Olga Merediz in In the Heights.

I Need to Talk About In the Heights’ “Paciencia Y Fe” and Why It Makes Me Cry

Thank you Lin-Manuel Miranda.

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As a Latina, I knew that In the Heights would be chock-full of moments and musical numbers that would make me cry. Why? Because that’s what happens when you see yourself, and the people you grew up with, for the first time on the big screen. And that’s what I saw when I watched In the Heights for the first time and what moved me to tears.

Now that the movie is out and available on HBO Max, I wanted to talk about one song from In the Heights that absolutely destroyed me and left me feeling raw, vulnerable, and completely seen. It was the song “Paciencia y Fe” [Patience and Faith] with Olga Merediz, who plays Abuela Claudia, and who reprised her Tony-nominated role for the big screen.

Now, Abuela Claudia’s experience is not what every Latinx person goes through or has experienced in their journey to come to the United States. But I don’t know one Latinx immigrant that doesn’t know someone who did go through an experience like Abuela Claudia’s in “Paciencia y Fe.” And personally, I felt her song down to my very bones.

I wasn’t alone in this feeling either.

In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Olga Merediz herself said that she had trouble watching the number “Paciencia y Fe. “I had to excuse myself and go to the ladies room to take a moment for myself. It was overwhelming because you see yourself, and it’s you, but it’s not you. It’s a transformation. It’s a creation and a transformation, but you’re there too. Your essence is there. It’s powerful. It’s like, Whew. I don’t know.”

My essence was in Abuela Claudia and I realized that while listening to “Paciencia y Fe.”

I remember the poverty I lived in as a child. I remember not having the basic necessities to live. And I remember my birth mother moving us to the US for a better life and because there was work. With this change came a whole new set of problems. I wasn’t used to the bitter cold of the East Coast during the latter months of the year. And kids made fun of my Spanish accent so much that I vowed to get rid of it, something that I regret to this day.

My birth mother did any cleaning job she could to support her family. And every other Latinx family I knew did the same thing to the point that I thought these jobs were what most people did for money. Imagine my heartbreak when I learned that many people saw maids or cleaning jobs as the kind of work that only immigrants had because who would hire them for more; something that hurt worse than I expected because I thought this was the land of opportunity.

So when Abuela Claudia is talking about Cuba, about how her life was on the island, the problems she faced, and how moving to NYC changed her life forever, I felt that to my very core and for a second we were one. The fact that our experiences were similar is also heartbreaking because I am half her age and still experienced the same hurt, struggle, and obstacles that she faced as a young Latina in a place she didn’t know.

Even writing this is moving me to tears. Because if I saw myself in Abuela Claudia, then maybe those that aren’t part of the community will see me, the challenges I’ve faced, and how I’ve triumphed through this movie. And it’s scary to think that others might be seeing me, raw bits and all, with no walls to hide behind. But I’m proud of In the Heights, the stories told through it, and that my Latinx people are the heart of this movie.

So, for this movie, for this community, I’m willing to be let my guard down and invite people in to know who were are as Latinx people. And I hope along the way, that people learn a little “Paciencia y Fe” when it comes to those who are different from them but have a dream just like anyone else of a better life for ourselves and the ones we call family. That is the gift that is In the Heights.

(image: Warner Bros. Pictures)

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Author
Lyra Hale
Lyra (She/Her) is a queer Latinx writer who stans badass women in movies, TV shows, and books. She loves crafting, tostones, and speculating all over queer media. And when not writing she's scrolling through TikTok or rebuilding her book collection.