February 2, 2012 § Leave a comment
On Thursday the 27th of January I attended “ Brincando el Charco: Portrait of a Puerto Rican”. It was written, and directed by Frances Negron-Muntaner. The film presents the story of Claudia Marin (played by Nergron-Muntaner herself), a young Puerto Rican lesbian photographer. She has been living for seven years in voluntary exile in Philadelphia with her partner. When she broke the news to her father that she was in love with another woman, her father did not accept this. The news that her father had died interrupts Claudia’s everyday life and forces her to re-examine her identity, including her positions towards Puerto Rico. For three days, Claudia undergoes a process of internal reflection while she decides if she will even return home for her father’s funeral or not. This process reveals how living in exile in the United States allows for a distinct critical distance to re-evaluate and to question “ Puerto Ricanness” as well as the way in which racial and sexual discourse are articulated.
This film opens up cultural spaces for the expression “ Puerto Ricanness” particularly in terms of race, ethnicity and queerness. Even though the film uses Claudia’s life as the main axis, as explained by the subtitle of the film “Portrait of a Puerto Rican,” Brincando el charco includes other voices that provide a perspective of the elements that mark the negotiation of a Puerto Rican identity in the United States. After the credits rolled, I noticed that these are her real life friends and acquaintances in the film, yet she does not use real names in the film, for example, Ana, her lover or Rob, Claudia’s African American friend. The mix of voices of fictional characters and real subject creates a polyphonic text where different positions existent in the Puerto Rican community in the United States converge, sometimes in harmony and other times in conflict.
After the film had ended we had a short discussion with the four people who had attended. I was the minority of the group, like “Claudia” they too were Puerto Rican. I felt having them there and being able to hear their thoughts on this film made me better able to really understand what the documentary was actually trying to convey. One student raised his hand and said “to my friends here at Purdue University I call myself a Puerto Rican, but if I was to go back to see my family in Puerto Rico they would classify me as an American.” Then he added, “but to be an American, in the eyes of a “true American” my skin should be white. So what do I identify with, am I an American or am I a Puerto Rican?” In saying this, I think back to Claudia in the film, who can she identify with, she isn’t considered an American and she isn’t straight. Claudia also interviews her African American friend in the film. Her friend was from Puerto Rican, but no one ever identifies her with being Puerto Rico because of her skin color.
To me this film was a lot about identity, citizenship, gender, trans nationality and sexual orientation. In retrospect, this young woman had to find a place for herself in a community that wasn’t totally accepting of who she was. They not only criticized her for being a photographer, which to some is not considered a real job because she doesn’t work from 9-5, but also for claiming to be something she is not. Struggling to even connect with her family due to her difference in sexual orientation also caused her to have a crisis of identity. Without the capability of presenting herself to the World as a true Puerto Rican or as an average heterosexual female, she began to wonder who it is she could identify with. Although the extremes of her situation are not the same in my own life, I can find relevancy to past experiences of my own. Feelings of discontent of expectations from one’s self, friends or families can conflict. Some are brave enough to forge a life created only by their own agenda; others remain in turmoil over who to please. This movie was a very interesting portrayal of the choices of identity and meeting standards through the view of a very different perspective than my own.