by Jan Susler
Throughout their long years in prison, Carlos Alberto and Oscar, like their compañeros released in 1999, in the thirst for the need to express themselves uncensored, found such expression through art. Never having painted, drawn, or worked with ceramics before prison, they taught themselves the skills, and patiently worked to hone them.
Their humility and love of family and “pueblo” is seen in the list of who owns their work: sisters, daughters, and nieces, as well as community institutions, particularly Chicago’s Puerto Rican Cultural Center, which they helped to found in the mid-1970s. The “whole” says to us, unequivocally, “We are alive and kicking,” that even 25 years of prison cannot rob us of our culture, cannot extinguish our commitment to our people and the right of the people determine our own destiny, cannot deny us our Puerto Rican identity.
Jan Susler, an attorney with the People’s Law Office in Chicago, has worked with the Puerto Rican Political Prisoners and the Independence Movement since 1980. She was lead counsel in efforts leading to the 1999 Presidential commutation and continues to be legal counsel for Carlos Alberto Torres and Oscar López Rivera.