Antonia Pantoja


A film by Lillian Jiménez

2009 | 53 minutes | Color | DVD | Spanish | English subtitles | Order No. 10984


Antonia Pantoja (1922-2002), visionary Puerto Rican educator, activist, and early proponent of bilingual education, inspired multiple generations of young people and fought for many of the rights that people take for granted today. Unbowed by obstacles she encountered as a black, Puerto Rican woman, she founded ASPIRA to empower Puerto Rican youth, and created other enduring leadership and advocacy organizations in New York and California, across the United States, and in Puerto Rico. Recognized for her achievements in 1996, Dr. Pantoja was awarded the prestigious Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor bestowed upon civilians in the US.

In this important documentary, Pantoja’s compelling story is told through never-before-seen home movies, archival footage, and personal passionate testimony from Pantoja herself and some of her countless protégés, as well as her life partner. Highlighting major landmarks in Pantoja’s biography and long, productive career, the film shows her profound commitment to transforming society, her pivotal role in the Puerto Rican community’s fight to combat racism and discrimination, and her pioneering work in securing a bilingual voice in the US. An eloquent tribute to a remarkable woman, the film sheds new light on the Puerto Rican community’s far-reaching triumphs.


“Exquisitely well crafted…Pantoja [is] fully present through this documentary—her strength, her vision, her charisma and passion.”

Ingrid Betancourt Newark Public Library, New Jersey Hispanic Research & Information Center

“Inspirational! An extremely useful documentary, not only for Puerto Rican scholars and activists, but also for anybody concerned with understanding social-justice struggles by culturally oppressed populations in the US.”

Gladys M. Jiménez-Muñoz President, Puerto Rican Studies Assoc.

“A valuable contribution to our understanding of social movements of the sixties, the Civil Rights Movement in New York, and Latino education.”

Sonia Lee Asst. Professor, Dept. of History, Washington University in St. Louis

“Exhibits a warmth and intelligence that leaves the viewer inspired and ever more committed to the struggle for the empowerment and progress of our communities.”

Mario H. Ramírez Centro de Estudios Puertorriqueños, Hunter College

"Recommended...Educators can welcome this documentary for both its demonstration of the importance of education for social advancement, as well as its presentation of the challenges non-English speaking Americans face in society."

Educational Media Reviews Online


  • San Diego Latino Film Festival
  • New York International Latino Film Festival
  • MOMA’s Annual Festival of NonFiction Film


Lillian Jiménez

For over thirty years, Ms. Jiménez worked in media literacy, arts administration, film and video funding, and media education. During the AIDS pandemic, Ms. Jiménez worked for ten years in the "Seeing Through AIDS" project under contract to the New York City Department of Health teaching health care workers how to incorporate independent media into their AIDS education, counseling and prevention work. In that time, Ms. Jimenez trained thousands of health care workers at the Health and Hospitals Corporation system and community based organizations throughout the four boroughs of New York City. For over ten years, she served as the Chair of the NCIPBP which sat the ITVS board and she also served on the Advisory Committee to the PBS Board of Directors. She was a founding chair of the National Association of Latino Independent Producers. She has made short and longer form documentaries.

For six years, Ms. Jiménez worked at Hudson Health Plan (now MVP Health Plan), first in the Clinical Department undertaking academic detailing on Pediatric Obesity throughout the Hudson Valley and then she was promoted to Sr. Director for Outreach and Community Relations. (07/19)

Presently, she is Sr. Manager for Community Engagement at Westchester Medical Center Health PPS' Network. (07/19)


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