In the Heights (Part 3), by Albert W. Vogt III

If my distaste for musicals is well-documented, so too was a late friend of mine’s love for them.  Actually, in the nearly thirty years I knew him, and living with him for the past ten, I learned that there were limits to his affections for this genre.  He was not keen on the more modern stuff, and that included today’s film In the Heights (2021).  Before continuing that thought, again, there have not been two sequels to last year’s hit.  This is me paying tribute to my friend who had only a minor interest in this specific title.  Yet, even before his passing yesterday, I found myself watching it lately a few more times during my breakfasts and lunches.  If my friend were around right now, he would probably give me a hard time for being so taken by a musical.  What my recent viewings have done is inspire me to not necessarily review the film all over, but to offer a tighter focus on a specific aspect of it, using it to pay tribute to my friend.  Hopefully, this will inspire you to see movies a little differently.

In my second review of In the Heights, I touched on the oft repeated phrase of Abuela Claudia (Olga Merediz), “pacienca y fe,” which means patience and Faith.  These are notions that are a part of the fabric of the block of the Washington Heights neighborhood in which they all live.  By itself, it is one of the reasons I am attracted so much to this film.  Abuela Claudia says the words “pacienca y fe” as she buys her lottery ticket early on in the film.  It turns out to contain the winning numbers for the lottery, bringing its holder $96,000.  The fact that she had this ticket all this time is not revealed until the very end, and is also not my concern with this short(er than usual) discussion.  What I think has been drawing me back to the film are the parallels between Abuela Claudia and my friend.  To be clear, as Usnavi (Anthony Ramos), the film’s main character, points out in the early minutes, she is not really his grandmother, or any of the other people on the block.  She earns this title because she because she fulfilled that role for her neighbors, particularly Usnavi, with whom he lived.  It is no wonder that when Usnavi gets an opportunity to return to his native Dominican Republic, he wants to bring Abuela with him.  That is his sueñito, his little dream, to take the people he loves back to the land he loves.  He is eager to do so.  When we have these kinds of grand plans and hopes, we are eager to attain those distant goals sooner than later.  We tend to not take God’s timing into account, and grasp after things that may not be meant be meant in that moment.  This is applicable to many of the characters.  When they go after something big for which they are reaching, they face frustrations when they are not following Abuela Claudia’s advice.  Only by practicing patience and Faith will anything of value come of that which we pursue.

As I said, my friend may not have been the biggest fan of In the Heights, but he was a man of patience, if not Faith.  That last part was more often left up to me.  Yet, in the day or so since his passing, I am reminded of the scene after Abuela Claudia dies.  Though it is not a candlelight vigil outside of house while everyone sings “Alabanza.”  That word, by the way, basically means to praise God for something.  All the same, the love and support has been coming through from many different people, and it reminds me of that scene.  It is sad, but it is also a blessing to be a part of it.  It reveals that my friend was, in my respects, the kind of person Abuela Claudia was to so many people he knew.  He supported their dreams, and mine.  God has been very generous to me, just as my friend has been to me.  For that, I give my most heartfelt Alabanza.


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