Entertainment

Spike Lee Gave Puerto Rico The Star Treatment In An Episode Of ‘She’s Gotta Have It’ And Everyone Is Screaming Their Approval

Netflix

Netflix has not only given voice to new talent but also provided a larger canvas to established filmmakers. Such is the case of the legendary Spike Lee, perhaps the better known African-American director in history. Lee has directed two seasons of the TV version of his debut film “She’s Gotta Have It,” in which a powerful, queer, young African-American woman from Brooklyn discovers the secrets of love, friendship, sex, and art. Nora Darling is a nascent painter who is as smart as she is magnetic, she is a Black queen who has taken full control of her mind, her body and her politics. In one of Season 2’s best episodes, episode 7 titled “#OhJudoKnow”, Nora and her friends visit Puerto Rico to bring some money and resources they collected during a concert to help some hurricane victims. Nora finds herself on the island, and Mars (her ex-lover and now BFF) visits his mother and sister. It is a transformational trip for all involved. Lee also showcased the beauty of the island and its people, as well as showing the struggles that boricuas have faced not only after the natural disaster but also historically. 

These are some of the things that Spike shows us about boricua complexity and belleza, hermano.

Blackness is beautiful and needs to be depicted en todo su esplendor.

Credit: She’s Gotta Have It / Netflix

Spike Lee was one of the first American auteurs to capture the beauty of Black bodies and faces, and he does this in the episode, where the credits roll over amazing portraits of Afro-Caribbeans.

He also shows the devastation that Hurricane Maria brought on the island.

Credit: She’s Gotta Have It / Netflix

This image warms our heart (look at this loving, heroic father), but also makes us incredibly sad as it makes us think of the many tribulations the island has gone over in the past few months since Maria struck.

Lee captures the multiracial identity that makes Puerto Rico the beautiful island and community it is.

Credit: She’s Gotta Have It / Netflix

Spike Lee delves into the processes of colonization that la isla del encanto has gone over for centuries. These processes have resulted in Brown boricua identity, which is combative and festive at the same time.

We love Mars.

Credit: She’s Gotta Have It / Netflix

Mars gives us the rundown of what Puerto Rico is in all its contradictions and colorful melancholy. The Island Of Enchantment… the colors, sounds, and smells are truly hypnotic. 

And no, the Spanish did not “discover” Puerto Rico.

Credit: She’s Gotta Have It / Netflix

There was an established indigenous population when the conquistadores laid foot on the island. They were massacred, enslaved and taken advantage of. Yes, by pinche Cristobal Colon.

Let’s keep it real: Columbus was not a hero.

Credit: She’s Gotta Have It / Netflix

Cristopher Columbus was not the hero that some history books have led us believe, but as Mars argues he was a malnacido mamabicho who basically started a genocide.

Yes, the people of what is now Puerto Rico were dealt a terrible hand.

Credit: She’s Gotta Have It / Netflix

Ever since its inception, Puerto Rico has had to face external, colonizing powers that when tragedy strikes simply throw toilet paper rolls at them (wink, wink).

The episode is full of joyous Puerto Rican music.

Credit: She’s Gotta Have It / Netflix

One of the best stylistic choices that Spike has taken with this show is to actually show the cover of the albums that he takes music from. Gracias, hermano Spike. The episode is full of great salsa and we can create a playlist, no problem.

Puerto Ricans are facing a power outage that doesn’t seem to stop since the hurricanes devastated the island.

Credit: She’s Gotta Have It / Netflix

Puerto Ricans have had to live with a very slow government response and power outages since Maria hit are a common feature of everyday life.

Nevertheless, San Juan is as pretty as ever.

Credit: She’s Gotta Have It / Netflix

Look at the old houses. You can almost smell the wooden furniture and feel the sun on our faces. 

San Juan is synonymous with partaaaaay.

Credit: She’s Gotta Have It / Netflix

Us Latinos sure know how to party even when faced with adversity. We have had to struggle so much that we find joy in the everyday.

