i answered a call for Puerto Rican artists to do something around the 100th anniversary of Puerto Ricans being forcibly made US citizens in 1917 by the Jones-Shafroth Act. i say forcibly because no one asked Puerto Ricans whether or not they wanted to be American citizens. The title of the exhibit “CITICIEN” is a clever play on words, combining the word citizen and the Spanish word for 100 which is cien, thus “citicien” which sounds like citizen.
The piece i did is a digital collage called Boricua Migration and it features a photograph of my grandfather Moises Santos from the 1940’s when he first came to this country. The forced American citizenship made immigrating to the US legally easier for Puerto Ricans than for other immigrants but it also placed Puerto Ricans in a strange space where they were treated as immigrants who were American citizens. Outside of Puerto Ricans not having to concern themselves as immigrants with citizenship the experience of Puerto Rican immigration was no different from other immigrants. The racism and exploitation that Puerto Ricans experienced as immigrants in America were so engrained into the American zeitgeist that many Americans are unaware that Puerto Ricans are American citizens and are shocked when confronted with the fact.
With that in mind i added some text from the song ‘America’ from West Side Story which i thought highlighted the Puerto Rican experience of being both of and between two places. When Puerto Ricans were made American citizens it was a legal move that created a existence of duality. To be Puerto Rican is to be caught existing both within and outside of the reality of being Puerto Rican and American all at once. The work of the Nuyorican poets Pedro Pietri and Jesus Papoleto Melendez captured this as did the conceptual photography of Adal Maldonado.
When will I go back to San Juan.
When will you shut up and get gone?
Everyone there will give big cheer!
Everyone there will have moved here!
This piece, Boricua Migration, created for the Citicien exhibit was a concept that i had explored earlier for JL Torres collection of poetry called Boricua Passport. JL Torres poetry also touched on this hybridized identity of American and Puerto Rican existence. This latest piece could be seen as a visual re-mix of the original. Puerto Ricans have always had to struggle with the legal definitions of American citizenship in strange ways since Puerto Rico itself is a colony and Puerto Ricans have no political or legal autonomy over themselves. Since colonialism inherently brings with it second class citizenship the legal and political power of Puerto Ricans doesn’t reside who they are as citizens but depends wholly on where they live. On Puerto Rico they are American citizens who cannot vote in US presidential elections and only have a non-voting representative in the US congress. The moment Puerto Ricans move to the US they, in theory, become full US citizens in that they can now vote in US elections.
So the legal machinations of citizenship are complex for Puerto Ricans and the reason for that sits squarely on the shoulders of the US colonization of Puerto Rico. To complicate matters even further a Puerto Rican lawyer who believed in the decolonization and independence of Puerto Rico, Juan Mari Bras, sued the US and Puerto Rican government for his right to Puerto Rican citizenship. His argument was that the Jones-Shafroth act that made Puerto Ricans American citizens didn’t negate Puerto Rican citizenship. He won the case and now Puerto Ricans can actually apply for Puerto Rican citizenship. Initially the “CitiCien” exhibit which explores these issues of Puerto Rican citizenship was supposed to run at Clemente Soto Velez until March 8th, but has been extended until March 26th of 2017.
If you get a chance to see the exhibit check it out… Here is the press release for the CITICIEN show at Clemente Soto Velez Cultural Center.
Multimedia Art Collective DEFEND PUERTO RICO has launched the CITICIEN Exhibit Highlighting 100 Puerto Rican Artists On The 100th Anniversary of the Passage of the Jones-Shafroth Act.
Signed in 1917 by President Wilson, The Jones-Shafroth Act granted U.S. citizenship to anyone born in Puerto Rico on or after April 25, 1898, a complex and significant turning point for the people of Puerto Rico.
Curated by Puerto Rican artist Adrián Viajero Román, DEFEND PUERTO RICO’s CITICIEN traveling exhibition will feature 100 artworks highlighting the historical and present-day impact of the Jones Act, with its opening reception scheduled for Thursday, March 2, 2017 at The Clemente Soto Velez Cultural and Educational Center (107 Suffolk St, New York, NY 10002), from 6-10PM.
