Spielberg’s ‘West Side Story’

Jorge Colombo

To the Editor:

Re “The ‘West Side Story’ Remake We Didn’t Need,” by Yarimar Bonilla (Opinion guest essay, Sunday Review, Dec. 19):

If Dr. Bonilla had taken the time to see the original movie, she would understand the importance of the remake. I saw the original only a month ago. The 1961 version is a beautiful masterpiece, but flawed with offensive brownface and bad Spanish accents.

From an anthropological perspective, I understand Dr. Bonilla’s stance. However, as a movie buff and a first-generation Hispanic American, I deeply appreciate Steven Spielberg’s version.

Even if this movie flops at the box office or gets snubbed at the Oscars, I believe that it will survive as an important film of the post-Trump era of immigrant fear-mongering. It’s a reminder that rampant racism can destroy (if we allow it to) the love between two people of different cultures or races.

Omar A. Sandoval
New York

To the Editor:

If Shakespeare had been subject to the precious literalism of Prof. Yarimar Bonilla’s critique of “West Side Story,” his plays might not be around today. There is art and there is historic purity, and they need not bow to each other.

David Lloyd Maron
Englewood, N.J.

To the Editor:

Yarimar Bonilla longs for an authentic Puerto Rican portrayal on the big screen. I do not begrudge Ms. Bonilla her assessment that the latest version of “West Side Story” by Steven Spielberg and Tony Kushner missed the mark. But because they lack a Latino identity, it is clear to me that she would never find their “West Side Story” up to snuff.

She insists that studios wishing to portray the Latino experience enable Latino directors and artists to create authentic Latino art. I hope for that, too, but her essay seems to suggest that no one can tell the story of another’s American experience if they don’t share the same identity, and that seems too narrow a rule for art.

Let’s not discourage powerful directors and writers from exploring and expressing the many facets of America, even if their attempt is only a shadow of the lived experience.

Ari Gerstman

To the Editor:

Yarimar Bonilla’s opinion piece on the “West Side Story” remake misses the point. It is not, nor ever was, meant to be a documentary about Puerto Rican history or culture. It is a Spielberg-updated-to-make-it-more-P.C. musical version of “Romeo and Juliet” set around 1950s gangs in New York and nothing more — or less. And a good one at that.

Mike Wallach
Wexford, Pa.

To the Editor:

Bravo, Dr. Bonilla! And now, a word: Please tell Mr. Spielberg to keep his hands off “Fiddler on the Roof.”

Antonia Tamplin

Andrew Seng for The New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “Where Handing Out Hot Soup and Cocoa Is About to Get Harder” (news article, Dec. 15):

Much of the article leaves the impression that Newark, where I am mayor, is somewhat insensitive to the needs of our homeless population and is discouraging groups from aiding them. This impression is diametrically opposite from the city’s proven efforts to care for our residents without permanent addresses.

Our required permit ensures the safe handling and distribution of food for the protection of the consumers. It is not bureaucracy for the sake of bureaucracy.

The city is also asking these groups to consider not centralizing their efforts at Peter Francisco Park across from Newark Penn Station, but to partner with our 23 homeless shelters and 55 food pantries and soup kitchens throughout the city. This way, these groups can feed our homeless in places where shelter, social services and mental health outreach are available.

We consider these neighborhood settings to also be far safer for our unsheltered population. The area around Penn Station is congested with car and bus traffic, and has proved to be dangerous for people who have mental and physical health problems.

Creating homes, providing services and protecting our residents without addresses is a proven top priority of my administration, and, unfortunately, we feel that was not accurately reflected in the Times article.

Ras J. Baraka

Adriana Zehbrauskas for The New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “Group Urges Support to Children Who Lost Caregiver to the Virus” (news article, Dec. 10):

As the leader of an organization that has spent over 520,000 hours supporting grieving children, I’m concerned that advocacy and funding solely for children bereaved because of Covid-19 could create an unintended new caste of forgotten grievers — children whose parents die from other causes.

During the pandemic, applications to our program increased 22 percent, and Covid-19 wasn’t the primary cause. Many were a result of suicide, overdose or violence, echoing nationwide trends. Limiting assistance to 167,000 children bereaved by Covid-19 overlooks the rest of our nation’s 5.3 million grieving children.

To be clear, I applaud the Covid Collaborative’s efforts and am frankly grateful that childhood grief is finally being discussed as an important public health issue. That’s the first step. Now, I encourage the Covid Collaborative and its supporters to advance the bigger picture goal of developing strategies and programs that can be scaled to ensure that all grieving children can live a life rich with possibility.

Sara Deren
Westport, Conn.
The writer is the founder and chief executive of Experience Camps.