[Many thanks to María Acosta Cruz for bringing this item to our attention.] Noor Mahtani (El País) describes the work of Colectivo Moriviví: “Nine women have been working for a decade with the island and diaspora communities in an urban art project that makes Boricuas speak with brushes and colors.”
On November 25, 2015, the graffiti depicting a bra and panties on a mural against [patriarchal power] got Puerto Rico talking. The initial work, on which a still unknown group intervened, showed the naked bodies of two black women, from which monarch butterflies sprung out in gushes—the same insects that migrate from frigid Canada to the mountainous forests of Mexico and are known to scientists as the species of “sleepy transformation.” This metamorphosis that survivors of gender violence also experience is what Colectivo Moriviví [the Moriviví Collective] wanted to capture in their work, “Paz para la mujer” [Peace for Women]. The censorship of the breasts and vulva generated such outrage that hundreds of women stripped naked in front of the mural in protest. “That gave another meaning to the piece,” explains Raysa R. Rodríguez García, co-founder of the project. “Art opened a much-needed debate on the island.”
This was not the only interference of the mural. Months later, she mutated again. This time for the artists who gave it life. Today, almost eight years later, on the breasts of one of the women, rests a collage that, up close, shows the history of the work with images of newspaper clippings, the activists who demonstrated in front and the graffiti itself. From a distance, the bust appears to have been pixelated. “We didn’t want to erase his story. Each work has one and this one was the reflection of a macho act, but also of a lot of demand and a debate that we had to have as a society,” says Chachi González Colón, co-founder.
Both artists, 28 and 27 years old, respectively, gave shape to the Moriviví Collective almost by chance. What began as a group of young women who wanted to create a space for themselves among the men who monopolize urban art ended up being a project of awareness and intermingling with the communities. This year they celebrate a decade of a project that defends public art as a message and artistic creation from two shores: their talent and the needs of the localities with which they work. “The idea of arriving to beautify an area is quite naive and can do a lot of damage,” González explains in a video call.
This was not the only intervention on the mural. Months later, it mutated again. This time, it was by the artists who gave it life. Today, almost eight years later, on the breasts of one of the women, there is a collage that, seen up close, shows the trajectory of the work with images from newspaper clippings, the activists who demonstrated in front of it, and the mural itself. From a distance, the bust appears to have been pixelated. “We didn’t want to erase its history. Each work has one, and this one was the reflection of an act of [toxic masculinity], but also of necessary demands and a debate that we had to have as a society,” says Chachi González Colón, co-founder.
To arrive, to paint and leave does not work for them. Because of this, each mural they paint is the result of several workshops with the residents who want to participate (“and who are the ones who will see the design every day”), a brainstorming between what they want to tell the island and the visual conceptualization of both groups. The artists that make up the collective, financed by private and public entities, spend about seven days in the communities until they finish each piece.
The last one was the mural “Jájome Bajo,” made together with the community of that name, in the municipality of Cayey, in the mountains of Puerto Rico. This community, located at the basin of the eponymous river [Río Jájome], was strongly affected by Hurricane María. Around 78 homes were destroyed and the only way out for their neighbors was to migrate—most of them to the United States. For a week, when the 25 people who participated in the workshops began to think about what they wanted to represent, there was one word that was repeated several times: resilience. How to capture resistance in an image that would make sense for an entire people?
After several reflection sessions, the result was a pair of hands planting an oak tree in front of the Jájome River, a characteristic species of the area and also an archetype of strength. In the branches of this tree, a pitirre [gray kingbird]—the emblematic bird of the island—observes a hawk flying over the area. These are two deeply rooted symbols that represent the relationship between the United States and Puerto Rico. The pitirre, known as guatibirí by the Taínos, is a small bird that confronts the hawk without hesitation—sometimes even without provocation. “And sometimes he even wins,” adds Rodríguez with a laugh. This image is a nod to the independence movement and to a popular saying on the island: “Cada guaraguao tiene su pitirre” [Every guaraguao (Puerto Rican broad-winged hawk; Buteo platypterus brunnescens) finds its pitirre (gray kingbird).] [. . .]
[Photo above: Raysa R. Rodríguez García (left) and Chachi González (right) with a model for Colectivo Moriviví.]
Excerpts translated by Ivette Romero. [Translator’s note: I chose to use “patriarchal power” and “toxic masculinity” instead of machismo and macho.]
For full article (in Spanish) with a great video and additional photos, see https://elpais.com/america-futura/2023-01-31/morivivi-las-muralistas-que-pintan-las-luchas-de-puerto-rico.html