September 26, 2012 by asangiovanni1
La senorita, Rita Moreno, born Rosa Dolores Aleverio was born in Puerto Rico in 1931. Rita Moreno is a singer, actress, and dancer. She is often recognized for her role as Chita Rivera in West Side Story. Moreno was the first Latina, and one of two women to be honored with all four of entertainment’s biggest awards: an Emmy, Oscar, Tony, and a Grammy.
Before her role as supporting actress in West Side Story, Rita Moreno played the stereotypical Latina roles because that is what was available. During her career, Moreno encountered many offers where she was forced to act barefoot, have the name Lolita or Conchita, and have a broken English as part of her character. At the time, Latinos were only seen for their stereotypes and not respected as credible actors and actresses. Even in West Side Story, filmed in the early 1960s, the starring role Maria was not played by a Latina. The leading role ended up being played by Natalie Wood, an American.
After winning the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her role in West Side Story, Rita Moreno did not play a role in a film for seven years. Not because she did not want to, but because she was making a statement. No other leading roles or major roles were offered to her. What was “available” were the roles in more gang movies, more stereotypical characters that were only offered to Latinos. Even if there were roles that Latina/os could play, they were told to change their very Hispanic names or dye their dark thick hair. Rita Moreno declined. She was one of the few who drew the line. She stood for what Latinos should be in the entertainment world and has paved the way for Latinos in present day entertainment.
It was a bit difficult to find sufficient information about Rita Moreno because of the roles she played in films and on sitcoms. The only roles mentioned repeatedly are the role that led to her winning of all four major entertainment awards. Her biographies are not focused on her being a ground breaking Latina singer, actress, dancer and overall performer.