¡giovanni cortez, journalism/design major at the new school with a focus in archiving. i wear glasses now because i grew up gluing my face from screen to screen. while i won't credit the entirety of my academic interest to that fact, a lot of what i do and a lot of how i see myself is can't be separated from this childhood affixation to pictures that moved and told me stories. sometimes these stories included things my parents preferred my sisters and i didn't hear about. so i considered them secrets. and the thing about secrets is that they’re always true. i can’t remember the first time i saw a puerto rican in a movie, but those were my people on those screens. Fifteen-in-car, thirty-in-an-apartment, junkie-shootin, junkie-sellin, red-lipstick-wearin, not to be trusted rim-stealing, salsa-dancing, goya-bean-eating,meda meda... did you know you my people? they were my secrets, between the tv’s and i, that i knew about our people. and it didn’t feel good. i wanted to know why we were like his? mami, this must be your fault! tv never lied to me cus tv was just doing it’s job. cultural machinery not only works on an 8 year old boy, but on a whole ass place, burning it into the consciousness of people to believe they need protection and to beware.
the premise of this work is dealing with that notion of “protection”. the spitfire latinos who reminded me of my father and oversexed women who reminded me of my mother may have made a white audience think they need protection from us, but what happens when we feel like we need protection from us? in a lillian jiminez essay i found while working on this project, she mentions how this depiction of puerto ricans only furthered the idea that only american institutional benevolence can save us from our fates. i’m part of that group that the tv beat, but what i seek to present here is a different kind of protection. the films i’ve collected and chosen here, though seldom seen, were part of a generation of filmmakers that sought to protect us, not from destiny, but from a motion picture versions of ourselves, where movies get around faster than reality does.
i named the showing of these films, and the culmination of all the work, “on the welfare line with my grandma” after the similar sensation that struck me while doing this as i used to feel as a kid with her. educated in a new york school, i got through esl and learned english enough to be the intermediary between her and the social service agency. you need to fill out this information. she says she doesn’t have her id. we can’t come back another time. in this analogy, the university in which i am showing these films at, as well as the members of it, serve as the welfare office: two institutions in which the responsibility to transfer information correctly is a true responsibility. while the former entails the acquisition to keep fed and clothed, the latter demands for cultural security; to uphold the culture that i owe a lot of my world too. though these initial films (more to come!) are all works of the 70’s-80’s, i have no desire to be from another time. none of this is inspired by nostalgia, but instead to present an alternate history of puerto ricans on a screen, what those screens of my childhood could never show me.