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¡Palo al Tiburón!
¡Palo al Tiburón!

Inkjet print
4.5 x 10 in (12 x 25 cm)

The sinking of the fishing vessel Orca, from the 1975 film Jaws, is preceded by a dramatic recounting of the USS Indianapolis, the naval cruiser that delivered critical parts for the first atomic bomb used against Japan in 1945, before it too was sunk. Those moments would bring about the end of the Pacific theater of battle that began when the U.S. was attacked at their naval occupation of Pearl Harbor in Hawaii--another victim of Teddy Roosevelt's imperialistic diplomatic legacy.

One of the earliest examples of this kind of aggressive naval expansion begins with the suspicious sinking of another battleship, the USS Maine, in Havana Harbor in 1898. While the cause or culprit behind Maine's destruction remained unclear, inflammatory "Yellow" journalists, such as William Randolph Hearst, succeeded in making the event a catalyst for U.S. intervention in the (already successful) revolutionary struggles taking place on the Spanish colony of Cuba.

What the U.S. had failed to acquire throughout the 19th century, by offering to buy Cuba from the Spanish crown, it would now obtain through a sizable amount of force and its insincere rhetoric of liberation and cooperation--"speak softly and carry a big stick”. Spoils of war for the U.S. also included Guam, the Philippines, and Puerto Rico.

A still from the final moments of the Jaws film has been manipulated by the artist--magnifying, as well, the visual similarities between that sinking trawler and the Maine.

"You furnish the pictures and I'll furnish the war."
- William Randolph Hearst

The title of the piece, roughly translated to "beat that shark with a stick!", is borrowed from the song Tiburón by Rubén Blades, which uses the metaphor of a sleepless shark to describe the continued U.S. presence in the Caribbean. The aggressive lyric, which gives this piece its name, can be read as Blades' own decolonizing revenge fantasy--a clever reworking of Teddy Roosevelt's favorite motto.