San Juan is a street art epicenter.

The district of Santurce was revitalized by allowing muralists and street artists to basically take over walls and create a vibrant, amazing arts district.

Of course, Nora loved it.

Credit: She’s Gotta Have It / Netflix

We mean, look at the nostalgic weirdness of this piece.

There were shots of art that are a testament to boricua women.

Credit: She’s Gotta Have It / Netflix

Can we rent a loft there already? Honestly, we just want to be surrounded by all of the beauty and majesty that is Puerto Rico.

Just stop it, we can’t take so much cool.

Credit: She’s Gotta Have It / Netflix

We can totally see this in any street art hub like Montreal, Melbourne or even Spike Lee’s hometown of Brooklyn.

La Perla!

Credit: She’s Gotta Have It / Netflix

Of course, Spike stopped in the barrio of La Perla, a working-class legendary site where people like the members of Calle 13 have lived.

Spike Lee kept is authentic and real with the same couch all moms and abuelas own.

Credit: She’s Gotta Have It / Netflix

Yes, we all have a relative with an ugly, cheese couch that seems to be the most important thing in the world for them. 

The show proves that arroz is the key to happiness.

Credit: She’s Gotta Have It / Netflix

Family meals are a very important part of life on the island, and in many places of Latin America, Spike Lee captures this beautifully. 

Of course, Rosie Perez serves us some santeria vibes.

Credit: She’s Gotta Have It / Netflix

We adored the casting of legendary Rosie Perez as Mars’ mom. We loved the fact that she is a quirky santera even more. This shows us that religiosity in the island is a true mix of indigenous and African lore, and Catholic doctrine.

The shots where the sky meets the ocean are breathtaking.

Credit: She’s Gotta Have It / Netflix

Blue versus blue. Need we say more?

There is music everywhere in the show and that is something that you will experience in real life.

Credit: She’s Gotta Have It / Netflix

Nora is captivated by a trumpet player on top of a historical site. Music is part of everyday life, and the Puerto Rican diaspora has generated huge stars and huge revenue (just ask the likes of J-Lo!). 

Spike Lee totally captured the politicized identity of Puerto Ricans.

Credit: She’s Gotta Have It / Netflix

Mars rides a bike and sings the Puerto Rican freedom song with gusto, and with a bit of rage. Puerto Ricans like poet Martin Espada, among many others, have long fought for autonomy, and their struggle continues. 

Did we mention the unapologetic Black, Caribbean beauty?

Credit: She’s Gotta Have It / Netflix

OMG. Does it get more empowering and beautiful than this? Nora saw herself reflected on this tall, magnificent woman.

Dance, santeros, the ocean… yes, please.

Credit: She’s Gotta Have It / Netflix

That dance by the beach with full African drumming and santeria rituals just connected us to a time before time, to the pride of a people that has historically been dispossessed. 

And that homage to Roberto Clemente gave us all the feels.

Credit: She’s Gotta Have It / Netflix

Yes, the best and bravest pelotero to come out of the island, and one of the first Latino sports figures who broke the glass ceiling of U.S. sports.

READ: Netflix Documentary ‘After Maria’ Is A Scathing, Heartbreaking Review On FEMA’s Failures For A Devastated Community

A Homeowners Association Tried To Keep A Boricua Who Fought For Our Country From Flying Her PR Flag

Culture

A Homeowners Association Tried To Keep A Boricua Who Fought For Our Country From Flying Her PR Flag

screenshot taken from Orlando Sentinel

When hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans came together to demand former Gov. Ricardo Rosselló to resign following leaked chats that revealed political corruption and a series of sexist and homophobic messages, Frances Santiago wanted to stand in solidarity with her people. Living in Kissimmee, Florida, she wasn’t able to protest with her country folk on the archipelago but she demonstrated symbolically by placing her red, white and blue Puerto Rican flag outside of her home. 

Now, the Central Florida Boricua is facing a battle against her own community leaders. Three weeks after putting up the flag, the homeowner received a letter from the Rolling Hills Estates Homeowners Association requesting her to take it down. 

