As a child growing up, I only knew of a beautiful Puerto Rico, one with weekends spent at the beach of Dorado, hikes through El Yunque, and grandma’s cooking. I knew nothing of the dark history of the relationship between the United States and the island. Nor did I know that when, as an adult, I began looking into the tragic effects of that history on my very own family, I would be warned more than once to be careful who I spoke with and what use I made of the information I discovered. Apparently it could still be dangerous to look too closely into the events concerning the Nationalist in Puerto Rico.
It Wasn’t Our Choice: The Untold Histories Between Puerto Rico and the United States, Pop Up show by (me) Nayda Cuevas was an event that encouraged conversation about the creative process and journey that I embarked to uncover my family’s history. My soon to be released book, PUERTO ameRICAN is the artistic result in response to the historical findings and tells this story that has been hidden for so long. But rather than a general history, I introduces viewers to this period in PR and US relations through my personal narrative and artwork, which bring alive the actual players in the drama that occurred during Puerto Rico’s Nationalist movement in the 1930s and 1940s.
|Rafael Ortiz Pacheco 1936|
I think about Angel Ramos Torres (my great grandfather) relationship with Ortiz Pacheco. They were compadres and in my search I could not find any information on Ortiz Pacheco after the attempted arrest in 1936. Historians note that after a year he returned to the island with no charges pending and was able to continue practicing law and become a judge in the town of Ponce. At a time of persecution and violence, fear and secrecy had been burned in the Puerto Ricans collective psyche. I suspect all of Ortiz Pacheco’s records were removed by the FBI as part of a deal he made to be an informant, how else would he be able to continue practicing law in PR?