Academic journal article Centro Journal

Caribbean Transnational Films and National Culture, or How Puerto Rican or Dominican Can You Be in "Nueba Yol"?

Academic journal article Centro Journal

Caribbean Transnational Films and National Culture, or How Puerto Rican or Dominican Can You Be in "Nueba Yol"?

Article excerpt

Although economic, legal and social aspects of migration and other transnational connections among Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and the United States have attracted extensive academic attention from social scientists, there is still much work to be done in relation to the exchange of cultural productions that link the three nations.1 This essay aims to contribute to recently expanding analysis of such cultural connections (which involve both migrant and home communities) by considering a group of feature films that represent transnational associations among the three points of reference: Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and the United States, particularly New York City. Cinema production in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic faces many economic challenges that may beset or thwart film projects, yet producer-directors in both nations have persisted, and over the past two decades managed repeatedly to express cinematically how national cultures have been transformed through the processes of migration, focusing on the perspectives of both domestic populations and those of diasporic communities in the islands and the United States.2

The historical-political connections among the three spaces have created a tripartite pattern of transnational exchange that has marked each nation's conception of itself and its members beyond geographic borders. Comparatively analyzing two comedic films by Puerto Rican director Luis Molina Casanova, La guagua aérea (A Flight of Hope, 1993) and its sequel El sueño del regreso (The Dream of Returning, 2005); two comedies by Dominican director Ángel Muñíz, Nueba Yol: iPor fin llegó Balbuena! (Nueba Yol: Finally Balbuena Arrived! 1995) and its sequel Nueba Yol 3: Bajo la nueva ley (Nueba Yol 3: Under the New Law, 1997); along with a coming-of-age film by independent American director Peter Sollett, Raising Victor Vargas (2002), can enhance our understanding of how and to what effect discourses about transnational diasporic communities have become integrated (or not) into conceptions of the nation, through the theme's treatment in local cinematic representations.3 Following Stuart Hall's assertion that cinema is the "form of representation which is able to constitute us as new kinds of subjects, and thereby enable us to discover who we are," I read these five texts as disclosing the importance that diasporic communities have had on the conception of Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and the United States as fundamentally transnational spaces (1989: 80). I contend that these films reframe the three nations as transspaces by engaging in a conversation about the constant movement of people, goods and ideas that flow among them.

Transnationalism and the Development of Caribbean Cinema

As film scholars have demonstrated, the circulation of cultures across local networks that transcend national borders was a dominant practice in production and distribution from the beginning of cinema.4 I will focus here on exploring how such transnational flows of culture worked from and around the periphery of dominant centers of cinema production and distribution, specifically in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, to demonstrate the significance in contemporary Caribbean discourses of such productions that represent migration among Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and the U.S. and its impact on definitions of the national. For the purposes of this essay, I use the term "transnational" to refer to the dissemination of products and ideas through local networks that transcend national borders. That is, in this study, transnational exchanges mean rhizomatic, non-hierarchical cultural relations that occur across different local and international locations or subjects. As Juan Flores argues in his book The Diaspora Strikes Back, the Hispanic Caribbean's longstanding relationship with the United Sates make it a prime location for examining circular migration and its effect on transnational cultural flows, or what he calls "cultural remittances. …

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