Five Short Films About Life in Santurce, the (Sort Of) Williamsburg of Puerto Rico

Lead Photo: Photo: Steph Segarra
Photo: Steph Segarra
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Photo: Steph Segarra

Historically known as San Mateo de los Cangrejos, Santurce is the most populated district in San Juan. The wooshing metro guagua and the insanely beautiful murals that pop up amidst the rubble give this part of town a unique character. Think South Williamsburg, minus the Hasidic population and way better. You can get fresh coconut water for about a dollar, kayak in the San Juan lagoon, and swim in the Atlantic.

Much like Williamsburg in NYC, Santurce went through a long period of economic desolation in the early 2000s before beginning to morph into an art mecca and cultural hub. The district recently hosted Santurce Es Ley, a street art and music festival similar to Los Muros Hablan in NYC’s El Barrio. NEO-DIVEDCO, a short film showcase that closed the Santurce Es Ley festival last year, offered different points of view on the neighborhood and its people. Now, NEO-DIVEDCO has announced that the films are available for streaming. Even if they are just a taste of the real thing, they are worth a look.

El Púgil

El Púgil (púgil literally means a punching gladiator) by Ángel Manuel Soto, is a close look at boxer Angel “Tito” Acosta from Barrio Obrero in Santurce. Though he didn’t have the cash to finish school, he shares his life passion and where it has taken him, like representing his country at the the Centroamericanos. “He’s an artist,” says his trainer Javier Arce. Produced by Lo Que Te Hablé and Latitude 18 Films.


El Letrero

El Letrero by Kacho López, profiles the work of Don Miguel Olivo, who’s had a signmaking business in Santurce for over 50 years. This short doc is an intimate profile of the rotulista and his craft. While Don Olivo shares anecdotes about how American industries and vinyl lettering have affected both his business and his neighborhood, the short plays out using some brief animation and music by Campo Formio and Eduardo Alegría. Produced by Filmes Zapatero.



Desmaquilladas by Vivian Bruckman focuses on Mitchi, part of the transgender community in Santurce. Mitchi is an assertive, sensitive and lively belle simply trying to live without feeling judged. Sharing her home and her life, she talks about spirituality, surviving in the streets of Santurce for more than five years, and the desire for Puerto Rico to become a safer place. Produced by Imperfecto Cine.

Brainless Juan


An adaptation of Luis A. Maisonet’s 1959 film Juan sin seso, Israel Lugo’s Brainless Juan looks at how, half a century later, celebrity influences the individual. Using the original audio from the 1959 film, Brainless Juan shows images of everyday life in Santurce’s streets and back alleys, using subtle irony to deliver a strong message. Produced by Rojo Chiringa.

Avioncito de papel

Avioncito de papel by Joel Perez Irizarry portrays fragments of the lives of various immigrants who live in Santurce, exploring their realities from the simple and honest point of view of a young boy as he travels through the city. The short documentary features four subjects from other Caribbean islands, South America, and Asia who have settled and fallen in love with Borinquen. Produced by Latitude 18 Films.