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Hispanics in Shakespeare: Raúl Juliá 

“I could bring myself to it, I could bring my own culture, my own Puerto Rican background, my own Spanish culture, my own rhythms, my own feelings to Shakespeare because Shakespeare is too big. Shakespeare is too big to be put into one little way of doing him.”  – Raúl Juliá from Raúl Juliá : The World’s a Stage directed by Ben DeJesus

THE ADDAMS FAMILY, Raul Julia, 1991, (c)Paramount/courtesy Everett Collection

Raúl Juliá – a singer, Shakespearean actor, but first and foremost, a Puerto Rican. Born in 1940 in San Juan, Raúl Juliá gained an interest in Shakespeare from a very young age and even organized productions in his high school in Puerto Rico. He moved to New York in 1964 at the age of 24 a dream of being in the theatre. He began a recurring partnership with the New York Shakespeare Festival at The Delacorte Theater and famously performed alongside Meryl Streep in a critically acclaimed production of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew. Eventually, he moved into film and in 1991 got the starring role that he is perhaps most popularly known for – Gomez Addams, the patriarch of The Addams Family. 

Raúl Juliá was unapologetically Puerto Rican and embraced his culture and his accent when performing Shakespeare. He often had to overcome the discrimination of those who believed that he would not be enough due his background and believed that his nationality would be a hinderance to his performances. Time and time again, he proved his critics wrong and won over both audiences and critics alike.  

He was passionate about ending world hunger and was heavily involved with The Hunger Project.  

Unbeknownst to the public, Raul had suffered from stomach cancer three years before his death in 1994. After his death, per his instruction, his funeral was a celebration of his homeland of Puerto Rico. His service was held in the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture in San Juan with the National Anthem La Borinqueña sung before his procession. As his coffin was lowered, the crowd of attendees shouted “¡Viva Puerto Rico Libre!” 

His Latino pride became an inspiration for many Latino/a/x actors to embrace their culture and identity in their exploration of the arts.  

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