Pero jamas deshecha
(Nation left to bleed
But never undone)
-"23 de septiembre",
Julia de Burgos
Acrylic on Burlap
63" x 40"
This portrait of Machetero leader Filiberto Ojeda Rios was inspired by
the story of how he died, or rather how he was killed. The days after
he was assassinated by the FBI, I remember hearing some reports on WBAI
(NYC) on his last days. Those interviewed talked about how he was known
in Hormigueros, Puerto Rico (where he lived) as a jardinero,
always tending to the flowers in his garden. I most remember the descriptions
of how he fell from a sniper bullet to the clavicle. He fell behind his
front door, and was left there to bleed, denied medical attention by the
FBI. They described, as I later saw in photos, the blood that dripped
under the door and down the front step of his home. I got this poetic
image in my head of that blood seeping back into the ground and feeding
the flowers he had planted. With this portrait, red roses are a metaphor
for this freedom fighter's blood.
The portrait features the words of Puerto Rican Nationalist poet heroine
Julia de Burgos. The irony is that her words, "patria ensangrentada
pero jamas deshecha", come from her poem 23 de septiembre. That poem
was written decades ago in honor of the Grito de Lares Revolution. Knowing
that that day is sacred, the FBI strategically murdered Filiberto on that
very day. Many years later, Julia’s words about this day and how
despite the blood shed on this day the nation will live on, were reenergized
on September 23, 2005, the day Filiberto died.
Back to the idea of his blood feeding the flowers, I think of another
incredible excerpt from Julia's poetry. As a devout Puerto Rican Nationalist
she could never imagine turning her loyalty from Puerto Rico to the United
States, even in death. She wrote these words in a letter to her sister
Consuelo while living in NY:
Si me muero no quiero que este trágico país se tragué
Necesitan el calor de Borinquen
Por lo meno para fortalecer los gusanos de allá, no los de acá
If I die, I don’t want this tragic nation to swallow my bones
They need the warmth of Borinquen
To at least strengthen the worms over there, not the ones here.
This work was exhibited in Puerto Rico during the island's first Social
Forum at the University of Puerto Rico in Rio Piedras in the fall of 2006.
Elma Beatriz, Filiberto's partner/ widow was at the foro and was happy
with the portrait which she encouraged folks at her presentation to go
see. I'm glad she believed this image was able to do some justice to his
© Copyright 2006-2015
Yasmin Hernandez. Under no circumstances should any of the images or content
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from the artist.