relations firms flexed their biceps. Between Hollywood’s output of images strengthened through New York’s media muscle, America’s mirror to the world…

“My spirit does the driving for this car, and that spirit does not have cancer!”

The night after returning from an exciting performance in a bullring in France that July of 2006, my friend Hugo, a poet who had passed two years prior from cancer, appeared to me in a dream. I was in Central Park, high above leaning on a boulder watching the cross-town traffic of 97th Street. As I watched the cars pass each other below, I suddenly felt his energy by my side. In his soft-spoken Spanish, (I mostly dream in English), he told me to go see a doctor.

“Tienes que ver un doctor,”he warned. “Pero todo va estar bien.” …

Boricua Christmas in New York

I met my grandparents for the first time that terribly cold winter of 1958.
They came from the mountains of Lajas, Puerto Rico. At five, I had no idea what that meant except that they lived up high, as we did on the nineteenth floor in the towers of the Douglass projects of New York’s Harlem, right up the block from Central Park on 103rd Street.

We’d just moved into the big, bright, five-room apartment that summer from the cramped and gritty tenement train, cold water flat of the Lower East Side where I was…

How Tito Puente saved me before the “#MeToo” movement existed.

I was on my way to interview Tito Puente, the King of Latin Music, and my first major assignment as a writer. I was excited, elated to have been picked for this project, and nervous, very nervous. Absentmindedly, I bit the last of what remained of my right thumbnail thinking of the many questions I had researched over the past few days as the #1 train pulled into my station. It was hard to see the stop from inside the bubble-art, graffiti-covered car, “Taki 183” tagged all over the windows…

Aurora Flores

Writer, communications specialist, entertainment & salsa savant, news junkie, and Boricua woman of the world.

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