Opportunities to Contact our Artistic Culture in the West

By: Paola B. Rodríguez Borrés

Passion and love for dance and plastic arts played as the protagonists of a press conference, a professorand two recognized art students discussed the potential of art in western Puerto Rico.

At the conference named Local Arts Scenery held in Chardón Building of the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez (UPRM) Lorainne Rodríguez, an UPRM graduate student, expressed that apart from the cultural decadence, art is not going to become extinct in Puerto Rico because they’re passionate artists that are willing to embrace and share their knowledge. When it comes to local arts the extinction is mentioned because “it is an open secret that there is fraud in the art market, speculation and abuse of artists.”

Professor Baruch Vergara was born and raised in Puebla, Mexico and still he admires Puerto Rican engraving.

Professor Baruch Vergara was born and raised in Puebla, Mexico and still he admires Puerto Rican engraving.

As a college student and member of the UPRM dance team Andrea Méndez agreed “art gives us the chance in ways math or science cannot. Art is a global language, it is not only poetry but dance or paint, among others.”

On the other hand, a engraving professor at UPRM, Baruch Vergara explained how depreciated art has become in the western area, so much that the only gallery that is known it’s declining because people do not support the expositions.

Vergara explained how the gallery located at UPRM hasn’t been used to its full potential the last couple
of years. Since it was commissioned to him, he tried to look for solutions in order to promote the gallery: creating a webpage, trying to make expositions with other universities, among other initiatives. He also encourages students to keep the gallery open beyond the day of an art exposition inauguration.

Méndez contended “Our generation values art, but not as much as they should”. Also, she stated that to promote college student attendance to art events is essential to keep entrance fees low.

Moreover, Lorainne explained how Ballet Escenario, a famous dance academy is the west, has contributed to the arts scenery in Mayagüez by offering a job to people interested in learning how to dance but who cannot afford it. This way they can earn the lessons by teaching others what they already know; that was how she started working with them as a salsa teacher.

In terms of the culture, Vergara highlighted that the visual arts competes with many technological or cultural factors. He also explained that students despise their Puerto Rican tradition which is field with many artistic inheritance. He continued to emphasize how Puerto Rican engraving and serigraphy is highly distinguished across the globe but still adolescents don’t take pride on that but for other irrelevant aspects to the country’s culture.

“Whenever they (people) say ‘culture’, they tell you foods and arts, they don’t say ‘culture’: science (…)we are not going to form as individuals only using technology, science and engineering, we form (ourselves) as individuals also using art” Andrea added.

Both, Lorainne Rodríguez and Andrea Méndez are students at UPRM and dance performers.

Both, Lorainne Rodríguez and Andrea Méndez are students at UPRM and dance performers.

On the other hand, Lorainne said that although Ballet Escenario was created with a classical music focus, the most accepted type of dance in the west is salsa.

This apparent art decadence is trying to be fixed creating different iniciatives like “a workshop where anyone can learn drawing, watercolor, design or architectural design portfolio, watch documentaries and study art books” at Mayagüez, as expressed in Mayagüez Sabe A Mango, a local news blog.

Andrea and Lorainne that despite the fact that they study chemistry and microbiology, they appreciate the beauty of art, how it can make you release stress and how it is equally important to science because “it makes the society work as a whole including the diversity that we all have,” as Lorainne elaborated.

The public that attended the press conference commented how art should not be judged or rejected, but embraced as a symbol of how culturally rich our society is. They also emphasized how art is a very important component of a person’s development and perspective.

 

University students organize press conference to discus economic and social crisis of Puerto Rico

By: Bianca Aponte

       On Tuesday November 5th 2013 a group of students from the University of Puerto Rico-Mayagüez carried out a press conference to discus social inequality and economic crisis of Puerto Rico. Three panelists attended this event: Michael González, Javier Smith and José Guillermo Santiago; Edwin Irizarry Mora participated via e-mail. The main points discussed in the press conference were mostly centered on exchanging ideas on where the government should take action to improve the actual crisis, life of the marginalized sectors, activist movements and the panelist’s personal perspectives on themes of concern.

“The economic crisis and social inequality in Puerto Rico has retrogressed and has become the main problem this island has faced in recent years”, said Santigo. Orlando Sotomayor and Eduardo Kicinski, both economy professors at the UPRM, say that 20% of the population in Puerto Rico, who is considered the wealthiest, receives 65% of annual income stating that 80% of Puerto Ricans are living in poverty and in the middle class.

The discussion panel opened with the UPRM sociology professor Michel González, was asked questions and refused to respond or would respond with short words. Activist Javier Smith, stated that the major obstacle activist face while working on the marginalized sectors are when jobs are done in parallel with the government, whose work can have better and measurable results, however do not touch deeply and hide problems. In an article for USA Today Alan Gomez said, “the island of just 3.7 million residents owed a staggering $70 billion in debt and had run up a $2.2 billion budget deficit that led credit rating agencies to downgrade Puerto Rico bonds to near-junk status.” Puerto Rican government has much to do with the crisis.

Santiago is completing his master’s degree in democratic politics was asked if the government had the power to get Puerto Rico out of the crisis, why haven’t we seen that change? He answered that he thinks that the government doesn’t have the instrument to do so now because before doing so Puerto Rico has to be decolonized and we also have to “decolonize ourselves”.

Irizarry sent his responses via e-mail. Irizarry said Puerto Rico’s economy in the 80’s and 90s and Puerto Rico’s economy today has differed in dramatic reduction of productive capacity and the low participation of labor; serious increase in debt and very low tax. He portrayed a vision for the wellness of the island while he wrote about local small and midsize companies are the ones in power to improve the economy, and said, “The key for success is strongly related to identifying market opportunities within regions and municipalities.”

Through this press conference the audience can see how Puerto Ricans from different perspectives like sociologist, activist and students look at the social inequality and economic decline crisis while opting for a change and betterment of the island.

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(Left) Jose Santiago, Javier Smith and Michael González at the press conference.

Photo taken by Héctor Díaz