portfolio > Cuba + Puerto Rico | Invitación a Volar

Penumbra de la Noche (Gloom of Night)
&
Torres de Control (José, Luis, Ronald)
Penumbra de la Noche (Gloom of Night)
&
Torres de Control (José, Luis, Ronald)
2013

Appropriated photographs

Dimensions variable

This series of six appropriated images takes the exhibition’s title, An Invitation to Fly, literally, looking at the subtle ways in which the systems of travel and communication are permeated by U.S. interventionist elements.

In Penumbra de la Noche (Gloom of Night), a phrase borrowed from the U.S. Postal Service’s creed is used in order to invoke the sense that something is being obscured from view. In this case, the artist was attracted by the immediate familiarity of these buildings’ architecture, only to discover upon closer scrutiny that they were U.S. postal institutions on the island of Puerto Rico (Caguas, Quebradillas, Guayama)—lacking virtually all aesthetic associations with that particular culture. The complicity of the U.S. Postal Service in celebrating the country’s colonial legacy stretching from Alaska down to the Caribbean can be further explored in the case of artist Rockwell Kent and his 1935 commission to illustrate "the wide range of the United States mail service--from the Arctic to the Tropics".

In Torres de Control (José, Luis, Ronald), the air traffic control towers at major airports in Cuba (José Martí, Havana), Puerto Rico (Luis Muñoz Marín, San Juan) and the U.S. (Ronald Reagan, Washington, D.C.) are used not only as symbols of the interconnectedness between Modernist architecture and patriarchal patrimony in those areas, but also of the ways in which the experience of traveling, due to prohibitive travel costs/measures and patronizingly inefficient routes, becomes another means by which the Caribbean is kept isolated from itself and from the rest of Latin America.

Examples of this can be seen in the Cold War-type travel restrictions long ago imposed by the U.S. and Cuba on their citizens who desired to visit the other country. Recently, there have been landmark exceptions to both of these policies, as the U.S. Treasury Department approved Jay-Z and Beyoncé’s anniversary trip to the island, and Cuba allowed dissident blogger Yoani Sánchez to leave the country and visit the U.S. as part of a multi-country tour. Many remain skeptical, however, if the adjustments made for these high-profile cases will be felt amongst the vast majority of the people. In the case of Puerto Rico, it should suffice to point out that an individual wishing to travel from San Juan to nearby Caracas, Venezuela, is obligated to make a connecting flight via Panama City (about 1,500 miles out of the way)—a testament to the continued dependencies imposed by the U.S. on its “former” colonies.