Yo Soy Boricua, Pa'que tu lo Sepas!

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5

Facts and Figures

Run time: 86 mins

In Theaters: Tuesday 7th March 2006

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5

IMDB: 7.5 / 10

Cast & Crew

Yo Soy Boricua, Pa'que tu lo Sepas! Review


Puerto Rico is a special case in American history, neither fish nor fowl, and so off the radar of the average citizen as to almost not exist. Taken as a prize in the 1898 Spanish-American War, the island was swiftly made into a colony of sorts, the land pressed into service for sugar companies, while a large segment of the population - who to this day don't have the right to vote for president - was put into uniform or brought to the U.S. mainland in a little-known or -understood farm worker relocation program in the postwar period. In 1952, the island was made into a commonwealth, a status it still holds today, which makes it something less than a state and yet more than a colony; though plenty of Puerto Ricans would argue that it much more strongly resembles the latter.

The first major Latin American group to emigrate to the American mainland, Puerto Ricans in the States number about three million today, though ignorance of where they're from and what they're about is endemic. To illustrate this ignorance in her documentary Yo Soy Boricua, Pa'que tu lo Sepas!, Rosie Perez tells a story about being asked while she was in college where Puerto Rico was. Thus the reason for her film - which she co-directed with Oscar-winner Liz Garbus - which mixes Perez family history with that of the island and its people in general. It's sort of an elaborate home movie mixed with social studies, but an impressive effort, nonetheless.

Perez was raised in Brooklyn and so not surprisingly brackets the film with footage of the Puerto Rican Day Parade, the extravaganza that transforms the city for one day into a red-white-and-blue street party; the last of the great immigrant community celebrations. She structures the film as an exploration into her roots, traveling with her sister and cousin to the parade, visiting relatives back on the island and in Miami to meet some far-flung relatives ("that's very Puerto Rican," she says, "You're meeting cousins you never knew all through your life"). Along the way, she drops in history lessons, starting with Puerto Rico's original Taino inhabitants (who called the island "Boricua") leading up through the American neo-colonization, the Black Panther-like Young Lords agitators of the 1960s, and to the current debate over whether or not the island should push for full statehood.

Perez is not the subtlest of documentarians, her script - narrated at times by Jimmy Smits - makes its points about the oppression of Puerto Ricans (both on the island and in the U.S.) with little art. There are times, especially in one segment listing famous Puerto Ricans, where it threatens to devolve into a feature-length shout-out. Of course, when one is talking about a people who number in the millions in the U.S. and yet are essentially invisible in the wider culture but for their parade (which likely accounts for its surprisingly resilient vehemence) and were subjected to injustices like the little-known program of sterilization to control the island's population (this continued into the 1970s), a lack of subtlety is perhaps understandable.

The biggest weapon in Perez's arsenal is not the snippets of historical fact but instead herself and her family, an engaging batch of relatives who follow Rosie from place to place, providing entertaining commentary along the way. They help enliven the cruder elements of the film, which occasionally frustrates by only hinting at subjects that could have been gone into with more depth. Although Yo Soy Boricua is likely destined more for the classroom and cable TV (it has backing from IFC TV) than the theatrical circuit, and could have used a bit of polish, it deserves a viewing not just for its lively storytelling but for its attempt to make visible the previously hidden, to bring a people out of the margins into which they have been forced.

Aka I'm Boricua, Just So You Know. Reviewed at the 2006 Tribeca Film Festival.

Yo soy a bongo player.


Contactmusic

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Comments

Autentica1998's picture

Autentica1998

I just wanted to know if this documentary was going to be aired again???? I was only able to catch a piece of it. Also, I heard it would be available for sale......can you post details ont hese two questions?...Thank you

8 years 6 months ago
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josejose's picture

josejose

I was very interested in viewing "Yo Soy Boricua" but when I arrived at mi casa I was very disappointed. I do not have the IFC Channel. Will you repeat this film again,on a different channel? I also found out not everyone (latinos)of my amigos have this IFC channel.Graciajose'

8 years 7 months ago
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Lis's picture

