In truth, Usnavi still owns the family winery, although he is happier for it now. He even let his neighbors make it into a street art installation, with a Dominican beach mural he can still dream of. And who knows maybe one day he will visit it again. But when he does, it will be with his family, including Vanessa and their daughter, who will make the trip from the Top of the World in Washington Heights.
This is what happens to the public in the last issue, as Usnavi puts his child on his shoulders and soaks up the rhythm and vitality of the street corner to which he has remained loyal. “I found my island,” he sings. “I’ve been on it all this time.
It’s a thrilled sendoff that has left audiences out of preview screenings for the past few weeks. It’s also a testament that hits harder in 2021 than it would have when the film was originally due out in 2020. Yes, it’s a love letter to Washington Heights and Latinx culture. However, it also honors New York City itself, although New York tourists and moviegoers usually don’t know …
With its idyllic framing of bodega awnings, salon hairdryers and even the perpetually late D-train, In the heights is a celebration on another side of New York City, literally a mile from Times Square, Wall Street, the Plaza Hotel, and anywhere else Hollywood typically points a camera. But Washington Heights is New York for those who live on top of Manhattan, just like the Bronx, Queens, and the un-trendy parts of Brooklyn that HBO ignores are also New York.
Much like the city’s major malls that the media has spent a year worrying about, this side of New York has been bleeding for over a year. And yet … the fact that the In the heights The film now capable of playing on movie screens in all of these locations, from Marble Hill to Bay Ridge, is something that gives Usnavi’s choice to stay in the heights even more character.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit U.S. shores in early 2020, it hit every community hard, but New York City was the first epicenter in these frightening days of conflicting information. Before we got a better understanding of how the virus spread – or federal leaders at the time understood that viruses don’t just hit blue states – the city saw around 203,000 confirmed cases of COVID in space three months, and with a death rate hitting around nine percent in the same time frame, it looked like the end of the world had arrived in all five boroughs.