Puerto Rican painter Armig Santos reflects on photographs of a procession honoring David Sanes Rodriquez, a civilian employee of the former U.S. Navy facility on the Puerto Rican island of Vieques. Rodriquez was killed by practice bombs in 1999. Protests over his death and the military presence are thought to have served as an antecedent to wider protests in summer of 2019.
Protests of 2019 came as a result of outrage over the governor of Puerto Rico’s insensitivity to the lives of his citizens and as a result of government and systemic failure in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria (September 2017).
Procesión en Vieques III is part of a the Whitney Museum of Art’s exhibition, “No existe un mundo poshuracán.” The title comes from a poem by Raquel Salas Rivera’s book of poems, while they sleep (under the bed is another country. As explained in the exhibition,
[Translations of the title] grapple with the fact that the real disaster is the thought of its perpetuity, the belief that Puerto Ricans are– and will continue to be–caught in the wake of Maria. But there is another way to make sense of the verse, one that empowers those living through the reality of this post-hurricane moment. The phrase, “no existe un mundo poshuracán” rejects the world altogether in favor of new modes of political existence. Conceived in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Maria, Salas Rivera’s verse stakes a claim for artists to be stewards of imagining a different future.”from museum notes in the Exhibition
I love the painting by Armig Santos because it shows the power of a cross that is shared in community. It is not one person’s cross. It does not belong to a hero. Instead, the cross leads forward, through hope, come what may. In protest, the cross is empowered more than if were mounted on a wall or worn as jewelry. The cross in Santos’ painting holds within it a post-Resurrection sense of hope and possibility.