Arts & Entertainment

Documentary spotlights efforts to revive agriculture in Puerto Rico

By Esther Alaejos

Ciales, Puerto Rico, Oct 21 (EFE).- Environmentally sustainable farming to reduce Puerto Rico’s dependence on imports for more than 85 percent of the food consumed in this United States Commonwealth in the Caribbean is the subject of a new documentary by JuanMa Pagan Teitelbaum.

“To produce food for the population, for the community, I believe there is no more important work at this moment,” the director of “Seran Las Dueñas de la Tierra” (Stewards of the Land) told EFE.

As recently as 1980, 60 percent of the food on Puerto Rican tables was locally produced, but the amount of land on the island devoted to agriculture has declined by 70 percent since 1966.

Pagan’s film shows the obstacles confronting three young farmers – Stephanie Rodriguez, Ian Pagan and Alfredo Aponte – who want to produce organic food for the Puerto Rican market.

“The majority of farmers make less than $20,000 a year and the majority need to have more than one job to be able to support themselves,” the filmmaker said.

The 33-year-old Rodriguez grows lettuce and cilantro in Ciales, a town situated in the “land of coffee” in Puerto Rico’s central mountains.

“Right now I don’t have access to my farm, as the road closed. All my 4×4 vehicles were damaged, and so it’s not easy,” she told EFE.

Rodriguez combines the practice of farming with teaching agriculture to kids ages 8-12 at Jaime Coira school in Ciales.

“The agriculture program in Puerto Rico should be in all of the schools,” she said, noting that only 120 of the island’s 1,000 schools currently offer the course.

Even so, Rodriguez remains upbeat about the future of environmentally aware farming on the island.

“My dream is to be a great agri-ecological producer in Puerto Rico,” she said.

JuanMa told EFE that he and his subjects “are quite excited” about the enthusiastic reception the film is receiving in Puerto Rico.

“More than 10,000 people saw it in the first month. It opened in 12 cinemas across the island,” he said. “We will be participating in three film festivals.”

The documentary’s producer, Mariolga Reyes Cruz, said that she is likewise pleasantly surprised by the success of “Seran Las Dueñas de la Tierra.”

The film is set to be screened next month at the Iberian and Latino Film Festival at Yale 2022 in New Haven, Connecticut, and at New York City’s International Puerto Rican Heritage Film Festival 2022. EFE ea/dr

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