Following strict visual guidelines of size and a black-and-white only palette, the exhibit’s theme is one of visual consistency and commitment, acting as a metaphor of the unified voice and solidarity of Puerto Ricans during this critical political time. Coinciding with the 100 year anniversary of the signing of the Jones Act, CITICIEN, in an effort to nurture greater solidarity and collaboration, will feature 100 Puerto Rican artists from the island and the diaspora, including Antonio Martorell, Nitza Tufiño, Diogenes Ballester, Sofia Maldonado, Celso Gonzalez and Melissa Montero, among others.
Visitors will have a chance to experience artist talks and workshops throughout the duration of the exhibit, attendees at the opening reception will be able to watch a series of short films and interviews, as well as interact with immersive 360 and AR experiences that have been produced as part of the DEFEND PUERTO RICO Project. In addition, we will have a live music performance by Puerto Rican music ensemble “Los Pleneros de la 21, which is made possible by support from the NYC Council Member Melissa Mark Viverito’s office, and the Cultural Immigrant Initiative Fund.
NEXT EXHIBITION LOCATION: SAN JUAN, PR
FEATURING WORKS FROM:
Abey Charron • Aby Ruiz • Adál Maldonado • Adrián Viajero Román • Adrielo • Alberto Ongay • Alejandro Epifanio • Alex Feliciano • Alexis Diaz • Amalia Avilés • Andres Rodriguez • Antonio Martorell • Arianna Chikki Cuesta • Barbara Diaz-Tapia • Bemba Prints • Betsy Casanas • Bles – Eli Rios • Bluster – James Alicea • Bonafide Rojas • Camille Imilse Arroyo • Carlos Jesus Martinez Dominguez • Celso Gonzalez • Christian Martir • Crystal Clarity • Damaris Cruz • Daniel Alago • Danielle De Jesus • David Zayas • Denis Gonzalez • Diego Romero • Diogenes Ballester • Don Rimx • Ector Javier • Edgardo Larregui • Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez • Eli Jacobs-Fantauzzi • Elizam Escobar • Faviana Silva • Fernando Román • Francisco Molina Reyes II • Gabriela Vazquez Martinez • Gretchen Ruiz Ramos • Güillo Cruz • Gustavo Santiago Jiménez • Harry Martinez • Herminio Rodriguez • Javier Padilla • Jean Oyola • Jo-El Lopez • Jocelyn Ortiz • Jose Andreu • Juan Angel Roman – Nepo • Juan Pablo Vizcaino Cortijo • Juan Sanchez • Juanito Guerrilla • Karlo Andrei Ibarra • Leenda Bonilla • Lester Rey Irizarry • Luis Cordero • Luis Vidal • Luis Carle • Manny Vega • Marcos Dimas • Maria Dominguez • Mario Ruben Carrion • Marta Mabel Perez • Martin Garcia-Rivera • Máximo Colón • Mayra L. Córdova • Melissa Alvarez • Melissa Montero • Mia Román Hernandez • Mikey Cordero • Michelle Angela Ortiz • Migdalia Luz • Miguel Luciano • Miguel Trelles • Miguelangel Ruiz • Milaniza Montalvo • Moriviví Colectivo • Natalia Nicole • Nelson Santiago • Nia Andino • Nick Quijano • Nitza Tufino • Norberto Morales • Oliver Rios • Otura Mun – IFE • Patrick Urbain • Priscilla Anacakuyani Bell • PSEUDOMERO • Rafael Rodriguez • Ralph Serrano • Raquel Martínez Díaz • RIBS – Robin Padro • Ricardo Cabret • Roberto Biaggi • Samuel Miranda • Saul Castellanos • SHELLYNE RODRIGUEZ • Sofia Maldonado • Tammy Cedré • vagabond • Vanessa Rodriguez • Virgen Enid Dominguez • Will Rosado • Xavier Muñoz Torres • Yasmin Hernández
About DEFEND PUERTO RICO
Defend PR is 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.