Hannah Firestone ’19
This course has been one of the most impactful experiences I’ve had at Amherst. Although we were the “guinea pigs” and had to make up some things as we went along, nothing can compare to interacting with and learning from people who have had different experiences from you. The Puerto Rican diaspora is unique, varied and beautiful. It was an honor to be invited into people’s homes. The documentary is one tiny glimpse of the stories we heard, which affected each of us differently.
Linda Solval ’18
The class was a rewarding experience and also a great privilege. I experienced the love and vibrancy of the Puerto Ricans we interviewed. The times we went to Holyoke were always refreshing, because in every interview, I learned more about the community that Puerto Ricans had built in the city, and how, despite being in a new place, they’ve managed to maintain their traditions and pride. It’s difficult to have to leave your homeland, especially when the main reason is for survival, but they find the strength within themselves and in their community, which is truly admirable.
Helena Burgueño ’19
I’m a film and media studies major with a focus in Latin American, Caribbean and Latino studies, so getting hands-on experience working at the intersection of my academic interests was exciting. This class reminded me that there is much to be learned beyond the classroom walls. The conversations we had, on camera and off, during our trip to Puerto Rico were my favorite part of the experience. Everyone we spoke to—Uber drivers, waiters, students—became integrated into the fabric of the project.
Silvia Mavares ’18
My group mainly interviewed members of one family. It was great to build a relationship with each person and hear the different perspectives they each had on the family’s shared experiences. The most challenging part was choosing which parts of each interview to include since it is difficult to accurately portray such dense and meaningful stories in a short documentary. Overall, I really enjoyed the interviewing process and feel I was able to connect with and learn from the people I interviewed.
Jeffrey Suliveres ’20
This documentary unexpectedly became one of the most rewarding experiences in my life. Having never taken a Spanish or film class, I was nervous about even considering the class. After our trip to Puerto Rico, however, I finally became reunited with a part of my identity that had been dormant for most of my life.
I was raised in the Bronx as a Honduran-American. Although my father is from Guayama, Puerto Rico, and lived there for 20 years, he left his past behind when he came to the States—and as a result, I felt disingenuous calling myself a Puerto Rican.
The natives of la isla del encanto had other plans. They welcomed me into their homes—quite literally—and after hearing my story, they made it their mission to have me join them in chanting, Yo soy Boricua, pa que to lo sepas (“I am Puerto Rican, so that you know”). I had never seen people overflow with such warmth and charisma. I felt like I was meeting extended family. The experience finally resolved a part of me that I had felt was lacking for all my life.
Needless to say, this film is not only a projection of the resilience and beauty these people show in their language, way of life and culture; it’s also a reminder that it’s never too late to return home.