Santiago, an Army veteran who served 14 years as a medic, including two tours in Iraq, says she refuses to remove the flag.

“I fought for this, to be able to do this. So, I don’t see a problem with flying my flag here,” the woman told Orlando-area news station WFTV.

According to HOA bylaws, all flags are outlawed. However, the board made an exception for US flags, sports flags and flags used to honor first responders and fallen officers. Considering these edicts, Santiago is unsure why the group is asking her to remove the flag, as Puerto Rico is a territory of the United States.

“Puerto Rico is part of America. What’s the big issue with us having our flag there,” she said.

HOA president Norma McNerney told  WFTV that she’s not asking the Santiago family to remove the flag because it’s from Puerto Rico; however, she did not comment on the island being the colonial property of the US and, thus, meeting the association’s criterion. 

“We treat all owners the same. If you travel through our community, you will see the only flags are those regulated by the state,” McNerney said.

Puerto Ricans have historically been banned from displaying their flag. 

While many tease that Boricuas exhibit their bandera on anything and everything, from their cars and house goods to their clothes and accessories, owning a Puerto Rican flag wasn’t legal until 1957. Nine years prior, on June 10, 1948, la Ley de La Mordaza, better known as the gag law, made it a crime to own or display a Puerto Rican flag, sing a patriotic song or speak or write of independence. The legislation, signed into law by Jesús T. Piñero, the United States-appointed governor, aimed at suppressing the growing movement to liberate Puerto Rico from its colonial ties to the United States. Anyone accused and found guilty of disobeying the law could be sentenced to ten years in prison, be fined $10,000 or both.

Additionally, in Kissimmee, which locals nicknamed “Little Puerto Rico” because of its vast Puerto Rican population, there has been pushback from community members who are not pleased with the demographic changes. City-Data forums warn people interested in moving to Central Florida to beware of Puerto Ricans, who commenters refer to as “roaches,” “criminals,” and the N-word, while news of attacks against Boricuas has become more common. Florida is home to more Puerto Ricans in the contiguous US than any other state. Most of the population resides in the Orlando-Kissimmee area. The region has been the top destination for Puerto Ricans escaping the financial crisis since 2008 and displacement following Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017. But it is also the prime journey stop for diasporic Puerto Ricans from New York, Chicago, New Jersey, Philadelphia, and Massachusetts. The area is among the largest and fastest-growing Puerto Rican communities in the country.

As such, Central Florida Boricuas have rallied around Santiago. An online petition created by the Florida Puerto Rican group Alianza for Progress is asking the HOA to cease their discriminatory practices against Santiago and is already close to meeting its goal of 1,600 signatures. At the time of writing, it is short just 51 names.

Santiago and her husband Efrain have insisted that they have no intention of bringing the flag down.

“[The flag] will stay there and we’ll deal with it; we’ll exhaust every avenue possible,” Efrain said. “We have our house, you see, up to standards. We’re not doing anything wrong. We’re not doing anything to our neighbors by flying our flag.”

While the Santiagos haven’t presently been issued any fines for the violation, they said they do have a lawyer and are prepared to take this fight to protect their freedom further. “I’m proud of my roots, who I am, [where] I come from. We’re not offending anyone. None of the neighbors were offended with us putting the flag there,” Efrain said.

Read: The Governor Of Puerto Rico Was Caught In A Chat Using Grotesque Homophobic And Sexist Language And The Entire Island Is Calling Him To Resign In Massive Protests

Netflix Is Bringing Latinidad To The Fantasy Realm And LOTR Fans Gear Up

Entertainment

Netflix Is Bringing Latinidad To The Fantasy Realm And LOTR Fans Gear Up

Streaming services like Netflix have become our go-to place for fresh media. So, whenever we hear of a new project coming from the streaming service, we’re all in. Last November, Netflix announced a huge 6 project animated deal that will bring even more cartoon goodness to our screens. One, in particular, has us especially excited because it comes from animator and director Jorge Gutierrez. You might remember him from Nickelodeon’s “El Tigre: The Adventures of Manny Rivera” and the gorgeously animated “The Book of Life.”

