A report by Melissa Cruz for The Weekly Journal.
In recent years, myriad expressions of art have taken over the streets in Puerto Rico, not only to transform marginalized communities, but also to convert unused spaces into tourist attractions of international relevance. In turn, these initiatives have been an important part of the municipalities’ economic development.
Even amid the pandemic, when options for internal tourism are limited by the health protocols in place to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, muralist art is an alternative for families who want to explore the island. Yes, leaving their homes with their loved ones to take a trip and alleviate the stress of day-to-day life, but without risking their health, because the idea is to admire the murals from the comfort and safety of their vehicles.
Public art movements have always been present in Puerto Rico. However, the wave of urban art festivals that began in 2011 with “Santurce es Ley” and other initiatives promoted on social media have helped elevate this artistic activity.
Although many municipalities in Puerto Rico have an urban art route, at THE WEEKLY JOURNAL, we have taken on the task of designing another as an alternative to making the most of your family road trip, and we share it below:
Loíza is Color
When it comes to urban art, it is impossible not to include the Capital of Tradition.
Loíza is a picturesque town where culinary art, painting, crafts and music are part of its flag. Also, for years urban art has adorned the entrance to the town and the different communities.
In March 2019, the Miguel Fuentes Pinet Park became the canvas of the Monument Art initiative, with which a dozen Puerto Rican artists of international caliber reflected their works on the entrance and the walls that surround it. The Loiceño artist and creator of the initiative, Celso González, participated in this revitalization project, along with David Zayas, Alejandro Rodríguez, Grace Montalvo, Daniel Lind, Bik Ismo, Don Rimx, Paola Carrasquillo, Samuel Lind and Kevin The Creator.
Among the works that stand out is the image of Miguel Fuentes, who was a Puerto Rican Major League player, in homage to the Cocoteros de Loíza of Double A baseball, among other cultural displays of the town.
Another recently acquired work in the town—which is something to talk about and attracting visitors— are the huge chairs painted with the Puerto Rican flag located in the Piñones area.
So, in addition to enjoying the good gastronomy of Loíza —with all the precautionary measures of sanitary security— you cannot leave Loíza without delighting in the creations of visual artists such as Samuel Lind.
The latter has a workshop described by many as “a mystical place” that contains history, culture and tradition in all its splendor. The place is also home to the painter and sculptor from Loíza, but you must make an appointment to see his work (787-876-1040).
‘Tierra y Luz’ at Las Piedras
In December 2019, the Rivera de Las Piedras neighborhood joined the macro-mural project with a mosaic pattern painted in striking colors that the artist Samuel González Rodríguez and the Pintalto initiative started in Manatí, under the name of Color Esperanza in the Tierra Nueva community. In total, there are four macro-murals with this pattern, the remaining two being Brisa Tropical in Yauco —as part of the Yaucromatic 2 project—and Amanecer Borincano in Aguadilla.
The Pintalto project in Las Piedras was christened “Tierra Luz.” It includes 35 residences and 14 murals, one of them in homage to the stone craftsman Eduardo Nieves, by the artist David Zayas.
All these works are part of the route that begins in the public square of Las Piedras and includes the old Town Hall of the so-called City of Artisans – founded in 1942 – as well as a majestic evangelical church. As in previous macro-murals, the project was led by artists and volunteers from the local community.
The Salvador Abreu Vega building, also known as La Casona, in Humacao exhibits the artistic piece “Fiesta Humacaeña” by artist Ángel Vega Santana. It consists of a mural that highlights the figure of Cacique Jumacao, the coat of arms of the City Council of the Gray City, among other representative elements of the culture and traditions of Humacao.
In addition to this mural, described as a “pictorial poem,” in Humacao, the Junquito mural also stands out. The latter is a community project that shows prints from the municipality, such as the Dulce Nombre of Jesús Cathedral, Victoria Theater, Angelito Peña Plaza Art Center, images of the countryside, beaches and a variety of other pieces of urban art that have been presented in previous editions of “Humacao Grita,” an urban art event.
If you visit Humacao, you can also take a tour of the Efraín Archilla Diez Natural Reserve (along PR-3 road) or the Luis Muñoz Rivera recreation plaza—which dates back to 1963—and appreciate the local cathedral.
You can also visit the Plaza del Bicentenario, where the monument to Cacique Jumacao and the Plaza del Mercado Wilfredo Cuadrado Sánchez are located and, of course, enjoy the tasty products of local businesses.
‘Estampas de Yabucoa’
This is a colorful mural created in 2016 by plastic artists Brenda Montañez and Julio Mojica, which presents the image of the first Catholic church of the town, the Roig Central, the cane chopper, “Ruinas de la Hacienda Lucía,” the Boulevard del Puerto Bandera and the shield, among other prints that present the history of the town of Yabucoa.
The mosaic, located on Catalina Morales Street, is one of the largest of its kind in Puerto Rico: it measures 240 feet long by 10 feet high and uses over 13,600 six-inch by six-inch tiles, which were carefully cut.
The assembly of the monumental mosaic counted on the collaboration of students and volunteer residents. The Sugar Town also has another variety of murals in the urban area, in the Market Square and in the La Pandora sector.
Currently, artist Brenda Montañez is working on a new mural, on a smaller scale, in front of the public square and the town’s Catholic church.