San Juan, Puerto Rico: The Art of Community


The Commonwealth of Puerto Rico has been a playground for US citizens for decades. Many travelers from the “mainland” who venture to Puerto Rico for the beaches, food and to join cruises to other Caribbean locales don’t realize the unique relationship the US has with their fellow citizens residing there. San Juan is at the heart of a whole range of other important contributions Puerto Rico has made in US history including things like art, sports, music and cuisine.
Craig Martin and Earl Bridges explore the cobblestone streets of the Old City (Viejo San Juan) and the vibrancy of the artists who live there. Sculptor Ana Rosa Rivera talks about her work in Viejo San Juan’s poorest community, La Perla, and how her and others have used art to enhance the lives of those living there. Along with Ana Rosa, Craig’s brother-in-law and Ana’s husband, Charles Juhász-Alvarado, tours Craig and Earl around Contrafuertes. Contrafuertes is a museum right in the heart of Viejo San Juan within blocks from historic El Morro Fort, the first Cathedral in the Americas and is on famed festival street, Calle San Sebastián. It is a collaborative artists driven museum where issues like LGBTQ rights and Puerto Rican identity are expressed. Artists like Freddy Mercado exhibit their work, in Freddy’s case large costumes that represent gender identity, aging and independence. Freddy collaborated with filmmaker and LGBTQ rights activist Carla Cavina and Contrafuertes on a film telling the story of spirituality, physical suffering and identity called “Fractura.” Carla explains why art and expression through film helps to make life better for people struggling with their own
personal struggles with identity.
Earl and Craig also tour through the home artist studio of Charles and Ana Rosa and learn something about what it means to struggle within the longest running colony in history, Puerto Rico. They show the work that they do in hopes of starting conversations about Puerto Rico and the relationship to the United States. Like many things in life, the issues are messy and not clean cut. But, like “Fractura” Charles and Ana’s art often presents what is broken in society in a way that doesn’t necessarily provide a solution to the brokenness. For many on the island, independence politically will still require positive interaction and collaboration with the United States. Most Puerto Ricans have tight bonds with family members living in the US and breaking those bonds isn’t part of the equation.