Now, we’re seeing the first looks of Gutierrez’s new Netflix project, “Maya and the Three.”

Twitter / @mexopolis

Described as a Mesoamerican fantasy epic, the director sat down with VARIETY to share the origins of the project and the journey to get it made. Gutierrez was approached by Netflix with an alluring challenge: share his dream project with executives; the one he didn’t believe anyone would ever allow him to make. It only took him one pitch to win the streaming giant over and “Maya” was greenlit for production.

“So I sat down on Jan. 25th of [2018] and that was the first time I ever pitched ‘Maya,’” he shared with VARIETY. “No art, no writing, just an idea. And here I am 11 months later, knee-deep in production.”

It was Gutierrez’s goal to portray a “bad-ass female Mesoamerican hero” in a fantasy world of his own creation.

Twitter / @zette16

“I started seeing a lot of things I didn’t like as far as not having any lead females, especially in Mesoamerican mythology,” he explained. “So I said I want to have a hero who is a half-god half-human warrior princess.”

In the Netflix series, a demigod warrior princess named Maya embarks on a quest to recruit three legendary fighters. With their help, she hopes to save the worlds of god and man from destruction. The intention was to show Maya as a strong female lead and, to do so, Gutierrez pulled from his real-life heroes. The director credits his sister, mother and his wife, Sandra Equihua for inspiring the mythical heroine. Equihua is also a talented animator and acts as a character designer for the female characters in her husband’s work.

With his female lead in place, Gutierrez focused on the mystical world that “Maya” would be set in.

Twitter / @mexopolis

The setting for the Netflix limited series has been growing in Gutierrez’s mind since he was a boy growing up in Mexico City. He would wander the halls of the Museum of Natural History and makeup stories about what he saw. These stories would later help to mold the setting. Even now, the director has fun teasing his Twitter followers with hints about what the new series could look like. However, it’s the architecture from his boyhood explorations, Gutierrez’s fondness for skulls and the pantheon of Mesoamerican gods that have helped to create Maya’s world.

Due to the mystical quest and the fantasy setting of “Maya and the Three,” Gutierrez has taken to calling the series the Mexican “Lord of the Rings.” Still, it’s a fantasy first and foremost. The director wants everyone to understand that “Maya” is inspired by Mesoamerican culture but is not meant to be an accurate representation.

“I tell everybody that while it’s inspired by Mesoamerica, this will be as accurate (to that world) as ‘Rocky’ was to boxing,” Gutierrez shared with VARIETY. “It’s all fantasy and I’m having a blast playing with the history.”

The series will feature a number of talented Latinx writers, producers and voice actors to bring Maya to life.

Instagram / @thraxisjr

Silvia Olivas from “Elena of Avalor” is acting as a co-writer and co-producer for “Maya and the Three.” From Disney’s “Moana,” Jeff Ranjo is the head of story. Paul Sullivan, who worked with Gutierrez on “The Book of Life,” is the production designer.

Despite these important hires, animators were in short supply so the producer had to get creative.

“Especially in L.A., we are all fighting for basically the same people, so now we’re looking outside. Before we announced Maya, I would go online and look for artists who were already inspired by Mesoamerica and say to them ‘You already love this stuff, we love it too! Come to our team.’”

Gutierrez used Instagram, Twitter, and Tumblr to find animators that could do justice to the project. This modern-day recruiting system allowed Gutierrez and his team to find fresh artists with untapped talent to animate “Maya.” The results promise to be unique and beautiful.

The series is still a long ways away; it won’t debut on Netflix until its 2021 worldwide release. While it’s a long wait, the director promises fans that it is well worth it.

“Please have patience,” he told fans through his VARIETY interview. “This is gonna take a while, but we hope it’s unlike anything anyone has ever seen. We are so giddy every day and still can’t believe this is happening.”

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