by Brunilda E. García
From the silent cult of beauty, the artist also passes in silence to the reflective love of beauty and develops no less subjective and even more powerful forces in the development of practical life: physical sensitivity, intimacy, and aesthetic sensitivity, that particular form of sensitivity in which much-valued originality is enjoyed together with community and individuality. Eugenio María de Hostos
To María Haydée Beltrán with respect and gratitude…
Oscar López Rivera and Carlos Alberto Torres have served 25 years in prison. Throughout this long and unjust seclusion, the patriots made the decision to use their time, consciousness, and will to dedicate themselves to some manifestation of art with the purpose of leaping the wall of daily routine and taking part in life with a creative attitude. Many of the former political prisoners did exactly the same thing. Dylcia Pagán, Carmen Valentín, Alicia and Ida Luz Rodríguez, Edwin Cortés, Alejandrina Torres, Ricardo Jiménez, Adolfo Matos and Luis Rosa followed the route of free creation as a declaration of combat. Artistic tasks made them sprout wings to fly above the prison walls and, in that way, living a free Puerto Rico and demonstrating that prison is a form of struggle.
Art has no country, but the artist does. In our people’s history, resistance in all its faculties and functions, and our persistence in being ourselves have always been interwoven. In 1797, Jos. Campeche, our first great painter, was one of the defenders of the City during the siege by the English. Campeche understood that volunteering to defend his own was also a necessary art.
In the 19th century (1854), Daniel Rivera wrote an epic poem to Agu?eybana el Bravo which was regarded as subversive for its sharp criticism of the Spanish government. The writer from Ponce was judicially persecuted and imprisoned for this poetic crime. In 1833, Francisco Oller left pictorial statements of our social and class reality. It suffices to list the names of his paintings about historical themes, landscapes, and customs: A Beggar, Unemployed, Lunch for the Rich, Lunch for the Poor, Colón in Chains, The Wake, and others.
At the beginning of the decade of the turbulent ’70s, one-Fourth of July, Carlos Raquel Rivera, our creative genius for communicating images and a benchmark for the generations that followed, was clubbed by the police. On this occasion, they fractured one of his arms. Carlos Raquel, afflicted and immobile from the torturous pain that trapped him, told us one day that just as the painter searches for his expression through daring to break his own creative patterns; thought (referring to consciousness) worked its way toward discovering the essence of freedom.
In 1978, another Fourth of July, Pablo Marcano García and Nydia Cuevas took over the Chilean Consulate in San Juan, to demand the release of the imprisoned Nationalists and denounce the absurdity of celebrating in Puerto Rico the independence of the United States. In prison, Marcano García learned to paint from Carlos Irizarry, a renowned Puerto Rican plastic artist, who had been imprisoned for carrying out a work of conceptual art. Is art so threatening that those who produce it must be censored and imprisoned?
In 1980, another painter, Elizam Escobar, was captured as part of a clandestine movement that struggled for the independence of Puerto Rico. His work created in prison coincided with the process he had undergone as a person, artist, and Puerto Rican.
History persists in emphasizing signs. This exhibit, Not Enough Space, is an emblematic display of the wisdom and commitment of Oscar López Rivera and Carlos Alberto Torres. Aesthetics that is useful to dignity. Both artists used the appropriation of tropical colors, red, orange, yellow, the Island’s foliage green, as a talisman to maintain their profoundly Caribbean identity.
Some images are deeply moving: Oscar’s mother, our beloved and remembered Mita, seated at the sewing machine in her home in San Sebastián; one of Carlos’ pieces that seems to be autobiographical, where he sees himself crucified.
In these times, “when the agony of men fills our destiny with terror,” let us celebrate this impressive victory of our indomitable people, represented by our imprisoned patriots, Oscar López Rivera and Carlos Alberto Torres. They are warriors of the love of art and freedom, irrefutable testimony that our political star or destiny is a future toward the indispensable social justice and independence of our country.
Brunilda E. García is a member of the Human Rights Committee in Puerto Rico, a renowned playwright, dramatist, producer, and radio personality.