Planting Seeds in Hollow Spaces, Puerto Rico.

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Melissa Mya in La Perla, San Juan, Puerto Rico.

As a visual artist, my work is directly affected by what I see. I do not draw inspiration from fantasy or imagination, but rather from what I  find right in front of me. Hence, whenever I travel and set myself to work on a series, I allow the environment to guide me into building the narrative of the series. While at times, that leads me to create joyful images, other times I’m lead to harsh realties, difficult to take in. On those occasions, I can’t avoid portraying the things that move and affect me, even if they can be shocking. This was the case when I traveled recently back home to Puerto Rico.
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Carla Curet | Crash Boat beach, Aguadilla, PR.

We decided to spend the holidays in Puerto Rico. Both my wife and I agreed that we needed some time away from Manhattan. We booked one way tickets and concurred to not  even think about the return until we were really ready to come back. As a result we ended up staying over a month and a half. This is the longest time we’ve been back home since we left the island eight years ago. It was extremely refreshing to be with family and friends for such a long time.
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Laura Valentín. | Abandoned hangar in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

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Faviana Quiles | Ancient building of the Ballets de San Juan.

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Vianca E. Palacios | Remaining facade of a house in Ceiba, Puerto Rico.

However, it also made me come face to face with a reality Puerto Ricans encounter everyday, a reality that dates back from before hurricane Maria. To put it in simple terms: Puerto Rico feels like it is slowly disintegrating. The infrastructure of the island is in peril. Countless buildings and homes are being left abandoned. The places I witnessed during my youth are becoming ghost towns, eaten from the inside. With their departure, the memories of our collective history also disappear.
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Katia M. Gonzalez | Abandoned building in Avenida Ponce de León.

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Faviana Quiles | Ancient building of the Ballets de San Juan.

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Edgardo Rosado | Abandoned house in Santurce, Puerto Rico.

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Pilar López | Abandoned building, Miramar, Puerto Rico.

What’s worst, is not like we are losing those spaces for newer structures which invite progress. The problem is that those spaces just lie there, empty and accumulating garbage. They slowly decompose in plain view. The sights and smells of the built up trash and debris are as piercing as they are hurtful. We are forced to see our country literally fall apart into pieces. With no one to restore these spaces, Puerto Ricans become victims of an economic and ecologic cold war that is killing them silently and softly.  It affected me and I was only there for several weeks. I honestly can’t imagine the emotional impact these images have on my fellow Puerto Ricans every day.
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Melissa Mya | Condemned Community Center. La Perla, San Juan, Puerto Rico.

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María Alejandra | Abandoned house, Río Piedras, Puerto Rico.

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Omar Román | Santurce, Puerto Rico.

 The reasons for the downfall of the country are plenty. You can find numerous debates everywhere as to why, how, and who’s at fault. But for those who are living among such chaos, the pointing of fingers is useless. Debates and studies do nothing if there’s no action. The situation just keeps getting worst, and it’s doesn’t get easier living in such an environment.
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Katia M. González | UBS bank building, La Milla de Oro. Hato Rey, Puerto Rico.

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Tania Lozada | Calle Loíza, Santurce, Puerto Rico.

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Carla Curet | Abandoned house, Arecibo, Puerto Rico.

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Laura Valentín. | Abandoned hangar in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

With these series I want to take you to see those spaces. Schools, theaters, gas stations, community centers and homes are now rotten and decomposed. The places people used to work, play, listen to music and enjoy each other’s company are now empty. Together with the dancers, we occupied and reclaimed those spaces for a few moments. Perhaps attempting a farewell, or better yet planting seed for a hopeful tomorrow. The dancers’ movements echoed through the withering walls. The dust flew up with their steps, as if awaking the spirits of those who once inhabited these spaces.
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Camila M. Rosado | Santurce, Puerto Rico.

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Vianca E. Palacios | Community Basketball Court. Ceiba, Puerto Rico.

Normally, I tend to end my write ups on an uplifting note. But the truth is that I’m having a hard time digesting what I saw. I am hurting inside and it’s been quite difficult for me to come back and write about this without coming forward as pessimistic. While it was deeply gratifying to share the holidays with family, it was just as heart wrenching to see what they have to put up with every day. Yet as artists, sometimes our duty is to bring forth the pain we feel inside and hope we can help heal others by airing the wounds and sharing the grief. Together.
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Edgardo Rosado | Calle Cerra, Santurce, Puerto Rico.

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Carla Curet | Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico.

Special Thanks to Ivan “el Goldo” for helping me discover new spaces in La Perla. To my brother for your inspiration and your research into Puerto Rico’s national debt crisis. Finally To Fujifilm and Color Resource Center New York for your support in making this project possible. (This series was photographed entirely on 35mm film.)

 

To see more images of the series visit: https://www.omarzrobles.com/Planting-seeds-Puerto-Rico-2019/n-gR7nzn/


All images and text ©2019 Omar Z Robles (unless otherwise stated). All Rights Reserved. Do not copy or use with out written consent from Omar Z Robles.

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