Naida García-Crespo's superb study of the confluence of early Puerto Rican cinema and the development of nationalism should interest a wide set of readers in the history of early cinema, Puerto Rican and Caribbean studies, and Latin American intellectual discourse during the early twentieth century. It provides both an excellent historiography of silent and sound films produced on the island before World War II and a treatise on how the idea of the Puerto Rican nation emerged as a “mediation among contradictory discourses” of nativist nationalism and cross-cultural, transnational, and colonial exchanges (p. 170).

In her attempt to create something solid out of the otherwise spectral, García-Crespo faced two daunting challenges. On the one hand, only one feature film produced in Puerto Rico before 1940 still exists today—the 1934 Romance Tropical, which García-Crespo informs us is preserved in the University of...

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