Puerto Rico Bundle: 10 works by 10 Puerto Rican Artists at Whitney Biennial

 Courtesy of Occupy Museums

PRAN - 10 works by 10 artists with $648,224.67 collective debt including debt to First Bank of Puerto Rico, Banco Popular and relationship to the Puerto Rican debt crisis collectively displayed at “Debtfair” a project of Occupy Museums for the Whitney Biennial:

Yazmín Hernández (1975)

What are some things you think should be done to address the debt crisis and the history of colonialism in Puerto Rico? 

More than debt, I am concerned with dignity and therefore support independence and the natural right to determine one’s own destiny. Colonialism continues to be the root of political and economic stagnation in Puerto Rico. The debt crisis cannot be discussed outside of the context of colonialism. It cannot be discussed without addressing archaic colonial laws such as la ley de Cabotaje/Jones Act that forces all goods entering Puerto Rico to leave from US ports on US ships. The debt crisis is compounded by an economy governed by outside corporations making millions here tax-free, investing their Puerto Rico earnings elsewhere and sabotaging local businesses in the process. The debt crisis is a moot point without addressing colonial capitalist exploitation of Puerto Rico.

De-debt: decolonize, 2017 Acrylic and collage on canvas, 18 x 14 inches

Sofía Maldonado (1984)

What are some things you think should be done to address the debt crisis and the history of colonialism in Puerto Rico? 

As creatives we can propose new initiatives and commit to their cultural development of Puerto Rico. After several years in New York City, I returned to my homeland at a time when approximately 50,000 people a year leave the island. My goal was to develop the project Kalaña (photo documentation submitted for the Debtfair) and to teach at La Escuela de Artes Plásticas. Teaching allows me to share my experience with and give back to the next generation of Puertorican artists. My most recent public art projects target vacant, neglected buildings in the city and use color and abstraction as signifiers. Kalaña served as a pilot project to reactivate unused buildings through the arts and community efforts. The project activated the inside of an old tobacco warehouse using color and abstraction, along with musical collaborations. Two years later, I founded Hielo A.I.R, an artist residency, and Open Studio Project, an independent art space - both were empty unused stores in the San Juan area.

Kalaña, 2016 Digital print, face mounted on plexi on museum board 
Photograph: Monica Felix 13 x 20 inches

Celestino Ortiz (1964)

What are some things you think should be done to address the debt crisis and the history of colonialism in Puerto Rico? 

All of this establishes Puerto Rico like a United States colony. All Puerto Rico has to do is focus to pay all the bills and keep away from more debts.

Linea del Ahora Eterno (Line of the Eternal Now), 2014 Acrylic, modeling paste 
and diamond dust on canvas 24 x 20 inches

Norma Vila Rivero (1982)

How has the Puerto Rican debt crisis affected you and those around you? 

To address the debt situation, the government has adopted different fiscal austerity measures that have had a serious impact on the living conditions of the Puerto Rican population, leading to an increase in poverty and marginalization of the most vulnerable communities and generating greater exclusion, inequality and discrimination. Puerto Rico is in a deep economic depression in which 268,000 jobs have been lost, only 28% of the population has work, which, together with other factors, has placed Puerto Rico in the fifth most inequitable country in the world. The austerity measures put in place by the government to overcome the crisis have meant a retreat from the right to decent work, with massive dismissals of public employees, the continue attack on collective bargain agreements acquired by workers, and the reduction in the retirement system.

Dead-End, 2017 Digital photograph on cintra 14 x 20 inches

Gamaliel Rodríguez (1977)

What are some things you think should be done to address the debt crisis and the history of colonialism in Puerto Rico? 

First of all, our government needs to create incentive for the younger generation who want to open small business. Here the bureaucracy to open a small business is ridiculous. Believe and invest in agriculture. Puerto Rico only produces 15% of our goods. We only produce fresh water, bananas and milk. Nothing more. If we can teach our future generation about the importance of a local sustainable agriculture, then we are in better terms for independency of importation. It is proven that we can produce 85% of our goods. Also, sell Puerto Rico as a destination for a college career. We have many good universities and experts that people from USA can study with here for a fraction of what they pay in US universities. Our universities are US certified as well. We need to sell ourself to the world for tourism. We are the Hawaii of the Caribbean. Then with a better economy we start to work right away for our colonial status. Whether Independence or a state. But I think the congress wants PR as a bankruptcy state.

