BIEKE: TIERRA DE VALIENTES
April 19, 2019 marks the 20th anniversary since the death of David Sanes Rodriguez. David was killed when a US Navy pilot missed his target dropping two 500-pound bombs on the observation point where he worked as a civilian guard. He happened to be covering a shift for his friend that day. This tragedy became the catalyst for the most recent wave of protests that finally led to the closing of Camp Garcia, the US military base on Vieques. Despite this victory of May 1st, 2003, the struggle for peace and political/ environmental justice on Vieques continues. In honor of this island and her valiant people, in commemoration of this tragic anniversary, I am sharing publicly, for the first time, this video I created using interview footage, photos, my own artwork gathered for my Bieké project back from 2006-2009. The work 19 de abril, speaks of the events of that date. Not included in this video is how 2 years after David's murder, his mother, Epifania Sanes died, exactly on the anniversary of her son, from a broken heart it is said.
El 19 de abril, 2019 son veinte años desde que un piloto de la marina de guerra estadounidense tiró dos bombas de 500 libras cada una, no en la tarjeta, sino en el punto de observación donde trabajaba el Viequense David Sanes Rodríguez. La muerte de este joven resultó en una amplia onda de protestas donde el pueblo proclamó "ni una vida más, ni una bomba más". Lograron cierrar la base militar del Campamento Garcia el primero de mayo del 2003, pero la lucha para la paz y la justicia politica y ambiental continua en Vieques. Como tributo a la isla de Vieques y su pueblo valiente, conmemorando a esta tragedia, comparto publicamente, por primera vez, este video utilizando excerptos de entrevistas, imagenes, y arte de mi proyecto Bieké del 2006 hasta el 2009. No incluido en este video es el importantísimo detalle que la madre de David fallece en el segundo aniversario de la muerte de su hijo, se dice de un corazón partido.
Slideshow plays automatically. Click on thumbnail to advance. Hover over main image for title/ description or click to open.
Bieké: Tierra de Valientes (Vieques: Land of braves) was conceived three years after the shutting down of the US Navy's Camp Garcia in Vieques, Puerto Rico. I set out to learn more about the people still living in and fighting for Vieques after the wave of solidarity, the news cameras and celebrities had left. I arrived in the fall of 2006 for the first of a series of trips. What I encountered on that island was the ultimate manifestation of sacrifice, commitment and a guidebook for nationhood and liberation. Vieques was also the catalyst for a revolution in my life and work.
Bieké: Tierra de Valientes debuted as an exhibition of 30 portraits and installations in October 2009 at el Museo Fuerte Conde de Mirasol. The paintings are informed by a series of interviews that I conducted of over 30 Viequenses. Initiated in the wake of two commemorations—the loss of Ángel Rodríguez Cristóbal (November 11, 1979) and the loss of David Sanes Rodríguez (April 19, 1999), both lost as a result of the US Navy occupation —this project reflects on these two watersheds in Vieques’ recent history and the island’s present struggles. The cemí series envisions these two individuals--along with others marking significant losses in this struggle--as transcendent spirits in colors reminiscent of the glowing phenomenon of Vieques' famed bioluminescent bay. The valientes series, features portraits of various viequenses, alongside excerpts of their interviews. Created in mixed media the series reclaims camouflage, showcasing these warriors battling for peace and justice as the true honorable soldiers on Vieques' soil.
The Bieké project was made possible with grants from The Puffin Foundation, Ltd., NALAC Fund for the Arts, CUNY-Caribbean Exchange Program, The Center for Puerto Rican Studies and The George Sugarman Foundation.