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Alma Boricua: Gods, Santos and Ancestors



2000
Mixed media installation
Cornell Council for the Arts Group Exhibition, Johnson Museum of Art, Ithaca, NY

This site-specific installation was created for a group exhibit sponsored by the Cornell Council for the Arts. It is divided into three parts, each with a shrine set up to examine and pay homage to the three dominant ancestries of Puerto Rican culture. They are the Taino, the African and the Spanish. This installation serves to recognize each as an integral part of the Puerto Rican system of spiritual beliefs, but more specifically it pays homage to the female spiritual forces that are dominant within each of these cultures. Yemaya is placed in the center of the exhibition since she represents the ocean. Her painting represents her natural element and from the steps placed beneath her painting, sand and seashells spill out, covering the foreground of the entire installation. This sand represents the aesthetic unifying element of the installation as well as the conceptual unifying element of the three races represented in this exhibit. To the right of Yemaya is the Virgen de Regla, representing Spain. The Spaniards traveled across the ocean to the Caribbean to settle in islands such as Puerto Rico. It was also through these waters that they brought the Africans to the Americas. In arriving at Puerto Rico, they encountered the Tainos, the original inhabitants of the island who were skilled fisherman and navigators of their local seas. Thus the sand serves as testament to the encounters of these three races that joined to create the Puerto Rican culture.