CucubaNación is a project conceived in the bioluminescent waters of Vieques and born from the firefly-filled darkness following Hurricane María. The art of generating light through darkness is a decolonial strategy for rising to stand as our own sustainable power sources.

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CucubaNación, is a play on the words “nation” and “cucuyo”/  “cucubano”, indigenous names for bioluminescent click beetles. All the works are created on black backgrounds, onto which I paint light, versus the conventional inverse of painting forms, shadows on a white surface.

The palettes reference a variety of bioluminescence found in Puerto Rico’s natural environment. The blue glow is inspired by the dinoflagellates that light up the waters of three Puerto Rico bays (in Vieques, Fajardo and Lajas). I mostly use this concept to paint ancestral spirits. Cucubanos are large brown click beetles (pyrophorus luminosus) with bioluminescent green “headlights” and “taillights” that they alternate to either attract mates or repel predators. More common lightning bugs/ luciérnagas have red heads, black bodies with a yellow outline and green glow, poetically the same colors used on the flags of African liberation. I use this palette to portray resilient, bioluminescent boricuas and ally warriors still working to bring justice, peace and light on this earth. CucubaNación takes lessons from nature on transcending continued conquest, colonialism, injustice, racism and climate disaster. The art of generating light through darkness is a strategy for envisioning, embodying and manifesting liberated futures where we stand as our own sustainable power sources.