Mildred Amador was one of many who witnessed the construction of the steel Puerto Ricans flags that have been welcoming locals and visitors to Paseo Boricua since 1995.
But Amador did not just watch the flags go up; she went a step further by documenting the story surrounding the construction of these Division street monuments. “I realized that there was an amazing story here about the series of events that unfolded to get the flags erected,” Amador said.
Inspired by the need to make this story available to future generations, Amador recently finished producing “Flags of Steel,” a documentary that explores the history of Chicago’s Puerto Rican community.
“Flags of Steel” premiered on March 31 at Roberto Clemente High School, where Amador has been teaching students in video production for over 15 years. The documentary, which runs 30 minutes, is not only about the design, engineering and fabrication of the steel flags, but about their deeper significance for Chicago Boricuas, according to Amador. “What these flags represent is a lot of hard work and sacrifice that our parents and grandparents had to endure when they first arrived,” Amador said.
With money out of her own pocket, Amador covered the costs of making the documentary. She only started editing her footage two years ago, when she was able to purchase the necessary equipment to do the job.
Through her work in the Humboldt Park community, Amador said she had a great time meeting wonderful people, including talented local artists, whose art work is featured in “Flags of Steel.” Amador said she was impressed by the generosity of the local Humboldt Park community and acknowledged the encouragement and assistance she received from the Puerto Rican Cultural Center. “They were very supportive of the project and incredibly helpful in pushing if forward,” she said about the PRCC.
Amador, whose family hails from the towns of Barceloneta and Ciales, Puerto Rico, grew up in the Logan Square area of Chicago and has been living in Humboldt Park for the past 15 years. She graduated from Columbia College with a BA in Film and Video and has produced two other documentaries – “Boriquen me llama” and “Tres raíces y una cultura”—about the experience of Puerto Rican Clemente high school students on their first trip to Puerto Rico.
“Flags of Steel” will be featured at the Chicago Latino Film Festival this month, with showings at Instituto Cervantes, 31 E. Ohio st., on April 4 and 7. Amador hopes that her documentary will give its viewers a sense of the vibrancy and resilience of the Humboldt Park Puerto Rican community, while also emphasizing the importance of preserving all that this community has accomplished through struggle and sacrifice. “It is all of our responsibility, as Puerto Ricans, to protect what has already been created,” Amador said, “And to know that there is much more room to grow and flourish.”