'Romance Tropical' by Mónica Félix '20 Showing Online

Audrey Deng
July 27, 2020

Recent alumna Mónica Félix '20 created the online exhibit Romance Tropical after the eponymous 1934 movie directed by Juan E. Viguié. Félix’s Romance Tropical is, writes Félix, “a photography and video project based on the black and white enigma of a lost Puerto Rican film, colonial romance, and the color technology that frames it.”

The Romance Tropical of 1934 is regarded as the first Puerto Rican sound feature ever made; Félix also notes that Romance Tropical is “the second Spanish-language talkie in the world.” This film was considered lost forever until a print was located in the PHI/Krypton Collection at UCLA some time in 2017, over eighty years after the film’s first screening. Its recovery was a tremendous discovery for cinematic history.

In her digital exhibit Romance Tropical, Félix combines primary and secondary research about the film with her own creative reaction to the film and its nearly century-long discovery. The result is an expansive, illuminating website consisting firstly of background information and theory, then the artist’s video and photographic response, then finally the epilogue with the 1934 film in full and in color prints, rediscovered.

Her site also contains others' reactions to the artist’s own project Romance Tropical. The essay “Romance Colonial: Brief analysis of Mónica Félix's Romance Tropical” by Á.R. Vázquez-Concepción states, “Félix’s work in many ways acts as a prosecution, of the exploitation of Puerto Rico, of the female body, where the hetero and the masculine inscribe its oppressive claims every day. The work is also a deictic gesture to the relationship between coloniality and a sordid love story, where a dangerous alchemy of forces always comes to a head, and it is almost always the colonized who get the short end of the stick."

Félix’s practice as a storytelling photojournalist shines especially in her short films “Ernestina” and “Raquel” which bookend her black and white photography series.

Félix is an interdisciplinary artist, professional photographer and hatha yoga teacher born and raised in Cayey, Puerto Rico. She has a BA in Communications from the University of Puerto Rico, a Photography Certificate from Pratt Institute and is currently finishing her MFA in Visual Arts at Columbia University. Her work is a personal narrative about representation of the experience in migration of one female body, specifically, the colonized, questioned and compromised corners of this traveled life. She continues to search for an honest identity perspective exploring the visual aspects of her experience through photography, video, installation, writing and performance.

Romance Tropical is available to view online through September 7.