At one point in the history of New York City and especially in Harlem, the Puerto Rican population was significant because of the migration that began in the 19th century when they were persuaded to leave their island, Puerto Rico, for better-paying jobs in the US.

 The majority settled in East Harlem, El Barrio, and today those same streets are inhabited mainly by Puerto Ricans, with a sizeable number of Dominican, Cuban and Mexican immigrants. Enter The International Puerto Rican Heritage Film Festival ( IPRHFF ), in its 12th year, is clear on its mission to create platforms that allow a diverse pool of influencers in filmmaking to reach a broader audience. They develop programs that will enable local and international filmmakers from emerging artists to film industry veterans, to reach out to audiences throughout New York City and beyond.

Award-winning actress and IPRHFF’s Lifetime Achievement Recipient Rosie Perez with artist
Richard Rodriguez (Photo Alwida Santana)

This year IPRHFF honored Rosie Perez with a lifetime achievement award, and the screening included 75 independent films, shorts, web series, and music videos from across the world. In accepting her 2022 Lifetime Achievement Award at El Museo De Barrio, the award-winning actress Rosie Perez. Ms. Perez offered this in her warm and often amusing acceptance speech:

“I’m not going to lie. It’s tough. It’s hard. Especially for us. But don’t give up. Don’t give them that satisfaction. Know who you are, know the business inside and out,” she said. Perez added narratives are not just specific to our community but very specific to the human spirit and condition. “That’s what storytelling is all about,” she said.

One of the short films that stood head-and-shoulders above the rest was  “Daughter Of The Sea,” written and directed by Alexis C. Garcia. The film stars Puerto Rican-American superstar Princess Nokia as a young woman who receives a spiritual calling from Yemaya and is filmed on location in Puerto Rico. It won Best Live Action Short. 

Here is what writer/director Alexis C. Garcia had to share for winning  Alexis C. Garcia’s Best Live Action Short for “Daughter of the Sea” 

Q: What is it about being Puerto Rican that informs your art?

Alexis C. Garcia: Being Puerto Rican is one of the essential lenses through which I view and make sense of the world. It’s a compass that guides my purpose and connection to my ancestors. Being Puerto Rican is a source of great pride and inspiration because I come from a beautiful island with beautiful people who have complex histories but are deeply soulful, resilient, and connected to nature. This sense of place and finding a home in oneself is what I aspire to share with the world through my art. 

Q: What’s next for you?

ACG: I’m currently working on telling longer-form stories. I am deep in the writing process because I want to make a feature film next year. 

IG: @yemayafilm 

FB: @yemayafilms

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