CucubaNación was inspired by fireflies in post-hurricane darkness. This project takes lessons from nature to transcend colonialism, to manifest and radiate our own light, and to envision and embody a new nation of resilient, liberated souls.
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Outdoor Mural, Calle San Vicente, Mayagüez, Puerto Rico
Approximately 10' x 8'
Para ver ciertas cosas se necesitan otros ojos, los ojos del espíritu...
(To see certain things requires another set of eyes, the eyes of the spirit)
-Eugenio María de Hostos
As a colony of the United States, since 1898, Puerto Rico has had to deal with various blows to its economy. For however much some would like to think that the US relationship is actually an asset to Puerto Rico, the colonial relationship has crippled the economy. Immediately following the 1898 invasion, the value of the Puerto Rican peso was reduced to half of the dollar. Puerto Rico's robust agricultural scape was converted into the mono/ cash crop economy of sugar to the benefit of US businessmen. US businesses receive tax breaks and other financial incentives. The Cabotage Laws of the Jones Act prohibit Puerto Rico from trading with other countries and require any goods entering our ports to be from US ships via US ports, a dynamic that especially revealed its absurdity in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, when we couldn't receive aid and relief freely from neighboring countries. Borrowing to stay afloat in spite of the colonial laws designed to keep Puerto Rico dependent, the government entered an impossible series of odious debts which the people are being forced to pay via the loss of benefits and other harsh austerity measures. Additionally PROMESA, a fiscal oversight board was put in place to make these decisions, to benefit the bond holders, while holding power over the Puerto Rican people and government. Among the austerity measures are threats to the one public university system and the closure of over 500 public schools.
To protest mass school closures, for the May Day National Strike in 2018, instead of sending our children to school, we attended manifestations in Mayagüez. Other families went to San Juan, where police riot squads tear gassed and pepper sprayed the crowd. School children were among those present. Outraged, I painted this mural the following weekend, with the help of my children, for La Campechada art festival in Mayagüez, dedicated to Eugenio María de Hostos. I included a short Cucubano manifesto inspired by the insect native to Puerto Rico, of the same Arawak name, with two sets of lights alternated to repel prey or attract mates:
We will be Cucubanos
Emitting our light
Illuminated with love
The green glow represents the light emitted by fireflies but also speaks to a radioactive element in our atmosphere/ our history (like US cancer and radiation experiments on Puerto Ricans, chemical weapons testing in Vieques) and contamination, hence the gas masks. Gas masks were worn by the riot squad that day. I use them here as a seeming necessary tool for the future education of our children. This series makes use of the black background to consider the lessons of light towards liberation in the darkness following hurricanes, the darkness of colonialism. These are lessons taken from nature, from the glowing dinoflagellates of bioluminescent waters to the green light of cucubanos, of fireflies.