A Brief History of Filmmaking in Puerto Rico

Filmmaking in Puerto Rico is considered by some to have started in 1898 when the United States invaded the island and American soldiers recorded what they saw on film. The first non-documentary film, titled Un drama en Puerto Rico was made by Rafael Colorado D’Assoy in 1912, and in 1916, together with Antonio Capella Martínez, Colorado founded the Film Industrial Society of Puerto Rico and produced the film Por la hembra y el gallo. Since these early beginnings, a number of Puerto Ricans have achieved international fame in the world of cinema, including Rita Morena, Rosie Perez, José Ferrer, Benicio del Toro and Joaquin Phoenix.

The first Puerto Rican film with sound was Romance Tropical, produced by Juan Emilio Viguié Cajas in 1934 and filmed in Loiza and San Juan. Unfortunately, a copy of the film was not preserved and this piece of Puerto Rican history has been lost. Viguié, however, went on to make documentaries for the Puerto Rican and US authorities, as well as for private industries. He also produced films for Fox Film Corporation, Pathé, Movietone and MGM, and is considered to have been a pioneer in the Puerto Rican film industry.

Based on a true story, the film Los Peloteros was made in 1953, directed by Jack Delano and starring Ramón Rivero as the baseball coach for a team of disadvantaged children who longed to have uniforms and proper equipment. Local children were used in the film, many of whom were living in impoverished conditions. The film was well received and is considered by some to be one of the best Puerto Rican films ever produced.

Other films made in Puerto Rico in the 1950s included Man With My Face (1951), El Otro Camino (1955), and Maruja (1958). Puerto Rican actress and singer Marta Romero played the leading lady in Maruja and went on to have a successful career in Puerto Rican television. Other Puerto Rican films Marta Romero featured in were Ayer Amargo (1959), La fiebre del deseo (1964), Mientras Puerto Rico duerme (1964), Bello amanecer (1966), and Amor perdóname (1967).

In the 1960s, Puerto Rico was the chosen location for a large number of films, with around half of the films produced in that decade being collaborations with Mexico. Directors from Spain, Venezuela, Argentina and the United States made films in Puerto Rico at this time. Films produced in Puerto Rico during the 1970s included the first big screen film by Jacobo Morales, Dios los Cría. Morales had already carved a notable career in Puerto Rican television. Woody Allen’s production Bananas was filmed in Puerto Rico, with Morales playing a supporting role.