Figure 1717WBS, 2017 Ballpoint pen, acrylic, 
colored pencil and text on paper 18 x 20 inches

Adrian Román (1977)

What are some things you think should be done to address the debt crisis and the history of colonialism in Puerto Rico? 

There are many movements and groups that have organized on the island and in the United States to help spread the word, sign petitions, and protest the Oversight Board and the colonial rule the United States has over Puerto Rico. I have cofounded a collective called DEFEND PUERTO RICO, a multimedia project designed to document and celebrate Puerto Rican creativity, resilience, and resistance. Recognizing the complex and dynamic landscapes that comprise Puerto Rican daily life and struggle, Defend PR seeks to deepen connections between Puerto Ricans on the island and throughout the diaspora, in the hopes of nurturing greater solidarity, collaboration, and kinship.

Niño Santo (Child Saint), 2017 Graphite on wood, mixed media 24 x 19 inches

Melquiades Rosario-Sastre (1953)

What are some things you think should be done to address the debt crisis and the history of colonialism in Puerto Rico? 

Our people has been a colony for many centuries and it is very difficult to break with a colonial form of thinking. Also our government can’t make business with other countries. We must change the salary of our politicians, the businessmen, the pension of our ex governor and mayor, the money that the public officials and the government consultants receive.

Besides (Otrosi), 2017 Wood (cedar, mahogany, oak) 24 x 20 x 3.5 inches

Nibia Pastrana Santiago (1987)

What are some things you think should be done to address the debt crisis and the history of colonialism in Puerto Rico? 

“La vida colonial siempre ha tendido a la degeneración física del pueblo dominado porque es un régimen de explotación. Consultar a una nación si quiere ser o no libre constituye una ofensa.”- Albizu “En relación a la deuda, una perspectiva de derechos humanos permite articular lo que queremos decir cuando gritamos #LaGenteAntesQueLaDeuda. Si bien PROMESA tiene como únicos propósitos ‘devolverle a PR a los mercados financieros y recuperar la confianza de los mercados,’ quiénes vivimos en PR tenemos prioridades distintas. Entre otras, proteger y defender nuestro derecho a la dignidad humana, a la vivienda segura, a la educación de calidad, universal y accesible, al trabajo digno, a la salud.”- Ariadna Godreau “El imperialismo mantiene a los boricuas divididos en partidos en lucha por el presupuesto. No hay libertades sin amor a su pueblo, sin respeto a su pueblo y sin fe en su pueblo.”- Corretjer

los presidentes pisan, o conmemorando lo invisible, o quiero ser una iconoclasta sexy 
[the presidents step on, or commemorating the invisible, or I want to be a sexy iconoclast.], 2014 Series of three photographs 24 x 18 inches

José Soto (1976)

What are some things you should be done to address the debt crisis and this history of colonialism in Puerto Rico? 

There are no easy solutions for this crippling debt and the consequences of colonialism. At the very least Puerto Ricans deserve to have a voice and a vote on the decisions that will have an impact on their future. They also have a right to participate in providing the options from which they should be able to choose. Deciding whether we should pay for the debt or, our educational, health and social services should not be an option. No society should have to go through that. It is a human tragedy. There are better options than cutting down basic services. Filing for bankruptcy would have been a good start to address the debt but it was not an option allowed to the island. Federal funding to help cover the debt, a path to determine the status of the Island, an exemption from the Jones Act, reinstating the economic incentives for companies to operate in the island (936), measures to prevent overspending and excessive lending by the local government, would have supported the economic growth of Puerto Rico. None of these options have been afforded to the island.

Aurora, 2017 Ink jet print mounted to laser cut acrylic, gold mirror 24 x 20 inches

D Gabriela Torres (1987)

What are some things you think should be done to address the debt crisis and the history of colonialism in Puerto Rico? 

Both the debt and the colonial status of Puerto Rico are very complex issues. But regarding the debt issue, I think the most important thing to do right now is to audit the debt. I really would like to know what the fuck we are going to be forced to pay for, who, why, how much, for what and how the debt was created. The government keeps postponing it and I’m sure it’s not the best interest of the government to do an audit because it would uncover corruption, negligence and similar. Regarding the colonial matter I would like that the majority of people could be able to choose a definite political status outcome (It appears to be statehood) and to be able to issue a definite decision without the usual push and pull games of shady indecision.

Advertisement for PROMESA Act or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Enjoy Debt, 
2016 Lightbox print 16 x 20 x 1.5 inches