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Valiente Nestor, 2009
Acrylic, burlap, collage on camouflage, 20" x 30". Nestor Guishard is a teacher, activist and eco tour guide in Vieques who served prison time for protesting the US Navy presence in Vieques. In this interview excerpt he describes the legacy of slain pro-Vieques activist Angel Rodriguez Cristobal, killed in a prison cell in Tallahassee on Veteran's Day 1979 for protesting the US Navy.
Valiente Jose 2009
Acrylic, burlap, collage on camouflage, 20" x 30". Jose Montañez Sanes in this interview excerpt tells us of the day he learned that his uncle had been killed by a bomb dropped by the US Navy. On April 19, 1999 David Sanes Rodriguez, a Viequense who worked as a civilian guard at a US Navy observation point, was killed when a US soldier missed his target dropping two 500 pound bombs near the OP, jumpstarting the final round of wide-spread protests that led to the closing of the Navy base.
Valiente Mirta, 2009
Mixed media on camouflage, 20" x 30". Mirta Sanes reveals her experience when she entered the bombing range in protest. While there she fell asleep & dreamt with her brother David, killed by 2 US Navy bombs in 1999. He told her not to worry, she wasn't alone. He and their mother were accompanying her and her group.
Valiente Ismael, 2009
Acrylic, burlap, collage on camouflage, 20" x 30". In this interview excerpt, long time Vieques activists, Ismael Guadalupe, part of the Vieques 21 arrested in 1979 (of which Angel Rodriguez Cristobal was a part) speaks of the new invasion of Vieques. Describing how people today's tourism industry is not in the hands of Viequenses but owned by outside businesses, he speaks of the need to empower Vieques residents. He speaks of Viequenses themselves securing their own future.
Valiente Norma, 2009
Bieké: Tierra de Valientes series, mixed media on camouflage, 30" x 20". Portrait of the Vieques activist who is also a poet, artist and breast cancer survivor. The calligraphy features an excerpt from her interview in which she discusses the United States co-opting of the term "America" as if they were all encompassing of it. She discusses the many Americas (north, central and south) that fall under the "America" category and clarifies how the US alone does not own rights to this term.
Valiente Mimita, 2009
Acrylic, burlap, collage on camouflage, 20" x 30". Emma "Mimita" Rosado, whose interview left me mesmerized, spoke of the moment in which she saw Playa Grande, the area of Vieques that her family is from. She was seeing this land from the military raft that carried her along with other activists that had been arrested. She began to cry recognizing that her family's homeland was seized by the Navy & though she was seeing it again, it was from afar, on a raft, under military police custody.
Valiente Natra, 2009
Mixed media on camouflage, 30" x 20" . Vieques lyricist/ rapper MC Natra describes having been attacked by soldiers. He credits that incident for a rebirth, a feeling of freedom that has filled him ever since. From that day forward he is committed to fearlessly telling Vieques' truth.
Valiente Lady M, 2009
Mixed media on camouflage, 30" x 20" . Lady M describes the moment in which she learned that her husband, MC Natra had been attacked by soldiers and the rage that came over her, learning of the consequences her husband suffered for defending their land. She states, The moment arrives in which you decide to fight back no matter the consequences.
Valiente Aleida, 2009
Mixed media on camouflage, 20" x 30". Aleida Zenon speaks of the "hoyo", the military dump where they threw out perfectly good food and supplies. Kids would cut school to sneak into the hole in order to get food & supplies for their families. They avoided being caught & arrested by the soldiers by taking the camouflage clothing they found, using it to sneak in. The idea of "reclaiming camouflage" came from this statement. Aleida proclaims Vieques is twice colonized: by the US & Puerto Rico.
Valiente Zenon 2009
Mixed media on camouflage, 30" x 20". Portrait of the fisherman/ activists Carlos Zenon, one of the most insightful, informative interviews during this project. Zenon in this excerpt speaks of how in going toe to toe with a military force, it was necessary to understand military strategy. As such he enlisted in the US military to gain inside information on how to better strategize against them.
Valiente Nilda, 2009
Mixed media on camouflage, 20" x 30". Activist and small business incubator creator Nilda Medina speaks of resisting colonizer strategies that work to keep us divided & are damaging to our spirits. She states that with unity, transparency, we can build trust. She finishes proclaiming that the people of Vieques no longer fear the imperialist.
Valiente Rabin, 2009
Mixed media on camouflage, 30" x 20". Robert Rabin, director of the Museo Fuerte Conde de Mirasol moved to Vieques from his native Boston, having spent more time as a Vieques resident at this point. In this excerpt he speaks of the impact that the deaths of Angel Rodriguez Cristobal (1979) & David Sanes Rodriguez (1999) had on the struggle for peace & justice in Vieques.
Valiente Maria, 2009
Mixed media on camouflage, 30" x 20". Simplemente Maria as she was known was born in St Croix as were many Viequenses were displaced by the US Navy land appropriations. She married a Viequense cop she met in St. Croix, Carmelo Felix Mata. Together they returned & he began bulldozing military properties, reclaiming them for young couples like themselves. He is the founder of several communities including Monte Carmelo, named after him. She states you had to be brave, not afraid of the feds.
