Nuevo Rico (2020) [SXSW 2021]

Director Kristian Mercado Figueroa’s short musical is a brilliant and excellent look at the end of the potential creeping end of the American territory known as Puerto Rico. Though fiction, Mercado brings to light the very troubling developments that could change how Puerto Ricans connect to their homeland. In the near future, the raw land of Puerto Rico has been destroyed in favor of a futuristic dystopia now known as Nuevo Rico.

Everyone’s movements are monitored, and twins Barbie and Vico manage to ground themselves by making music and doing whatever they can to keep them in touch with their home land. They are then caught and chased into the rainforest by the authorities after vandalizing a billboard. Deep within the forest, they come across a meeting of several local deities seeking a new reggaeton megastar to propel their song into the world. Eshu, the trickster messenger god, is annoyed that the Taino gods are summoning him to do their bidding.

Distracted, the siblings steal the contract and gain incredible fame & power, making them reggaeton superstars. Much of Mercado’s short animated movie is as much a tragedy as it is a celebration of the music of Puerto Rico. Mercado explores the origins of the Taino music, and the influences on Reggaeton and how much of the ancient music helped create much of the modern music that helps motivate the people living there. Along with the fantastic direction from Mercado, Angélica Agélviz’s animation is vibrant and beautiful and sucks in to the lore, as well as the journey the twins endure.

Puerto Rico is currently facing a crisis. Despite the fact it’s still recovering from a horrendous natural disaster, Puerto Rico is on the verge of falling victim to gentrification. Skirting most news headlines, Puerto Rico is at risk of being sold out to land developers for the sake of higher priced housing and destroying the land. Whether intentional or not, “Nuevo Rico” feels like a commentary about the fragility of Puerto Rico and how losing touch with what made it so spiritual and defining is on the verge of being lost at any time. “Nuevo Rico” is a very important short film filled with important messages and fantastic music. I hope we can see much more from Mercado and Agélviz very soon.