Tag Archives: Puerto Rican independence

THE PUERTO RICAN MANDELA


The Puerto Rican Mandela by vagabond ©
The Puerto Rican Mandela by vagabond ©

A few weeks ago i was asked by Benjamin Ramos of Pro-Libertad, an organization dedicated to the freedom of Puerto Rican political prisoners, to design a poster for US held Puerto Rican political prisoner Oscar Lopez Rivera. For those who don’t know Puerto Rico has been a colony of the US since 1898. For more on that whole situation check this out… Ever since it’s colonization there’s been a resistance movement to liberate Puerto Rico from the US to quote Malcolm X “…by any and all means necessary”. Some of those means have included armed struggle which is the right of colonized peoples in the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples under UN Resolution 1514.

Oscar Lopez Rivera is a freedom fighter not unlike the most famous political prisoner in the world, Nelson Mandela. Oscar is 72 and has been in prison since 1981, that’s almost half his life. He was charged, convicted and sentenced to 70 years for the crime of seditious conspiracy to overthrow the US government. Contrary to the lies and misinformation fed by the US government and the corporate media Oscar is not charged with killing or maiming anyone. He is charged with seditious conspiracy to overthrow the US government.

After i designed the image above Benjamin asked if i knew anyone who could print some posters and postcards. i reached out to the worker owned union shop of offset printers, Radix Media. i worked closely with Lantz Arroyo and he was able to print a run of 11″x17″ posters and 4″x6″ postcards of the image…

Puerto Rican Mandela posters
Puerto Rican Mandela posters

Some of the posters will be used as media to help spread the word about Oscar and some will be for sale with the proceeds going towards Oscar’s commissary. If you’re looking to try and get one let me know and we’ll work something out. i imagine Oscar will use some of those funds we raise to get art supplies since he is a painter. Check out some of Oscar’s work here…

The international campaign to free Oscar Lopez Rivera is asking people to call both the White House and demand that Oscar Lopez Rivera be released unconditionally. Call President Obama at 202-456-1111 and leave a message!  Let him know that Oscar Lopez Rivera has been in prison for too long and deserves to go home!  

Sample Message for your phone call:
President Obama, I ask that you free Puerto Rican Political Prisoner, Oscar Lopez Rivera.  Since 1981, he has been in jail for fighting for Puerto Rican independence; he never committed a violent crime and has been a model prisoner.  I ask that you follow in the foot steps of Presidents Truman, Carter, and Clinton, who freed other Puerto Rican activists, and set Oscar free!

For more info on Oscar Lopez Rivera the video below is from Democracy Now and gives some more detailed information on both Oscar and the campaign to free him…

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FROM THE OTHER SIDE OF BETWEEN TWO WORLDS


Rev. Pedro Pietri Is On The Other Side by vagabond ©
Rev. Pedro Pietri Is On The Other Side by vagabond ©

“To take you back, I was born in 1898, during the climax of the Spanish/American War. I say 1898 because that was the year that the U.S. invaded Puerto Rico, the year when they colonized us. Now, I was born again in ‘44 to my mother in Ponce, Puerto Rico and again in ’47, at the age of three, when my folks migrated to New York City through the epic of Operation Boot Strap. We’re all part of the casualties of the Inquisition, the American Inquisition.

I also say I was born in 1949, because that’s the day I went to the first theatre with my grandfather, who felt deceived by Operation Boot Strap and committed hara-kiri, but I don’t think it was suicide. He was killed by the system that deceived him, the system that made him sell his land in Borinquen. What happened was the disillusion. The voices in his head were of the Central Intelligence, compelling him to sever his jugular vein. Think about his friends. There’s nobody to talk to, nobody to communicate with, and there’s nothing to go back to, but the industrialization of the island that had deceived so many people. So, that was the first theatre I went to, at Monje’s Funeral Parlor, in a brown suit. Actually, that was my first teaching, or my first awareness of Puerto Rican history. Puerto Ricans die and go to a Puerto Rican funeral parlor. And Monje was a ghoul; he looked like a ghoul. How you going to have the name Monje, and be a proprietor of a funeral parlor? You’ll scare the customers away, but he didn’t scare us away. ”
– Rev. Pedro Pietri
Source La Prensa San Diego 6th, Feb, 2004 

