A reference guide to the lyrics of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical, ahead of its release in theatres and HBO Max.
Lights up on Washington Heights, one of the most vibrant Latinx neighborhoods in NYC located in the upper tip of Manhattan, and both the setting for Lin-Manuel Miranda’s In the Heights and the neighborhood he calls home.
Adapted from Lin-Manuel Miranda and Quiara Alegría Hudes’ Tony-winning musical, the film premieres June 11 in theatres and on HBO Max. It will also open the Tribeca Festival June 9 with various screenings around the city.
The movie stars Anthony Ramos as Usnavi, Corey Hawkins as Benny, Melissa Barrera as Vanessa, and Leslie Grace as Nina. Rounding out the main cast are Olga Merediz as Abuela Claudia, Daphne Rubin-Vega as Daniela, Stephanie Beatriz as Carla, Dascha Polanco as Cuca, Gregory Diaz IV as Sonny, Marc Anthony as Sonny’s father, Jimmy Smits as Kevin Rosario, and Noah Catala as Graffiti Pete. Miranda, who also produces and wrote an original new song, plays Piraguero, the Washington Heights local who sells flavored ice from a cart.
In The Heights features a screenplay by Hudes and is directed by Jon M. Chu.
“In the Heights”
“Piragua” – A piragua is Puerto Rican summer treat shaped like a pyramid, consisting of shaved ice and covered with fruit-flavored syrup. Piraguas are sold by vendors, known as piragüeros, from small pushcarts. Flavors include:
- “Parcha”: Puerto Rican term for passion fruit.
- “China”: The name used in Puerto Rico and Dominican Republic for orange.
- “Mamey”: A species of tree native to Cuba and Central America, naturally ranging from southern Cuba to southern Costa Rica, plus Mexico, where it is made into milkshakes and ice cream among other foods.
“Abuela” – “Grandmother” in Spanish.
“I got café but no ‘con leche’” – café con leche is a Spanish coffee beverage consisting of strong and bold coffee (usually espresso) mixed with scalded milk in approximately a 1:1 ratio. Café con leche is huge in heavily concentrated Cuban areas of Miami, and a way of life in Hispanic households.
“You Must Take the A Train” – “Take the ‘A’ Train” is a jazz standard by Billy Strayhorn that was the signature tune of the Duke Ellington Orchestra, and one of the train lines that goes up to Washington Heights.
“Bodega” – In NYC, a bodega is a small owner-operated convenience store. Its name is derived from the Spanish word for “storeroom.” Usually located on street corners, they are renowned for their convivial culture and colorful character, also known as a “mom-and-pop Stop-n-Shop.”
“Barrio” – A Spanish word meaning “quarter” or “neighborhood.”
“mom-and-pop Stop & Shop” – Stop & Shop is a chain of supermarkets located in the northeastern United States.
“But as for mañana” – Mañana is the word for “tomorrow” in Spanish.
“Mi pana” – Pana is a Spanish word that means “buddy” or “pal.”
“As the radio plays old forgotten boleros” – Bolero refers to a genre of sung music originated in eastern Cuba in the late 19th century as part of the trova tradition. This genre gained widespread popularity around Latin America throughout the 20th century, and continues to thrive.
“Just me and the GWB” – GWB refers to the George Washington Bridge, a double-decker suspension bridge spanning the Hudson River, connecting Manhattan with the New Jersey borough of Fort Lee.
“Manny Ramirez is in town this weekend” – Manny Ramirez is a Dominican-American former professional baseball outfielder. And when he’s playing in town—beware the traffic.
“It Won’t Be Long Now”
“No pares. Sigue, sigue” – lyrics from the popular song “El Tiburón” by the Dominican band Proyecto Uno.
“No Me Diga”