Characters / In the Heights

In the Heights

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Usnavi de la Vega
Role originated by Lin-Manuel Miranda
The owner of a bodega in Washington Heights. He was named after one of the first sights his parents saw when they arrived in America, a US Navy ship. He dreams of going to the Dominican Republic, his parents' homeland. Abuela Claudia, the neighborhood matriarch, practically raised him. He is in love with Vanessa.

  • Arc Words: "No pare, sigue sigue!" meaning "Don't stop, continue, continue!"
  • Author Avatar: Lin-Manuel Miranda also wrote the lyrics and music.
  • Cannot Spit It Out
  • Like Brother and Sister: With Nina.
  • Line-of-Sight Name
  • Motor Mouth: Quick-witted and can sometimes speak fast due to nerves. Especially when in the vicinity of Vanessa.
  • Raised By Grandmother
  • Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: Usnavi has a noticeably greater vocabulary and can fire off complex metaphors off the top of his head, as seen when he tries to chat up a hot girl at the club.
  • Team Mom: Usnavi seems to take over the role after the finale, acting as the "street-light" for the community—providing illumination, learning and passing on their shared stories and heritages, and binding them together. And, of course, providing sweet, sweet coffee.
  • True Companions: Benny jokingly calls him a "streetlight" in the first eponymous song of the musical, and he laments this:
    "Yeah I'm a streetlight chokin' on the heat/the world spins around while I'm frozen to the street/the people that I know all keep on rolling down the street/but everyday is different so I'm switching up the beat."//
But, when we get to the Finale when he finally realizes he's always been home, he changes his tune to:
"Yeah, I'm a streetlight chillin' in the heat/I illuminate the stories of the people in the street/Some have happy endings, some are bitter sweet/But I love them all and that's what makes my life complete!"//

Nina Rosario
Role originated by Mandy Gonzalez
The daughter of Kevin and Camila. She is the first to go to college (Stanford University), and everyone in the barrio admires her. However, she returns home from school for the summer with difficult news to tell her parents; she has lost her scholarship and had to take unadmirable jobs just to stay afloat.

  • Beta Couple: With Benny.
  • Daddy's Girl
  • Joins to Fit In:
    • "I feel like all my life I'm trying to find the answers/Working harder/Learning Spanish/Learning all I can/I thought I might find the answer out at Stanford/But I'd just stare out at the sea thinking/Where am I supposed to be?"
  • Like Brother and Sister: With Usnavi.
  • The One Who Made It Out: Double subverted with Nina. She dropped out of Stanford, but is going back in the fall.
  • Secret Relationship: Her father reacts badly to her and Benny.
  • Stepford Smiler
    • "Straighten the spine/Smile for the neighbours/Everything's fine, everything's cool/The standard reply "lots of tests, lots of papers"/Smile, wave goodbye and pray to the sky/Oh God!"

Abuela Claudia
Role originated by Olga Merediz
The elder and matriarch of the barrio who knows everybody and is like a grandmother to all (“abuela” means “grandmother” in Spanish). She is the one who looked after Usnavi when his parents died. Came to America with just her mother on a boat in the early December of 1943. Laments that she struggled to adjust, and got a job as a maid, feeling as she had "scrubbed the whole of the upper East side".

Role originated by Karen Olivo
Usnavi's love interest who works at Daniela's salon. She dreams of getting out of the barrio and getting an apartment downtown.

Role originated by Christopher Jackson
Works at Kevin's dispatch. The only non-Spanish-speaking member of the community, he falls in love with Nina. He dreams of opening his own business, "Benny's Car Service." Disliked by Nina's father for not being Latino, but is accepted by Nina's mother as an "honorary Latino."

Role originated by Robin de Jesus
Usnavi's sassy, lazy, yet ambitious younger cousin who works in the bodega.

  • Annoying Younger Cousin: Subverted in that Sonny is fairly intelligent with a comically strong vocabulary (he seems to take after Usnavi a bit) and interest in politics and social activism. He also has shades of being the Only Sane Man as his introspections on what Usnavi's departure and the closing of the surrounding shops means for the community causes him to despair when others are partying.
  • Plucky Comic Relief

Role originated by Andrea Burns
Daniela is the outrageous owner of the salon where the neighborhood girls gossip. Best friend to Carla.

Role originated by Janet Dacal
Carla works at Daniela's salon along with Vanessa.

Kevin Rosario

Camila Rosario

The Piragua Guy

Graffiti Pete