Why Are Online Puerto Ricans Losing Their Shit Over the AFTER MARIA Documentary on Netflix?

May 29, 2019
9:16 AM

On May 24, the After Maria documentary started broadcasting on Netflix. The 37-minute short, which debuted at the Tribeca Film Festival, focuses on the stories of three Puerto Rican women and their families who were displaced by Hurricane María and found themselves in New York City, clinging to the hope that their FEMA aid to stay in a hotel would not expire.

Apparently, the film has led to very intense reactions back in Puerto Rico, so much so that two petitions (one in Spanish and one in English) are calling for Netflix to remove the documentary from its streaming service. As of this posting, the two petitions have gotten a combined total of close to 60,000 signatures.

Local Puerto Rican media is chronicling the backlash, even talking to Puerto Rican documentary filmmakers about why they thought the film was so problematic. From what we can tell, many voices in Puerto Rico think the film just perpetuates the stereotype that Puerto Ricans are always dependent on federal aid. They also feel that the film lacked any depth or that it virtually ignored what actually happened on the island after María. Others are reminding people that other projects, like Candlelight (below), did a much better job in portraying the local pain of the storm.

Nonetheless, the social media reaction has generated a deeper discussion about the reaction to the film, including issues of classism, misogyny and colonialism. Here is just a sample of what people are saying on Twitter (you can see more here):

As for us? We will let our publisher @julito77 share his thoughts:

Others weighed in about the points Julito raised:

We are sure the debate will continue, and we will see the same types of divisions that have become the standard for the Puerto Rican community (those who stay vs. those who leave; rich vs. poor, etc. etc.). As for us? Here’s hoping this inspires others to keep telling their OWN stories and realize that the best way to challenge the narrative to to create new narratives.