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El pesar y orgullo de la revolucionaria

(The sorrow and pride of the revolutionary woman)
2004
Mixed Media on Canvas
48" x 24"


This is my tribute to Lolita Lebron on the 50th commemoration of the protest she staged at Congress in 1954. In this painting I celebrate her as a model for all revolutionary women. This piece also serves as my response to the way she has been portrayed in the media, including the article featured in The Washington Post Magazine. The cover of that magazine featured a huge headline that read "When Terror Wore Lipstick". Lipstick, and other stereoptypical symbols of "femininity", were weaved throughout the article. In doing so, the article and her critics pigeonhole Lolita into predetermined gender roles that do not allow room for the objector, or revolutionary. Lolita, as an armed, "attractive", "well-dressed" woman, having walked into the Capitol to stage a protest that would demand world-wide attention, not only scared and outraged the powers that be, but also confused the hell out of them. Weren't pretty women in the 50's supposed to be concerned with nothing more than serving their husbands and raising their children? In an on-line dialogue with the author of the above mentioned article, Lolita was accused of having failed to live up to her responsibility as a mother. Last I checked I have never heard a report on the state of Che Guevarra's children while he was abroad spreading revolution. Or what of Albizu Campos' children, stashed away with his wife in Peru while he traveled Latin America to rally support for the cause of Puerto Rican Independence. Their admirers (I included) would say, they were carrying out their duties as revolutionaries. So since when are women exempted from such duties?

Here I also sought to challenge the image of the revered, virgen, flawless woman as viewed by Latino cultures. Nudity is taboo in this tradition. Sexuality is suppressed. But here I offer Lolita's body not as a portrait of the "slim divorcee" as she was referred to in American media, nor as the young, lovely boricua warrior. On her skin I glazed prison bars to illustrate how sometimes the female body becomes our holding cell, within which we're contained and upon which violence is inflicted. Such is the case with female political prisoners whose bodies are violated in an effort to further subjugate them.

The background of this work features the portraits of countless other women who have challenged the social norm to become activists and revolutionaries, such as Puerto Rican feminist and anarchist, Luisa Capetillo who was arrested for wearing pants in the early 20th century. Also pictured is Albizu Campos in a hospital bed, surrounded by his grandchildren, reminding us that even the male revolutionaries have responsibilities to their families. And speaking of responsibilities to our families, the image of Iris Baez, who tragically became a beacon for all victims of police brutality after losing her son Anthony Baez to this crime, is also included. Another portrait appears in the image, but not in the background. It's included within Lolita's torso, behind the prison bars. It is the portrait of Haydee Beltran, who was still a Puerto Rican political prisoner with a life sentencea at the time I painted this work in 2004. There are many more women who could be included in this work, but Lolita at least, represents the struggle of woman globally. Que Viva Lolita, Viva las Mujeres y Viva Puerto Rico Libre!


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