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In the Heights: Who Wins the Lottery?

IN THE HEIGHTS, from left: Corey Hawkins, Gregory Diaz IV, Anthony Ramos, 2021. ph: Macall Polay / Warner Bros. / Courtesy Everett Collection

One of the most suspenseful moments in Jon M. Chu’s film adaptation of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s In the Heights is when Sonny (Gregory Diaz IV) and Usnavi (Anthony Ramos) learn that they sold someone a lucky lottery ticket from their bodega. Bolstered by a showstopping musical number, the lottery announcement happens pretty early on, but the winner’s identity remains a mystery for most of the film. So, who wins the money? At the end of In the Heights, we find out that the winner is none other than the lovely Abuela Claudia, the neighborhood’s grandma!

At the beginning of the film, we get some foreshadowing about the winner when Usnavi hands Abuela Claudia (Olga Merediz) her lottery ticket, and she exclaims, “Paciencia y fe!” or “Patience and faith!” When Usnavi closes up the shop to head to the pool, Sonny picks up a call at the bodega and learns that the store had sold the lucky lottery ticket with a cash prize for $96,000. There’s a whole musical sequence that follows at the pool, and we even get the winning numbers, but no one turns in the ticket.

The winning ticket does come back, but not until after tragedy strikes Washington Heights. Sadly, Abuela Claudia passes away the night of the blackout, singing “Paciencia y Fe” in a dream sequence before she dies. (Notice the foreshadowing from before?) Right before he heads off to the Dominican Republic, Usnavi discovers a small trinket box in which Abuela had stuffed the winning lottery ticket with a note that reads, “For Usnavi.” This turn of events differs slightly in the original musical, in which Abuela lets Usnavi knows about her winning before her death and decides to split the money between her, him, and Sonny.

In the movie, Usnavi hands off the lottery ticket to Alejandro (Mateo Gomez) to help Sonny set up a trust and go through proceedings for a green card. He realizes that he can’t help Sonny himself, given that he’s returning to the Dominican Republic. But while initially set on leaving, he ultimately decides to stay, realizing that Washington Heights has been his home all along.

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