In the musical, In the Heights, the song Paciencia Y Fe is performed by Abuela Claudia, the heart of the community, and also its adopted grandmother. It is a touching account of her life story, and that of many other residents in Washington Heights. She sings of:
“Sharing double beds, trying to catch a break, struggling with English / Listening to friends, finally got a job working as a maid / So we cleaned some homes, polishing with pride, / Scrubbing the whole of the Upper East Side / The days into weeks, the weeks into years, and here I stayed.”
Act One of the tale of 187th Street follows Abuela Claudia as she strikes out from her home town of Havana, Cuba to seek opportunity in Nueva York. What she finds instead, is a largely working and lower-middle class community in a depressed but colourful environment.
Patience is what she needs, since getting out of this community takes grit, determination and a spot of luck. The obstacles are many, symbolised allegorically by the undulating topography in these parts. Thankfully, patience is what she has, in droves.
Faith is also something she espouses, and something which is in great supply here, alongside a surprising degree of tolerance and ethnic harmony. Here, Jewish, Armenian, Greek, Catholic and Pentecostal places of worship literally (well almost) stand side by side, providing solace and comfort for residents, and looking, not unlike a Nuevo Mundo version of the Holy Land.
And so she struggles to move on up.
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