Rita Moreno Celebrates Latina History Day!
On Friday, March 14th, Rita Moreno, fresh from receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Screen Actors Guild Awards, addressed hundreds of Latinas in Los Angeles for the 23rd Annual Latina History Day conference hosted by HOPE (Hispanas Organized for Political Equality). Video below.
With the theme of “The Power of Your Story,” Rita shared various parts of her life, from being a young girl in Puerto Rico and the transition of moving to the big city of New York, learning English and assimilating, to her career as a young actress and the sexism and sexual harassment she faced, to fun loving memories of being happily married and sharing her life with her husband, she took the audience down a memory lane worthy of someone who has lived a life of highs and lows all the while trying to hold on to who she was as a person.
Aside from some of the most humorous parts of her speech – her mothers thick accent, to meeting her future Jewish husband – some of Rita’s most poignant moments came from her honest reflections of what it was like to be a young Latina in a new country. She was only six years old when she learned about the power of words on which she reflects:
“I quickly learned some words that I never expected to learn like Spic, Wop, and garlic mouth and pierced ear. I didn’t know what those words meant, but the way in which they were uttered said to me, that something was wrong with me, something was not good about me, and I couldn’t figure out what that was.”
It’s daunting to think that since then, children today still face some of those same burdens. In those days, Rita’s mom would put a blanket on the fire escape and Rita would listen to the radio and sing along to songs like, “Dream (When You’re Feeling Blue)” because she believed and continues to believe in dreaming.
When looking back at herself at such a young age, she says:
“I’d look up at the stars and I’d say, someday something wonderful is going to happen to me, I want to be wonderful, I want to be somebody, I want to be something great.”
She may not have known it then, but Rita’s destiny was already in the stars – from a simple girl from Puerto Rico to a Hollywood legend – she has in fact, been an extraordinary example of greatness who is inspiring a whole new generation of Latinas.
The Latina History Day Conference aims to celebrate the historic accomplishments of Latinas and presents workshops on career development, community issues, and financial empowerment. Cornerstones of the conference include inspiring keynote speakers and the Comadre Network & Exhibit Area where conference participants are invited to an afternoon of networking with California’s most successful Latinas.
Note: Side photo provided by Barbara Ramirez.