Vandalized Murals Spark Outrage in Santurce
Within the last week a series of vandalisms have occurred on new and old murals in the community of Santurce, Puerto Rico. It all started last Friday when the first mural, a work dedicated to deceased Puerto Rican composer and salsa singer Ismael Rivera, appeared to have been vandalized the night before. The first person to notice this was the late singer’s sister Ivelisse Rivera, head of the Ismael Rivera Foundation, whose headquarters are located on the same street as the mural, Ismael Rivera St., at the artist’s former home. Ivelisse claims that the destruction of the mural, which was painted 25 years ago, could be due to a recent property feud that had begun in April regarding the land where the mural was located.
The wall on which the mural was painted, now torn down, was located directly across the street from the foundation’s headquarters. In an attempt to clean up the neighborhood, the foundation planned on buying the abandoned piece of property and renovating it. When they first began work on the decaying structure they ran into a slight problem, three horses, which didn’t seem to belong to anybody, had settled on the small piece of land. As they thought about how to deal with the horse’s situation an individual appeared claiming to be the owner.
Shouting insults and making death threats the man said he would paint over the mural dedicated to Ismael Rivera if anyone tried to remove his horses from where they were. The matter was taken to court and the man was sentenced to rebuild a small fence he had torn down during the initial dispute. The individual seemed apologetic in court and claimed he had every intention of going through with his sentence. Ivelisse says that shortly after the hearing she returned to find that the fence had not been fixed and the mural had been vandalized. She continues to state that she is not accusing the man with whom she had a dispute of being the perpetrator, but she will not forget that he made the original threat to destroy the work of art.
This was the first in a series of acts of vandalism that has sparked an outrage among residents of the island. Four days after the Ismael Rivera mural was ruined security cameras captured footage of an individual walking up to another mural, paint brush and paint bucket in hand, and painted something over it. The morning after this footage was captured several murals in Santurce, created as part of the ‘Los muros hablan’ event held in the neighborhood last year, appeared with crosses, white lines, and religious messages scribbled across them. The works that were partially destroyed, include, but are not limited to, works by Mexican artist Miguel Mejía, better known as ‘Neuzz’; the duo ‘La Pandilla’, made up of Puerto Rican artists Alexis Ríos and Juan Fernandez, Puerto Rican artist Sofía Maldonado, and Belgian artist Roa.
The mural by Neuzz was a tribute to Pedro Albizu Campos, a famous figure in the Puerto Rican independence movement, and whom Mejías considers “the last liberator of America.” The collaborative work by La Pandilla was that of Puerto Rican boxer Carlitos Colón, a very popular figure in the islands wrestling community. Alexis Diaz’s solo work depicted a skull wearing a straw hat with a Puerto Rican flag wrapped around it and several other local symbols and landmarks included.
It seems that this is not just a recent occurrence, as noted by local artist and co-organizer of the ‘Los muros hablan’ festival, Celso Gonzalez. He says that one of his paintings was vandalized around eight months ago in a similar manner. At first, he felt that it was a reaction to his work’s controversial theme, his questioning of existentialism, but after what has happened, he believes it is more of a direct attack on the event he helped organize.
But this act of vandalism has not been subject merely to vocal criticism. Urban artist Enrique “Asian” Arce has taken it upon himself to get revenge. Asia has decided, the unidentified vandal, needs a bit of his own medicine. Using the image captured by the security cameras, which spread immediately through various social networks, Asian created a wheat paste and went about posting this picture on all the areas where the murals were located and around the entire community of Santurce.
As the general public and artists alike continue to call for this vandal to be brought to justice, it is only a matter of time before another incident occurs. As one resident of the street where the Ismael Rivera’s mural used to be located commented to reporters, “If the folks who are looking for him around here happen to find him, well I don’t need to explain to you what’s going to happen.”
Source: El Nuevo Día/ Primera Hora
Photos: Facebook/ Los Muros Hablan