Who the hell is Rev. Pedro Pietri? Rev. Pedro Pierti was one of the original Nuyorican poets. Who were the Nuyorican Poets? The Nuyorican poets were a rag-tag bunch of Puerto Rican who became poets at the literal barrel of US colonialism’s gun. They emerged from the late 60’s, 70’s and 80’s living a schizophrenic existence in exile in the mean streets of New York because Puerto Rico is and continues to be a colony of the United States. Schizophrenic because Americans didn’t want them because they were Puerto Ricans and Puerto Ricans didn’t want them because now they were Americans. The result of that dual schizophrenic existence became the Nuyorican experience. But because Puerto Ricans are good with a blade these poets carved out a space with words and defined the unreality of what it meant to be Puerto Rican outside of Puerto Rico. In the process of doing that the Nuyorican poets grabbed poetry by the ankles turned it upside down and shook the change out its pockets.

No other poet captured the zeitgeist of the Nuyorican experience like Rev. Pedro Pietri. The proof is in the recipe of his 1974 epic poem, Puerto Rican Obituary. That poem was written in the El Barrio (East Harlem, NYC) apartment of Dylcia Pagan a former US held Puerto Rican political prisoner and prisoner of war. Puerto Rican Obituary took the schizophrenic unreality of Puerto Ricans in the ghettos of New York living in between two worlds while simultaneously living in both and wholeheartedly claimed the validity of it, in all of it’s absurdity rather than rejecting it, in all it’s impossibility. In claiming to be in – and – from two different places at once Puerto Rican Obituary led the charge to fuse the fracture of a split existence. The idea of being in – and – from two places at once is a part of the psychological fallout of colonization. Puerto Rico has been a colony of the US since 1898 and was a colony of Spain for almost 400 years before that. What Rev. Pedro Pietri and the other Nuyorican Poets did was painfully, playfully and poetically work through the fracture of being colonized and fuse together a mismatched unreality to recreate what it meant to be Puerto Rican within a fractured colonized existence. Check out this excerpt of Rev. Pedro Pietri reciting Puerto Rican Obituary…

Rev. Pedro Pietri’s poetry could be described as surreal dadaism from the streets. His poetry is filled with resolving the conflicting unreality of living here and there at the same time and in the same space. He flipped the polarizing effects of opposing ideas and made them attract. He used what seemed like nonsense to make sense of a world that’s never made sense. To understand what i’m talking about here is a poem from Rev. Pedro Pietri called Traffic Misdirector from his book Traffic Violations…

TRAFFIC MISDIRECTOR
the greatest living poet
in new york city
was born in Puerto Rico
his name is Jorge Brandon
he is 70 years old
he carries his metaphor
in brown shopping bags
inside steel shopping cart
he travels around with
on the streets of manhattan
he recites his poetry
to whoever listens
& when nobody is around
he recites to himself
he speaks the wisdom
of unforgotten palm trees
the vocabulary of coconuts
that wear overcoats
the traffic lights
of his poems function
without the boring advice
from ac or dc current
book stores & libraries
are deprived of his vibes
to become familiar
with this immortal poet
you have to hang-out
on  street corners
building stoops rooftops
fire escapes bars parks
subway train stations
bodegas botanicas
iglesias pawn shops
card games cock fights
funerals valencia bakery
hunts point palace
pool halls orchard beach
& cuchifrito stands
on the lower east side
the admission is free
his presence is poetry

In 2004 the good right Rev. Pedro Pietri died of stomach cancer which he felt was attributed to his exposure to Agent Orange when he was drafted into the Vietnam War. He may have flipped over to the flip side of life but his vibe and his influences can still be felt on this side…

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#GIFT4OSCAR


FREE OSCAR by vagabond ©
FREE OSCAR by vagabond ©

Today is 3 Kings Day… It’s also US held Puerto Rican political prisoner of war Oscar Lopez Rivera’s birthday. He’s 72 years old. For 33 of those years he’s been in US prisons as the longest held Puerto Rican political prisoner of war. ‪#‎FREEOSCARLOPEZNOW‬

There is a Twitter campaign going on right now to pressure US President Barak Obama to free Oscar Lopez Rivera. This campaign is being dubbed #Gift4Oscar in which people create a salvo of art, music, writings, videos, and tweets to #FreeOscarLopezRiveraNow in an effort to educate people about Oscar Lopez Rivera and to help bring about his freedom. Over the years i have done various pieces of art for Oscar’s freedom… This is my ‪#‎Gift4Oscar‬

You’ll notice one of the pieces is the cover of a ‘zine that the RICANSTRUCTION Network did called SALVO which featured Oscar on the cover along with an essay from him on art and prison. You can download a PDF copy of the ‘zine at the Audio Visual Terrorism blog.

