Work in Progress

Essay; “Bodega Sold Dreams: Middle-Class Panic and the Cross-over Aesthetics of In the Heights.” Dialectical Imaginaries: Materialist Approaches to U.S. Latino/a Literature in the Age of Neoliberalism. Eds. Carlos Gallego and Marcial González. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2018. 187-216.


Abstract: Puerto Ricans Quiara Alegría Hudes and Lin-Manuel Miranda brought Dominican York to Broadway with In the Heights, which won a Tony for Best Musical in 2008. The reception of In the Heights hailed it as a welcome change from prior Broadway musicals about Latinxs, namely, West Side Story and The Capeman—in other words, as a musical that challenges the racial borders of the Great White Way. I instead read In the Heights as representative of a middle-class politics that is haunted by the inability to speak for a working-class experience of Latinidad and threatened by the stereotypes of chaos and poverty associated with U.S. Latinx working-class subjectivities. In the Heights is troubled by the work of crossing over and by the history of how U.S. Latinxs have been depicted on the Broadway stage. While it focuses the concerns of a U.S. Latinx business class, the musical also references the ways that the artistic and activist legacy of the Nuyorican community challenges the priorities of cross-over consumption for Latinx culture and history. The nuances of the play’s cross-over aesthetics are flattened out by a reception that is fixated on delimited notions of cultural authenticity. I aim to complicate the expectation of authenticity attached to this play, peeling away the hyper-positive guise of pan-Latinidad celebrated by the reception and even at times the musical itself. In turn, I perform a reading of In the Heights that acknowledges: first, how the musical is in dialogue with a U.S. Latinx Civil Rights generation, and second, how the musical embodies a crisis of imagination and authority on the part of U.S. Latinx middle-class cultural creatives.

Current Research Project; “Hamilton and the Digital Archives of Latinx-Caribbean Writing.”

Abstract: In order to reflect on the market aesthetics of Latinx-Caribbean digital production, I engage in the ongoing debate about race and representation in Hamilton by placing the musical within the context of the online archive produced by Lin-Manuel Miranda. I begin by analyzing Miranda’s annotations of the musical’s lyrics on PoetryGenius during the 2016 Presidential election and how Miranda sought to connect the musical to a critique of contemporary discourse on immigration. Miranda’s use of social media more broadly speaks to his understanding of the relationship between institutions, audiences, and aesthetics.

By data scraping his Twitter account, I identify Miranda’s primary discourses of self-representation, affiliation, and activism while reflecting back on his interpretive interventions via PoetryGenius. These online paratexts form an archive for rereading the musical through the lens of market aesthetics and for comparing Miranda’s strategies of negotiating intimacy and ethics online with those of other Latinx-Caribbean writers, like Achy Obejas, Kristoffer Diaz, and Jennine Capó Crucet.