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‘In the Heights’ Salem screening highlights the power of representation and diversity

This article was published 2 year(s) and 3 month(s) ago.

John Andrews, left, and Rosario Ubiera-Minaya of the Creative Collective hosted a screening of "In the Heights" at Cinema Salem Saturday night.

SALEM — The smell of buttery popcorn filled the air inside of Cinema Salem, and people were singing and dancing as if patrons had never left the theater. After a long year, it was a much-needed return to normalcy for everyone involved.

Soon the welcoming aroma was joined by the sound of Latin music filling the air. In that little section inside the Witch City Mall, many felt transported to a place where they felt at home.

Prior to a screening of “In the Heights” at Cinema Salem, moviegoers were treated to bomba and plena performances from Cojuelos Productions while artwork from Dominican artist Ramon Santiago was on display. 

Santiago, a native of Lynn (via translator and friend Francisco Vizcaino), said that it was great to see everyone together and to have his art on display.

“In the Heights” is a film adaption of the Broadway musical that is a beautiful illustration of Latin culture in the United States. Taking place in upper Manhattan in Washington Heights, moviegoers get to see bodega owner Usnavi chase his dreams and try to build a better life for himself and his family.

The event was put together with help from the Creative Collective along with the Cinema Salem team. John Andrews, who happens to be a member of both organizations, mentioned that he wanted to make the cinema “a place of belonging for everyone.”

Creating an event involving the release of “In the Heights” was a perfect storm for Andrews, who wants the cinema to be more diverse, whether that be on the screen or the people inside watching the films.

Andrews instantly knew who he wanted to partner with, Rosario Ubiera-Minaya of Cojuelos Productions, who also happens to be the director of Amplify Latinx. 

As a native of the Dominican Republic, Ubiera-Minaya said that it’s very important for the Latino community to see themselves represented on the big screen. 

“It’s not only because of the pride that we bring in terms of our culture but it’s just traditionally, historically, we haven’t been represented in a positive light,” said Ubiera-Minaya. “Just recently the rhetoric about Latinos, especially immigrants in this country hasn’t been very positive. 

“So having a film that brings a different spin to our daily lives and our different perspectives and struggles, but also talks about the intersectionality of the different identities that we bring is really important and it’s magical in a way because it’s like giving us that stage to step up and have a voice and that means a lot in many different ways.”

Santiago also touched on the importance of the film for the Latino community. 

“It’s a community that is so under-represented,” Santiago said. “We have seen so much progress in art and film so I’m very proud.”

In this small slice of Salem, it’s safe to say that Andrews achieved his goal of making the cinema feel like home for everyone.

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