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"In order to appraise the caliber of leadership in the Puerto Rican independence movement, particularly as it pertains to our efforts to disrupt their activities and compromise their effectiveness… we must determine their capabilities of influencing others, capabilities of real leadership, why the intense desire for Puerto Rico's independence, what they expect to gain from independence and the support they have from other leaders and rank-and-file members. We must have information concerning their weaknesses, morals, criminal records, spouses, children, family life, educational qualifications and personal activities other than independence activities."
-FBI, COINTELPRO (Subversive Controls Section): MEMO, 1960
ARCHIVOS SUBVERSIVOS (Subversive Archives) developed out of an invitation to exhibit at the Center for Puerto Rican Studies, CUNY (El Centro) in 2007. To commemorate 10 years since having painted The Ponce Massacre and beginning the practice of copying and collaging historic documents and images found in Cornell's libraries, I decided to create a new body of works for the exhibition that would draw directly from the archives at el Centro library. That resource coupled with images and documents from my own personal collection led to the creation of this series examining the continued practice of U.S. Government surveillance and the secret files that have been and continue to be kept on Puerto Rican independence supporters. It references programs like COINTELPRO (the FBI’s Counter Intelligence Program) working to dissolve the independence movement and other leftist movements that arise within the United States. As a colony of the US, Puerto Rico’s independence movement has been treated as a national security threat since the rise of the Nationalist Party in the 1930s. This same program was used against the Black Panther Party, the Black Liberation Army, the American Indian Movement and The Young Lords Party, to name a few.
Collaging text, documents and images, juxtaposed with painted portraits of featured “subversives”, ARCHIVOS SUBVERSIVOS draws its aesthetic directly from files and archives. Painted with ochre, sienna and sepia tones, the images appear aged and worn as if filed away for an extended period. Some even appear damaged or burned, as if someone attempted to destroy the documents that might expose truths about innocent men and women being harassed by the government or about imprisoned leaders being tortured with radiation. Some are created directly on file folders and incorporate adhesive labels and paper clips as typical files would. The use of the courier font references the typewritten documents found in these government files, particularly during the period of the 1940s and 50s when McCarthyism and the Un-American Committee hearings led to the surveillance of thousands of suspected “communists” and “subversives.” As with other projects, I also incorporate the use of burlap or sackcloth as a commentary on poverty and to reference the declining agricultural production in Puerto Rico since the US invasion of 1898.