During the weekend of December 7th – 9th, José E. López of the PRCC traveled to Philadelphia to participate in a series of events in that City’s large Puerto Rican community. His first stop was at the Taller Puertorriqueño where he participated in a panel discussion with several of the artists who mounted a new exhibit in that center on the Puerto Rican mythical figure the “Vejigante”. His remarks framed the “Vejigante” as a representative iconic culture expression which helps to define Puerto Rico’s, and more so the Caribbean’s, syncretism – in this case, the melding of distinctive cultural elements of the African, Spanish, Moorish, Muslim, and Catholic experiences.
This exhibit features the works of various Puerto Rican artists, whose creativity has been shaped by their diasporic Puerto Rican experience. Thus, the installations relay how each artist defines the image of the “Vejigante” through their own lived reality as exiled Puerto Ricans and through their very own prism. The artist include Denny Torres from Philadelphia, La Buruquena from Abington, Pennsylvania, Maria Dominguez from New York, and Marina Gutiérrez also from New York.
On Sunday José spoke to a luncheon gathering, which was held following a service, at St. Ambrose Epicycle Church. He focuses his presentation on his brother- Oscar Lopez Rivera’s, community work in Chicago and how that work speaks to Oscar’s legacy in that city.
The next day, Monday December 9th, Jose presented to a capacity filled assembly hall at Esperanza High School. His talk focused on how Puerto Rican and Caribbean identities have been defined by maroonage practices in that region – the first globalized area of the world. There, maroon societies would forge, in the heat of resistance, a counter narrative against the systems of colonialism, slavery, racism, and plantations, which originated in that region after 1492. He also discussed how that resistance, would resonate in the revolutionary movements for independence and in the modern day struggles for self-determination, self-actualization, and self-reliance in that part of the Americas.