West Side Story
Throughout the play, the Puerto Ricans are subject to racism, discrimination, and hate, but the way the musical is written speaks about the status quo on a deeper level. The story takes place in the 1950s, a time when Latino immigration to New York was very high, due to the removal of some restrictions on immigration. West Side Story illustrates the struggles and difficulties that Latino immigrants had to face, but it also references many of the stereotypes of the Puerto Ricans. The writers of the musical depict Puerto Rican men as poverty-stricken, violent, uneducated gang members and the women as loud and sassy. The stereotype that is promoted by the musical (and Hollywood in general) disparages the Puerto Rican identity that the Nuyorican immigrants were so prideful of (Negron-Muntaner). Anita’s famous lines, “Your mother’s a Pole, your father’s a Swede, but you were born here, and that’s all that you need. You are an American. But us? Foreigners (Sondheim),” epitomize the inevitable hardships that immigrants felt at the time, and it was hopeless to escape them.
Furthermore, the love conflict between Anita and Tony embodies the internal conflicts of Puerto Rican immigrants on a symbolic, allegorical level. Their love was forbidden, their cultures were not allowed to mix, they were constantly criticized, and ultimately, their love ended tragically (Maniego). This symbolizes the adversity Latino immigrants experienced when trying to overcome stereotypes and assimilate into American culture, which, like Anita and Tony’s love, was virtually impossible.