ASÍ SOMOS – WHO WE ARE
Friendship and curiosity mediated for me to attend the presentation on the book Asi Somos: Who We Are. A title that redundantly declares our identity in two languages and complies entirely with the subject matter of Burundanga and immediately appeals with such provocative affirmations touching the essence of our being.
The project is due to the initiative of Ada Nivia López, a Boricua from Arecibo who migrates at an early age to Chicago, where she received her education, practiced and excelled as a teacher and community leader. She is responsible for a public and private iniciative to benefit the education system of the city and the first Latina to be elected to the Governing Board of the University of Illinois. No doubt due to her keen intelligence and gentle manners, her calm delivery and affectionate persuasion.
It should not come a surprise that she convinced photographer Mark Joseph, known for his corporate images (published in Newsweek, Fortune and The New YorK Times, with exhibitions in Chicago, Frankfort, Montreal, Paris and New York) as collaborator. Fellow traveler in a journey that spans ten years and visits to distant lands to capture a glimpse of what we are. A project where the photographer approaches the human subject to render images of singular beauty.
Seven years into the project Antonio Martorell joins them to do the design. Trained in diplomacy, painter, graphic artist, writer, theatre man, academician, radio and tv personality, without a doubt the most multi-faceted figure in our Burndanga, with all credit due. If you have ever seen his graphics you will recognize it where ever you find it, to be seen in many museums and galleries. The same thing happens with his use of words. It is he who begins to define what the book is about and what it is not, using the language of photography with the lens as guide of what is selectively included and excluded. His design of the book confirms his well earned reputation.
The originator of the project declared her motives of nostalgia, and the intent to capture the values and emotions in images that give meaning to our identity, than evoke emotions that help to reconcile and console. Images that nourish the need and pride of who we are, That wide breath of being Boricua, no matter if you are here or there. La mancha del platano (the stain of the plantain) is immune to geography and frontiers, and responds to una bandera (one flag)
The book tells a story in its sequence of images, and each picture is at least a short story. After a brief introduction, they immerse the eye in greens that communicates the exuberant warmth of the tropics, it says Nature, it says maturity; turning the page we see youth in rapid movement capturing the attention and inciting the anticipation of something special. The content is divided in three themes of images and an epilogue where the author provided details about the photos.
The first part explores crowds, in dialogue with the intimacy of individuals, some well known, others not. The second part focuses on horizons, the faces of the ones who left, and those who have stayed. Puertoricans in San Juan and Honolulu, Ponce, Chicago and Orlando absorbed in their tasks and emotions. The third part touches on music and dance, so substantial to who and what we are. From bomba to ballet, from cuatro to violin, not leaving out the guiro, celebrating the passions that move us as individuals, and that we celebrate as a group.
The Zocotroco is a sensitive animal, easily touched by affection and solidarity. ASÍ SOMOS generates the commotion only stirred by patriotism, exposed in the most sublime manner. An eloquent testimonial of the best of what we are.
Copyright 2015 by José Umpierre.