A Review of Esmeralda Santiago's Almost a Woman

This past October the annual event El Festival de la Palabra took place in El Viejo San Juan. The event was hosted from October 9th to October 14th and it Puerto Rican poets presenting some of their projects. One of the most resonant events was celebrated on Saturday, October 13th at El Archivo Central Betty Vallan’s film Almost A Woman (2001) was presented. This work is well known  is based on a manuscript written by diasporican poet Esmeralda Santiago.

Almost a Woman is based on a memoir of Santiago’s youth. It depicts her experience with the diaspora as she left the island in her early teen years and moved to New York.  The film presents Santiago’s struggles with her family, culture shock and defining her cultural identity. he film projects her family’s economic struggle and the important role played in helping her mom maintain stability within their household.

Throughout the film, we can truly experience the protagonist feeling. From the nervousness she experiences when leaving Puerto Rico to the grief of losing a loved one, there is a series of mixed emotions that are depicted in such a way that it feels as if you are experiencing these moments with Esmeralda. This film will inevitably make you shed tears when you see some of the Santiago family’s toughest struggles, but you will laugh with their successful and happier moments. Overall, the film’s emotions are raw that you grab a sense of becoming a part of this family.

The main reason Almost a Woman is such an iconic film is that of the familiarity it emits towards Puerto Rican viewers. We are all familiar with the concept of diaspora, either on a personal level or through the experience of loved ones. The fact that Esmeralda’s experience took place in New York only reinforces this familiar feeling Esmeralda Santiago