At the Oscars, ‘Spider-Verse’ Writer Phil Lord Quoted Puerto Rican Poet Lola Rodríguez de Tió

Chris Miller and Phil Lord, winners of the Animated Feature Film award for 'Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,' attend 91st Annual Academy Awards. Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Before Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse won the Oscar for Best Animated Feature on Sunday, Miles Morales had already become an iconic character for millions of fans. The power of centering an Afro-Latino hero in a tentpole movie was immediately palpable to the movie’s creative team once audience reactions starting pouring in.

Cuban-American Phil Lord, who served as co-writer and co-producer alongside Christopher Miller, expressed this sentiment in his acceptance speech, “When we hear that somebody’s kid was watching the movie and turned to them and said, ‘He looks like me.’ Or, ‘They speak Spanish like us,’ we feel like we already won.”

Backstage at a press conference, Remezcla asked if they would consider further exploring Miles’ Latino identity in the film’s sequel, perhaps through an adventure in Puerto Rico. Lord didn’t discount the possibility. “We don’t want to get ahead of ourselves. We’re really proud of this movie and there is a lot of great ideas for another one, but, obviously, we’re really proud that Miles has Puerto Rican heritage.”

Lord used the title of a famous poem by Puerto Rican poet and revolutionary Lola Rodríguez de Tió to explain his own connection to the island. “I’m Cuban-American and they say that, ‘Cuba y Puerto Rico son de un pájaro las dos alas.’ We are linked. So obviously, that is something that is a really interesting dimension of the character that has been left to explore further.”

One of Spider-Verse’s co-directors, Peter Ramsey, who became the first African-American director to win in the Best Animated Feature category, spoke of the pressure of bringing Miles Morales to life. “It’s a huge responsibility. This is something that is going to be seen and taken to heart by millions of people,” he told reporters. “Our whole team, the guys standing up on this stage, as well as those other hundreds of artists that I was talking about earlier, all of them deeply felt the importance of that idea and that mission.”

Ramsey knew that his crew had Miles’ back: “He had a lot of people who really loved him as a character, believed in this story and knew how important it was going to be to black kids, Latino kids, kids who just want to be their best selves, no matter who they are.”

Lord also acknowledged the general audience’s overwhelmingly positive embrace of their movie, and described it as a connection they had never experienced with their previous projects. He’s been moved by fans reaching out to share what Spider-Verse meant to them, “We feel very close to those people, and that is very addictive and that is why we do this, because we want to feel closer to people and we want people to feel closer to each other.”