These pieces are free to use for the struggle towards his release… i only ask the proper credit be given…

by vagabond ©

Shortlink: http://wp.me/p1eniL-1xo

A CINEMA OF UNDERSTANDING


The first version of the MACHETERO poster by vagabond ©
The first version of the MACHETERO poster by vagabond ©

“Now more than ever we need to talk to each other, to listen to each other and understand how we see the world, and cinema is the best medium for doing this.” – Martin Scorsese

My father was a big jazz fanatic. Growing up in my house meant listening to jazz, a lot of it (much to my mother’s chagrin who was no fan of be-bop and couldn’t stand free jazz). The truth is that i didn’t understand be-bop either but watching the way my father listened to Miles, Bird, Mingus, Trane, Diz and Monk i realized that this was important. He listened with an intensity and a kind of reverence. He used to listen to jazz historian, archivist and DJ Phil Schaap on 89.9FM WKCR in New York. Phil Schaap spoke about jazz with the fervor of a tent revival preacher that made you want to accept Jazz as your personal savior. My father would add his own commentary to Phil Schaap as we listened not really talking to me per se but talking out loud for me to hear and in looking back now that commentary cemented this idea that all great things have a genesis.

i couldn’t understand half of what was going on at the time but what i did take away from all of it was that there was a hidden history that existed in the genius of things and that the geniuses who created were leaving bread crumbs that led back to the past as they moved in to the future. So at 17 when i first decided that i wanted to make films i started to do research. If my future was going to be in cinema then i needed to go back into cinemas history in order to see where i wanted to take it.

One of the people i studied (and still study today) is Martin Scorsese. Today is his birthday and i came across this quote…

“Now more than ever we need to talk to each other, to listen to each other and understand how we see the world, and cinema is the best medium for doing this.” – Martin Scorsese

Martin Scorsese

Beyond celebrity culture, beyond opening weekend box office numbers, beyond the hype, the red carpets, the glitz and the pretty lights… cinema is art… and art is a means of wrestling with the human condition. When i started to make MACHETERO that’s what i was trying to do. i was trying to get the human condition down as it relates to the colonized and the colonizer using the specific example of something i knew a lot about, the colonization of Puerto Rico by the United States.

Filmmaking for me has to be fun. i always have a saying with the friends who happen to be my collaborators on set “If we aren’t having fun, then its not worth doing…”. We had fun making MACHETERO. It was a lot of work but we laughed and we joked and kept our sense of humor. It was that laughter and joking and humor that made making MACHETERO a labour of love.

My initial conscious reaction to the Scorsese quote was that i had made MACHETERO to open up a dialogue, a debate, and a discussion about this colonial condition that had become a part of our human condition. To ask the hard questions, to pull no punches, to face the consequences of our decisions and to understand why we had taken them in the first place. However subconsciously it reminded of the of the responsibility that i carried for this film. For many people MACHETERO could be the first time they hear about the 100 plus year-old Puerto Rican colonial condition with the United States and the weight of that sat with me as i’m sure it did with everyone else (to varying degrees) who worked on the film. Not4Prophet (the actor who played Pedro Taino) and i had many conversations about this and i know that this responsibility weighted heavily on him as well. i wrestled with quite a few things in the making of this film, weighed down by the history, weighed down by the fact that this story had not been told in this way before.

When i decided to talk about the issue of Puerto Rico’s colonization by the United States i decided to do it in a film. When i set out to make MACHETERO i felt the same way that Scorsese felt. The world needed to know about the Puerto Rican colonial situation, they need to hear it and understand it and see it and cinema was the best way to do this. i think that making a film is only the beginning of the conversation and that those who watch it are continuing that conversation. i know that the conversation continues past the roll of the credits and spills into the streets and seeps into the collective consciousness and one of the things that i’m very proud of is that because of MACHETERO people are talking about the Puerto Rican colonial condition. Whether or not people like the film or agree with the views it presents people have better understanding of what’s going on because i chose to use cinema to communicate these very complex ideas.

