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El Silenciamiento (The Silencing)

Children's costume, found photograph, sound & toy rifle
Dimensions variable

Discussed during its latest installation at the Feria de Arte Sonoro de Puerto Rico by Cheryl Hartup for Visión Doble

"At the request of King Ferdinand, Castilian jurist Juan Lopez Palacios Rubios created in 1513 a written formula [the Requirement, or requerimiento] that could be used to justify the conquest of every New World tribe or empire based on the possession of Christian religious beliefs. The text made known the claims of the Spanish monarchs to dominion over New World peoples and was supposed to be read in the moments before the Spaniards rushed to attack. In this way, the language of the Requirement was not separate from the conquest but formed part of the ritual of its performance, in this case acts of bloodshed and murder."

This imperialism of speech exemplified the early era of the Spanish colonizers, which "viewed language as an essentially transparent medium of communication." The indigenous population were thought to be at fault for not understanding the meaning of these guttural sounds known as sixteenth-century Castilian, and thus were often barbarously punished for violating this unspoken "agreement"--especially in the Caribbean.

On September 23, 2005, language was once again used by a colonizing force as an instrument of power and domination over the people of Puerto Rico. By this time, the local inhabitants have become familiar with the use of Spanish, as well as the new colonial vocabulary, English--but it was the lack of communication that defined the FBI's assassination of Puerto Rican independentista Filiberto Ojeda Ríos.

The symbolic nature of their police action (orchestrated on the anniversary of El Grito de Lares), coupled with their utter failure to safely conduct an arrest warrant, enter into negotiations, or provide basic medical attention, resulted in a slow death for the Machetero, and an enormous loss for the Puerto Rican independence movement. Conquest, and the ritual of its performance, has simply changed tongues & texts--Castilian Spanish and the Bible have given way to the U.S. Constitution and the sophisticated wordplay of neoliberal political/economic pressures.

quoted text from "Failing to Marvel": Atahualpa's Encounter with the Word by Patricia Seed

first exhibited at Intromisiones Disipadas, a group show curated by Anabel Vázquez & Beto Torrens of Galería Yemayá for Santurce es Ley 4 in Puerto Rico