Actress Rosie Perez had a small bone to pick with Deadline on Sunday morning after the outlet referred to the characters of “West Side Story” as “Puerto Rican immigrants.”
In referring to Steven Spielberg’s latest at the box office, the outlet noted that “West Side Story,” along with Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “In the Heights,” perhaps struggled in the Latinx demographic because “‘West Side Story’ and ‘In the Heights’ are, respectively, Puerto Rican immigrant and Dominican Republic and islanders’ stories, tales which don’t necessarily resonate with Mexican Americans.”
Shortly thereafter, Perez chimed in on the description, calling on Deadline to correct what they had written.
“Respectfully, Puerto Ricans are NOT immigrants,” Perez wrote. “You have an opportunity to correct this. I sincerely hope you do.”
Indeed, Puerto Rico is a United States territory, and its residents are United States citizens. That has been the case since 1917, and residents are free to move between the U.S. and Puerto Rico freely — no immigration process required.
The lyrics to “America” as performed in the 1957 production of “West Side Story” on Broadway even noted this misconception. The original lyrics went, “Immigrant goes to America/ Many hellos in America/ Nobody knows in America/ Puerto Rico’s in America!”
This section of the song was not included in the 1961 film.
Perez has always been outspoken about her Puerto Rican pride. In 2006, she directed a documentary called “Yo Soy Boricua, Pa’ Que Tu Lo Sepas!” Translates to “I’m Boricua, Just So You Know!,” the film recounts the political history between the United States and Puerto Rico as experienced by Puerto Ricans themselves.
In an interview with NPR at the time, Perez explained that her goal was “to show how the politics between the United States and Puerto Rico affected the culture here in the United States, as well as the island,” adding, “I wanted to really show that we come from a very, very proud culture.”