My scrappy little film made on the frayed edges of a shoestring is changing consciousness because cinema is more than a business, it’s art and art is the struggle to express and share the human condition with others. Cinema is the best way to seep into the collective consciousness. If you don’t believe me, ask Martin Scorsese…

“People have to start talking to know more about other cultures and to understand each other.”  – Martin Scorsese

PS – Happy personal new year Marty…

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100 Fires


100 Fires by vagabond ©
100 Fires by vagabond ©

100 fires
(for Camilo Cienfuegos)
February 6, 1932 – October 28, 1959

we fight today
so we can dance tomorrow

we reject this history that marginalizes us
we prefer to rewrite it with ourselves as the heroes
the bullets flying past our heads
headlong into the danger without hesitation

we fight today
so we can drink tomorrow

the fear kept us compliant
but the joy of defiance is intoxicating
as we charge death now with a smile
awake in knowing

we fight today
so we can tell the stories tomorrow

and this new found courage
sparks a doubt that lights 100 fires
and burns down everything
that ever stood in our way

we fight today
so we can love tomorrow

100 fires to remind us of what was
and what could be
the phoenix of the future burns bright
in the ashes of the past

we fight today
so we can laugh tomorrow

100 fires burning a hole
where our uncertainty resides
the embers floating upward
carried on the smoke of our oppressors bones

– vagabond ©

Shortlink: http://wp.me/p1eniL-1ww

MACHETERO PRODUCTION STILLS


If you haven’t seen my film MACHETERO yet, maybe this collection of production stills will pique your interest…

Shortlink: http://wp.me/p1eniL-1t4

 

The Liberation Day Tapes


[vimeo 107782689 w=600&h=446]

The genome of my six-time international award-winning feature film MACHETERO can be mapped right back to the NYC hardcore Puerto Rican punk band RICANSTRUCTION and their first album Liberation Day. When i write i often build a soundtrack to use as an emotional roadmap to guide me through the construction of the script. i often see songs as short stories or reinterpret them as short stories and i take those short stories and try to include them in my writing process.

MACHETERO is a film about terrorism and terrorists and how those terms are defined and by whom. The script was written a year after the terrorist events of September 11, 2001. i was waiting for a more nuanced analysis of those events to take place on a larger scale but they never did and so i wrote the script for MACHETERO and decided to explore those issues in a film. The terrorist attacks on September 11th, 2001 were polarizing and so referencing them in the script seemed counterproductive so i decided to use the struggle for Puerto Rico’s independence and the use of violence in that struggle as a means of liberation to talk about terrorism and terrorists.

[vimeo 75167575 w=600&h=338]

RICANSTRUCTION’s Liberation Day was a concept album based around the Puerto Rican independence struggle. So when i was looking for music to inspire my scriptwriting for MACHETERO i was immediately drawn to Liberation Day. The songs from Liberation Day started to insinuate themselves into the script and they eventually became a part of the structure of the film.

At the end of the final sound mix for MACHETERO my friend and fellow filmmaker Omar came by and brought his camera to interview Arturo and Joseph Rodriguez about how Liberation Day came into being. Artie and Joey talk about how RICANSTRUCTION came about and how the concept for Liberation Day took shape. Arturo and Joseph talk about the ideas and the creation of each song and afterward there is the corresponding scene from MACHETERO.

Liberation Day by RICANSTRUCTION
Liberation Day by RICANSTRUCTION

RICANSTRUCTION’s Liberation Day is available on iTunes and i highly recommend picking it up. You can hear all the influences of Jazz, Funk, Salsa, Hip hop, Reggae and Merengue placed into a hardcore punk setting in the music of RICANSTRUCTION. The rest of their catalog – the EP Abu Jamal and their 2nd album Love + Revolution are also on iTunes.

You can watch The Liberation Day Tapes on the Vimeo On Demand page for MACHETERO. The Liberation Day Tapes are part of a collection of extra videos that give some background information on the film and that are free to watch. There is also a radio interview i did with Chuck D about the film and an interview i did with Sam Greenlee the author and co-screenwriter of The Spook Who Sat By The Door. There is also a scene from the film featuring former US held Puerto Rican political prisoner of war Dylcia Pagan who plays a pivotal role in the film.

Six Time International Award Winning Film MACHETERO On Vimeo On Demand
Six Time International Award Winning Film MACHETERO On Vimeo On Demand

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