Interwoven Mesh of Re-existence: Craft Knowledges in Puerto Rico
This essay is rooted in place specifically in Puerto Rico. From the distance of 15 years of living outside of the archipelago, I attempt to understand how the precarity brought by multiple crises has created a moment when spaces and relations have sprung to help people survive and thrive. I reflect on the work of four Puerto Rican artists, Jorge González Santos, Javier Orfón, Zaida Goveo Balmaseda and Lulu Varona. These artists are exploring craft knowledges through which they engage and learn about the land and its history while creating a mesh of relations that expand the notions of Puerto Rican identity. Through a close look at their practices, I analyze the dialogue between the state-led projects of modernization of the 1950s and the present situation. This dialogue allows exploration of the connections between craft, crises, colonialism, and ideas of Puerto Rican identity. In the essay I move in a nonlinear way, sharing memories and sensory experiences. These are intertwined with oral interviews and historical context that present the ways these artists critically engage with ideas of the land, social relations, and history. As they explore textiles, ceramics, and straw they create networks that contribute to building systems that allow them to envision change. I define these processes as decolonial. Decoloniality is a messy, nonlinear, ongoing process through which different perspectives emerge and coexist. Furthermore, it entails a multiplicity of knowledges and a plurality of being that are essential for the creative thinking necessary for imagining possible futures for Puerto Ricans.
Puerto Rico, Craft, Colonialism, Debt Crisis, Hurricane Maria, Straw, Clay, Lacemaking, Decoloniality