Depictions of Community in Humacao, Puerto Rico – Gabriela Rivera ’20

The community of Mariana in Humacao, Puerto Rico is a neighborhood of winding roads through the foothills of the rainforest. This summer I spent two weeks carrying out ethnographic research for my senior thesis in Humacao. For my thesis I am interested in the way that the community of Mariana responded to the destruction and stress in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. Throughout my trip I found artistic expression in several different ways being used to represent the voices of Puerto Ricans in this small community. The following collection includes photos of the murals, paintings, mosaics and land art that have been created and installed at a community center to tell the story of the history and resiliency of this community.

Above is a mosaic that displays the motto of the community, Gloria a las manos que trabajan, or “Glory to the hands that work.” A local art teacher designed and carried out this project with her students. It shows the pride that the neighborhood has for their hard work and the origin of this value in their history as a community centered on sugar production.

After the hurricane, a visiting artist painted murals of famous Puerto Ricans, such as the poet Luis Lloréns Torres, alongside life sized murals of the people who live in Humacao. The walls celebrate the people that form this community as well as those artists and writers that inspire them. 

Another artist is creating land art at the community center. This building used to be a school that was abandoned by the government and subsequently reclaimed by the organization that runs the center. When viewed from up above, the visitor can see the traditional Taíno symbols of the coquí (right), which is a Puerto Rican frog, and the symbol for water (left). 

Throughout my time in Mariana I found that the integration of art into the walls and grounds of the space meant that everywhere I walked I was thinking about the history, composition and vision of the community. These depictions are a reminder of where they came from and for whom they are building a better future. 

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