Film Threat archive logo


By Felix Vasquez Jr. | June 23, 2006

Como convite a las audiencias de habla hispana de la amenaza de la película, porque la película de ms Perez’ se refiere a una cultura hispánica, y porque yo soy Puerto Riqueño, esta revisión entera será escrita en español.

Just kidding.

If you understood that, well, you get the joke. I won’t point out the irony of a Puerto Rican reviewing a documentary about Puerto Ricans, but the showman in me took it upon myself to review a film about his heritage. In spite of FOX News boasting to its fan base to pro-create to outnumber the Hispanics in this country, and the president practically outlawing the national anthem being sung in Spanish, Puerto Ricans now make up most of New York City and a sizable portion of the US, and yet, little is known about them other than they’re loud, like to party, have a really disruptive parade every year, and cry about Jewish comedians speaking truths about them on their sitcoms.

Our vote may not count, but we’re important, damn it! And Rosie Perez wants you to know that in her ambitious documentary that begins right at the start of the yearly Puerto Rican day parade, one of the most popular celebrations in New York City that takes place every summer. The parade, which is also quite an occasion for me, a lifelong resident of the Bronx, is chronicled quite well as the epicenter of the celebration of Puerto Rican culture, and Perez details it with enormous passion. There’s an obvious swell of pride behind this production and in Perez’ study of the culture, and the Puerto Ricans who see this will feel it, too.

Her excitement in learning about her family, her long lifeline, and in the many struggles of the race from the forced sterilization of women, down to being test subjects of napalm during Vietnam, will create a ripple in those eager to learn about the history of Puerto Ricans and Puerto Rican Americans. Raised in Brooklyn though, the film takes an expected turn into the study of Nuyoricans, the groups of Puerto Ricans who immigrated to the country and were forced to live in the ghettos of the Bronx, Brooklyn, and New Jersey, which, ironically enough, would become flourishing places where they’d inhabit.

Perez touches upon the little known tidbits of the culture’s history in an attempt to show those unaware, how little documented these significant moments have been and sheds light on many events such as The Young Bloods and their fight to give equality to their people. Most of all though Perez reaches down into the sentiment of family and brings its audience in closer with a peek at many terms and misconceptions of Puerto Ricans, many of which hit home. Perez discusses the common notion of American raised Puerto Ricans being confused as immigrants, dissects the word Nuyorican, and explores the rich origins behind our national anthem “La Borinqueña”.

And, in one of the most powerful lines explains: “You have many cousins that you’ll probably never meet,” which resonates loudly because I too have at least sixty cousins, and ten uncles I’ve never met and probably will never meet. One of the many caveats, though is that a half of the documentary is focused on Perez and her family, rather than exploring the whole of Puerto Ricans. “Yo Soy Boricua” mostly centers around Rosie Perez’ struggle to survive in America, and her grasp with her heritage, rather than the mass of Puerto Ricans, which remains an afterthought many times throughout the course of the film.

“Yo Soy Boricua” is also faulted in that it never examines the words that have defined Puerto Ricans other than the terms “Nuyorican” and our variations on American words. It never examines the word spick; it never explores the struggles with racism, the accepted stereotypes, and the blunt of the hatred toward us. “Yo Soy Boricua” shies away from our flaws rather than accepting them with our achievements. Though proud she may be, “Yo Soy Boricua” never really pushes its audience to go out and make a difference, nor does it really explore the fact that our votes aren’t counted in important elections, the lack of respect and relevance we’re given in this country, not to mention the lack of proper health care or education given to us.

But “Yo Soy Boricua” has its heart in the right place and Rosie Perez is proud of her culture through the hardships and advantages, which is conveyed in the light hearted, and insightful glance at one of the more under-researched, but largest denominations of American society.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Join our Film Threat Newsletter

Newsletter Icon