Of all of Puerto Rico’s beloved holiday traditions, nothing stirs those unflagging feelings of cultural pride quite like the Banco Popular de Puerto Rico’s annual Christmas special. Of course, banks aren’t generally known to do anything that doesn’t serve their own immediate interests, but since 1993 the BPPR has recruited the island’s most talented filmmakers, put them together with cherished local musicians, and created rousing, 90-minute celebrations of puertorriqueñidad. Yet more than a yearly infomercial, BPPR’s seasonal showcase of Boricua talent – each year with its own theme – has actually brought the island some of its most masterful documentary work, with a handful of Emmy Awards to prove it.
This year’s special, De Puerto Rico para el mundo, comes from the hearts and minds of Carlitos Ruiz and Mariem Pérez – the award-winning directing duo behind 2007’s Maldeamores, starring Luis Guzmán. Inspired by their five years living in Los Angeles after the breakout success of that feature, Ruiz and Pérez decided to shape their special as an ode to the Puerto Rican diaspora. Featuring interviews with everyone from Rita Moreno to Rosie Perez and Luis Guzmán, De Puerto Rico para el mundo focuses its musical selection around the innumerable songs of migration, displacement, and longing that populate the island’s traditional repertoire.
Throughout the special’s lively musical numbers, iconic compositions like En mi viejo San Juan and Lamento Borincano stand alongside new songs written especially for the De Puerto Rico… and performed by the likes of José Feliciano, Ismael Miranda, Obie Bermúdez, and Jowell y Randy. While, like so many other specials that have come before, De Puerto Rico para el undo will no doubt have you dancing, clapping, and getting into that Boricua Christmas spirit; it’s subject matter is especially resonant for the millions of self-identified Puerto Ricans living stateside.
As Carlitos Ruiz himself put it in a recent interview with El Vocero, “The fact that some interviews are in both English and Spanish gives us that sense that out there there are Puerto Ricans who speak another language, but they don’t just stop being Boricuas. Instead of seeing ourselves as different or separate people, the idea was to understand that they also feel like they are from Puerto Rico, because they were raised just as we were raised here, only that it wasn’t on the island. But they feel the tradition, the customs, the history.”
Take the opportunity to stream De Puerto Rico para el mundo on Youtube below for a very limited time. After that, you can purchase the DVD and soundtrack on the special’s official website.