Lis

I am so appalled by this documentary. I am deeply embarrassed and ashamed by the way Puertoricans were portrayed. This documentary was not about the culture of Puertoricans. It was about the culture of Nuyoricans. Puertoricans and Nuyoricans are two different cultures. Very different cultures and should not be generalized to the Puerto Rican population. Rosie, before you make a documentary, you need to do the research. You also need to check and make sure your sources are credible. Puerto Ricans are not all loud and they do have class, which is one thing the documentary lacked to show. When I saw Rosie and Jimmie on the View and Rosie on Martha Stewart I was very excited about watching. I even made sure to let my parents know since they love Puerto Rico so much. After the first five minutes I could not believe how the documentary bashed the US and made Puerto Ricans look like a bunch of guinea pigs. You need to go and visit Puerto Rico and you will see that Puerto Rico is not a 3rd world country where more than 50% of the population is in poverty. Puerto Rico has colleges and well known Universities, roads, cars, shopping centers, malls (The largest Kmart and JCPenney's I've ever seen), restaurants, theaters, beaches, hotels(Ritz, Hilton,etc.), casinos, churches, agriculture, Auto Expresso, and restaurants just to name a few. Poverty? NOT 50% of the population is. Puerto Rican culture is about family, music, food, celebrating, and trying to move forward not backward. Oh, and new cousins don't just pop up out of no where. No that is not a Puerto Rican thing, that is a ghetto thing. We are not bastards. Parents of Puertorican descent who would like to teach their children about Puerto Rico should invest in a trip with the family so they can see first hand what Puerto Rico is all about. They will see its beauty, people and culture. Please don't show them this documentary because it will only cloud their minds with negativity. Oh, and please don't tell your American friends to watch this documentary because it will only make the Puertorican people look ignorant.Yes, I am born and raised PUERTO RICAN from the island. Just so you know!

8 years 7 months ago
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Damaris's picture

Damaris

This film left us looking like second class citizens in need of pity --- the victims of an America so cruel- I liked the history portions in the film and I beleive this was in a sense a wake up call that we must teach our children our true history, it's not all salsa and arroz con gandules, we are a people with a deep history - pick up a few books, teach your kids.. BUT.............I hated the way Ms. Perez portrayed Puerto Ricans! We are not all ghetto - and we do speak Spanish- not Puerto Rican! I can not speak for the uneducated persons you have run into. But our language is intact, our island is our pride. Puerto Rico is better off economically than any other Caribbean island! I'm glad we are not like Cuba, Dominican Republic or Haiti, free from American influence? Free in true poverty, not the U.S. standard of poverty. We are not victims we are resilient, humble,honest and intelligent people. Our ancestry does include strong African roots, but not "black" roots- I have nothing in common with Black Americans 9do the research).The analogy between Pedro Albizu, Che Guevarra and Martin L. King could not be more off the mark.MLK was a great hero a true revolutionary- an honest man who saw a day when we would all be free.Che Guevarra helped Castro create the Cuba that is today, is that why boat fulls of Cubans risk their lives to come to America- because Che made such a better place for them? You had a great, awesome, bright idea but you politicized it too much. We have so many things to be proud of as a people - don't bring shame to our people by victimizing us. I am not a Nuyorican and perhaps that is why I can't share your views. I am Puerto Rican, I speak Spanish, I am not a victim and I have been able to accomplish many of my goals in America. If there is a part 2 in the future - less politics more history more stories of triumph- there are many.Damaris Maldonado

8 years 7 months ago
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brooklyn hitman's picture

brooklyn hitman

Mrs Maldonado Don Pedro Albizu Campos was one of the greatest thinkers and doers of those times he argue for the liberties and rights of the Puerto Ricans and he saw the injustice that was commited toward the Puerto Ricans.Maybe you never read about the treatment that he was subjected to in prison all because he spoke for our rights.There ias a good book that you should read called The Porto Ricans First Strangers Then Neighbors it shows the true History For Rosie I have to say thanks for the memories for my dear father was one of those migrant workers and I remember taking him to the airport and saying good bye and for him I am thankful for all the sacrifices he went through.MI BORINQUEN ALWAYS IN MY HEART!!!!!

8 years 1 month ago
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Yo Soy Boricua, Pa'que tu lo Sepas! Rating

" OK "

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