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Untitled
Andres Jimenez: Soul Rebels series

2006
Acrylic on Burlap
84 " x 39 1/2"

Soul Rebels Series

Musician and activist Andres Jimenez was born in 1947 in Orocovis, Puerto Rico. Also known as El Jíbaro, he grew up as the son of a farmer, living the jíbaro lifestyle being exposed to the folkloric musica jíbara from an early age. In Puerto Rico, the Jíbaro, Taino for "man of the mountain" is a national symbol of pride as it represents the farmer, the person who works the land to receive its produce. At the age of 17, poverty landed him in New York where he was drafted to fight in the Vietnam War. Like Albizu Campos decades before, participation in the U.S. Armed Forces served to politicize him, exposing him to the real injustices committed by the u.s. government in Puerto Rico and beyond. By the time he was back in Puerto Rico as a university student, he joined the political student music group, Taone along with fellow political musician Roy Brown. With that said, I guess it would be fitting that I first heard his music as a college student learning about the independence movement. My friend, whose family was from Argentina, once wrote a poem that she dedicated to me, inspired by Andres Jimenez’song "La estrella sola". Here's an excerpt of that song:

Yo quiero que mi Borinquen sea libre y soberana
Porque la estrella de mi bandera no cabe en la Americana

I want my Borinquen to be free and sovereign
Because the star of my flag does not fit in the American

If Vanessa, from Los Angeles via Argentina, knew about Andres Jimenez, I had to get to know his music too and I did. It carried me through my time working in Philadelphia in 1998, during the centennial of the U.S. invasion of Puerto Rico. His album Cien años con Albizu became the soundtrack for that year in my life.

For Andres Jimenez, I chose to include an excerpt for his song Barlovento. The song was the most perfect for the theme for various reasons. For one, I had seen Jimenez perform at Hostos Community College in December of 2005. He began the show with Barvolento, which he sang accapella from back stage. All you heard was his amazing voice, a cappella: “Barlovento, barlovento, amarra el perro y suelta el viento”. On his live album: En Vivo, Jimenez explains that it was with these very words that his mother would call the wind back when they lived on a farm. The wind aided in the drying of the coffee beans. Since the time of the native Taino people, the forces of nature--the wind, the rain, even the moon--were praised greatly in their ability to help humans have successful crops. It was that song that his mother, and many other Puerto Ricans, would sing that inspired the words to Barlovento. I included the following excerpt on the painting:

Sopla viento traicionero
del dolor donde no hay pan
Pan del alma para el hambre
De justicia e de igualdad....

Viento mar de pescadores
Viento tierra de labradores....
Viento sol salvadoreño
Que no quieren tener dueño....

Soplen vientos del Caribe
Que las historia así se escribe

Betraying wind blows
From the pain of where there is no bread
Bread of the soul for hunger
Of justice and equality

Sea wind of fishermen
Land wind of laborers
Salvadoran (or salvation) wind
Who want no masters

Blow winds of the Caribbean
For that is how history is written

As with the Julia de Burgos portrait, created around the same time, this portrait is made on burlap as a symbol of the poverty associated with farmers and laborers referenced in Andres Jimenez' lyrics. The earth tones of the portrait and the natural fibers of the burlap are a tribute to the land of Puerto Rico whose crops have dried up under u.s. rule as its agricultural economy was turned into an industrial one, robbing Puerto Rico of its ability self-sustenance and self-sufficiency.

The Barlovento lyrics on the painting are done in calligraphy as a tribute to the Puerto Rican poster tradition. Graphic work and printmaking was a huge genre in Puerto Rico with masters like Lorenzo Homar and Rafael Tufiño. Although I have been a calligrapher since I was a kid, it wasn't until recently that I began to consider incorporating the art form into my paintings. Master printmaker and painter, Antonio Martorell has been a big inspiration with his incredible use of calligraphy.