Valiente Zuleyka, 2009
Mixed media on camouflage, 20" x 30" . Zuleyka Calderon's little daughter Milivy became a symbol for peace in Vieques when she passed from leukemia at the age of 5. Zuleyka shares "Thank God the Navy left and children no longer have to suffer, but the contamination in the environment remains. They left but the contamination is still there. Until they clean up, there will be more children and many more people falling ill.
Valiente Gladys, 2009
Mixed media on camouflage, 20" x 30". Another Viequense by choice, Gladys is actually Portuguese but has spent most of her life in Vieques. Her involvement in the struggle came in the form of building la Fundación Milivy, benefiting children battling cancer. Hosting various annual events, among them is the Three Kings Day visit to the children's hospital in San Juan. Here she states that Milivy must have been her child in another existence because of how much love she felt towards her.
Valiente Millo, 2009
Mixed media on camouflage, 20" x 30". Another powerful interview. In his early 50s at the time, Millo had been diagnosed with early Alzheimer's. Still he delivered one of the longest, fiercest interviews. A good part of it was spent discussing his disdain for the US involvement in Vietnam. He shared that he had renounced his Veteran's status because of it, even if it made him ineligible for health benefits he needed.
Valiente Bandidaje, 2009
Mixed media on camouflage, 20" x 30". Known for his nickname, that came out of his court trial, for an accusation he put on the judge, Bandidaje describes how Vieques suffers from the loss of its most precious resource, its youth. He speaks of the lack of opportunities that send young people flocking to other lands each year to pursue higher education and jobs and how oftentimes they don't return. Bandidaje himself would divide his time between Vieques and St Croix.
Valiente Millito, 2009
Mixed media on camouflage, 20" x 30". In his portrait I feature the most emotional moment in his interview. He recalls the process of his arrest, being led through the prison. They had been taken in through the back & had no idea that a huge manifestation was occurring out front. While being led shackled down the hall he was able to get a glimpse at the crowd through the window & see the little faces of his two children. He reveals that he wanted to bring the chains.
Valiente Blanca, 2009
Mixed media on camouflage, 20" x 30". Blanca reminisces on the time she entered the bombing range with a group of Vieques women. Upon their arrest, they were taken handcuffed in a bus chanting "Mujeres viequenses esas sí que son valientes." (Vieques women are courageous). She laughs at how the judge ordered them not to jump fences back into the bombing range. She stated that they could crawl under instead.
Valiente Don Rafa, 2009
Mixed media on camouflage, 30" x 20". Don Rafa's house was characterized by a lancha parked on his lawn on the stretch of road between Isabel II and Esperanza. In this excerpt he speaks of the continued struggle for peace & justice, demanding that the lands formerly used by the US military be returned to the people of Vieques, its rightful owner. Much of this property is still being held by the US government.
Valiente Mario, 2009
Mixed media on camouflage, 30" x 20" . I first met Mario Solis during my first visit to el Museo Fuerte Conde de Mirasol in 2006. He was eager to talk to me about the pieces in the collection. What he was most passionate about was asserting Bieké's indigenous history beyond the Taino people (starting around 1200 AD). Vieques holds the remains of a 4,000 year old indigenous man, testament to our long history before Columbus' arrival. Mario passed from valiente to cemí shortly after this exhibit.
In 2006, I began painting on burlap, wanting to work with a material that would add more significance to my paintings. I use it as a symbol of the jíbaro past of Borikén that we see resurfacing slowly. Burlap is a symbol of the farmer, and of Babalu Aye, Yoruba orisha who guides over the sick and the poor. In 2007, with Archivos Subversivos, I combined burlap with manila file folders, examining the practice of government surveillance files kept on supporters of Puerto Rican liberation. That same year, I also painted my first Vieques piece, "Basta" on a canvas military tent. It was the first in working with materials referencing the US military to create a series of paintings exploring the impact that 60+ years of US Navy maneuvers on the island of Vieques had had on its people and its environment. I had known that many of the viequenses that entered the bombing range to force a halt of the maneuvers were better able to hide while wearing camouflage. In my interview with Aleida Encarnación I learned that camouflage had been used by the youth who would sneak into el "hoyo" a hole in which military personnel would dump food and supplies after their maneuvers. Young people would go in there to get clothing and cans of food to take home to their families, however they risked arrest in doing so. By taking camouflage gear from the "hoyo" they facilitated their ability to sneak back in in the future without getting caught. In essence, in Vieques the US military's camouflage became a tool of survival and resistance for the people still battling for peace and justice in their homeland. Valiente means brave. It was apparent that these viequenses valientes were the true honorable soldiers. I placed their burlap portraits over camouflage onto which I featured, in my own calligraphy, excerpts of their heartfelt narratives, shared with me in this series of over 30 intimate interviews that I conducted from 2006-2008. This series, like rebels in the montes, reclaims camouflage for the valiant ones that work to bring change.