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‘Memories of a Penitent Heart’

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The filmmaker Cecilia Aldarondo grapples with the complexity of Puerto Rican identity as she traces the life of her late uncle, Miguel Dieppa: a gay man caught between his religious upbringing on the island and his romantic partner in New York City. 2016

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Cecilia Aldarondo, director: There are parallels between my own experience and that of my uncle, even though he was raised in Puerto Rico and I was not, because to be Puerto Rican is to exist in a state of tremendous ambivalence vis-à-vis the idea of America. While some Puerto Ricans strongly identify as Americans, there are a lot of us who feel alienated from that category. Our American citizenship was forced upon us by colonialist practices; it’s not a choice. My uncle’s story is a Puerto Rican story that is inflected by American colonialist practices. The first time I ever heard my uncle speak in English was when I was making the film and I found a recording of him. I was so shocked because he had lived his whole life in Puerto Rico, and yet he spoke perfect English. There was a kind of convergence of different identities intersecting.