Latino Studies

, Volume 12, Issue 3, pp 332–352 | Cite as

“Queer for Uncle Sam”: Anita’s Latina diva citizenship in West Side Story

  • Deborah Paredez
Original Article


This essay addresses West Side Story’s enduring legacy among Latinas/os through a queer, feminist reading of the character Anita, informed by Latina/o performance and dance studies. Rita Moreno’s bodily migrations in her portrayal of Anita in the 1961 film and the character’s narrative mobility within the musical embody a kinesthetic model for the ways Latinas/os enact queered relations to dominant conceptions of citizenship in the United States. In particular, Anita captures and catalyzes the affective ambiente central to Latina/o assertions of cultural citizenship and queer utopian visions.


West Side Story Rita Moreno queer cultural citizenship Latina/o performance diva 



I would like to thank the anonymous readers for their generative insights. I would also like to thank the following colleagues who invited me to present and who responded generously to earlier versions of this work: Stacy Wolf, Jill Dolan and Dick Hartog at Princeton University; Margo Crawford and Mary Pat Brady at Cornell University; Frank Guridy and the faculty of the Warfield Center for African and African American Studies at the University of Texas – Austin; and Julia Foulkes, Alberto Sandoval-Sánchez, Brian Eugenio Herrera and Elizabeth Wells for a stimulating roundtable conversation at the 2012 American Studies Conference. Special thanks to Clare Croft for her lessons on how to observe and think like a dance scholar; to Stacy Wolf for her foundational scholarship on gender, sexuality and musical theater; and to my mother, Consuelo S. Villarreal, who taught me to love musicals (and all things complicated, imperfect and over-the-top) unironically.


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Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Ltd 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Deborah Paredez
    • 1
  1. 1.University of Texas-Austin

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