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Rita Moreno is a testament of resilience in her keynote speech

Rita Moreno talks about her experience immigrating to the United States.

Rita Moreno talks about her experience immigrating to the United States.

Rita Moreno is the first and only Latina Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony winner. 

The Carolina Union Activities Board and Carolina Latina/o Collaborative hosted Moreno, a Puerto Rican actress and singer, on Friday evening in celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month. 

Moreno discussed topics ranging from to the struggles of minority women overall to her experiences with typecasting in the industry.

“These roles objectified us,” Moreno said. “They almost always portrayed us as ignorant, uneducated, totally passive, unable to read and write and morally bankrupt because usually we were some white man’s mistress.”

Moreno said her first opportunity to play a woman, particularly a Hispanic woman, who stood up for herself was her role as Anita in the 1961 film "West Side Story." 

“Her suffering, her anger, were my suffering and my anger — becoming Anita turned into a personal mission for me,” Moreno said. “Just like her, I had fled down those mean streets in fear of the gangs, chased and haunted by that awful word ‘spic.’ ”

Jackie Ceron, a senior public policy major, said she could relate to Moreno’s discussion of the obstacles minority women face. 

“It does not only apply to the film industry, I think it applies to other fields,” Ceron said. “As a minority woman, that resonated with me.”

Diana Regalado, the director of education and culture for Carolina Latina/o Collaborative said Moreno is influential to aspiring Hispanic entertainers and the Hispanic community as a whole. 

Regalado said Moreno's speech highlighted the importance of Hispanic Heritage Month. She said there is only one reason the Latino/a community should celebrate the month.

“Because we matter,” she said. “Yeah, simply that.”

Sophia Figueroa, a senior public policy major, said this month is important in bringing together the diverse aspects of Latin American culture.

“I think, to sum it all up, unity is what Hispanic Heritage Month is all about,” Figueroa said.

She said Moreno’s strength is inspiring to all Latinos and Latinas.

“I think that she is a testament of resilience and I think that speaks to the Latin American culture overall,” Figueroa said.

Moreno said, in order for Hispanic actors and actresses to be nominated for more major film awards, they must be cast in roles that are worthy of nominations. However, she acknowledged progress has been made toward gaining these opportunities.

“I mean the door is really open now,” Moreno said. “It’s not wide open, but it’s certainly open.”

She said people of marginalized identities must develop more positive images of themselves to fulfill their goals.

“It’s become almost a habit to assume that you’re going to be victimized, and you’ve got to just completely stop that and understand that you have value and that you have worth and there is nobody in the world who can change your focus if this is what you want."

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