Puerto Rico: The Sum of its Arts

How Over 500 Years of Heritage Have Shaped the Island’s Cultural DNA

By Google Arts & Culture

Puerto Rico is world-renowned for its pristine beaches, lush tropical forests, and breathtaking skies. Its stunning architecture ranges from 16th century Spanish fortresses to baroque, neoclassical, and art deco buildings, as well as cutting-edge bridges, highways and other public works.

These treasures are well documented in tourism magazines, travel news reports, films, video and advertising. Less well known is the depth and scope of the island’s vibrant and diverse art and culture, nurtured by 500 years (and counting!) of multiculturalism and world heritage.

Arts and culture are ingrained in Puerto Rico’s DNA. They define Puerto Rican identity (puertorriqueñidad, Puertor Rican-ness) across the centuries and propel it into the future. They are the result of a unique blend of history, events, people of multiple colors, races, religions, languages and cultures. When combined with the island’s tropical surroundings, these influences have led to a unique way of life and creativity with endless sources of inspiration.

Escena del Río, Jordán, Manuel E., 19th century, From the collection of: Instituto de Cultura Puertorriqueña

What you see in tourism magazines is only the tip of the iceberg. There’s more to what Puerto Rico is and who Puerto Ricans are. There is no singular definition of Puerto Rican identity and many have strong opinions on what it means. But if you ask the locals, they will agree that the most meaningful descriptions rely on what they call nuestro arte y cultura (our arts and culture).

The Happy Volcano of Sighs, Rafael Villamil, 20th Century, From the collection of: Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Puerto Rico

That is why the Instituto de Cultura Puertorriqueña, the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Puerto Rico, the Museo de Arte de Ponce, and the Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico are partnering together with Google Arts & Culture to launch a new online project that will offer a deeper, more holistic awareness and understanding of Puerto Rico’s artistic and cultural landscape, fostering an appreciation for how the arts manifest in daily life, and how the Puerto Rican creativity echoes across the globe.

La Mixta, Francisco Cervoni Brenes, 1960, From the collection of: Instituto de Cultura Puertorriqueña

This new project will allow you to explore Puerto Rico like never before and access the collections of these institutions, which contain some of the grandest treasures in Puerto Rican art history. It will also feature other arts and culture-focused efforts and stories and will utilize the most advanced Google Arts & Culture technologies to bring users an immersive, interactive experience available anytime, anywhere, in the palm of their hand.

Puerto Rico’s resilient and powerful rebirth in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in 2017 has focused new and unprecedented attention on the island. Thanks to Google Arts & Culture and the outstanding group of collaborating institutions and partners, as well as the unconditional support of the Flamboyan Arts Fund, all of Puerto Rico’s artistic and cultural expressions will be introduced to new audiences around the world, preserving history and culture through a modern lens.

Untitled (Landscape), Luisina Ordoñez, 1937, From the collection of: Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico

A Brief Background

Puerto Rico is an archipelago comprised of seven islands and a few more islets and keys, located between the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea in the central Tropics. It is the smallest of the Greater Antilles, roughly the size of the U.S. State of Connecticut.

Christopher Columbus encountered the island in his second voyage (1493). Puerto Rico, inhabited by Taíno people at the time, remained a Spanish colony until 1898, when the island came under the United States of America jurisdiction as part of the Treaty of Paris at the end of the Spanish-American War. Puerto Ricans have been US citizens through birthright since 1917.

Puerto Rico is the home of Taíno heritage sites, colonial architecture from sugar cane and coffee plantations, to urban housing developments and city centers characterized by art deco, modern and contemporary structures. Check out the artwork to see this through an artist’s eyes!

The American Landing at Ponce, Manuel Cuyàs Agulló, 1898, From the collection of: Museo de Arte de Ponce

Boricua Creativity

The island atmosphere has a profound effect on creativity throughout Puerto Rico. Surveys have proclaimed Boricuas (a native Taíno name for Puerto Ricans, based on the island’s original Taíno name: Borikén) among the happiest people on Earth, but massive creativity also flows from the many struggles that the locals have been through. No matter what, Boricuas manage to stand up, smile and move onward. Creativity is their strength and it is present in Puerto Rico’s everyday life and through diverse expressions of music, dance, literature, theatre, food and visual arts.

Art is everywhere in Puerto Rico. Puerto Rican artists have been chroniclers of the island’s history. This new Google Arts and Culture platform will help bring its beauty, vision and voice to people around the world.

900-50-80, Olga Albizu, 1978, From the collection of: Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico

Check out this platform periodically and make sure to share your favorite examples of Puerto Rican culture with others. Get familiar with the sites, histories, people and landmarks of Puerto Rico - all now at your fingertips. You will also discover that Boricua Creativity extends far beyond the geographic confines of Puerto Rico: it lives and thrives everywhere in the world where there are artists of Puerto Rican ancestry.

From the bustling of New York City and the windy breezes of Chicago, to the Pacific beauty of Hawaii, artists are bringing their own unique contributions and experiences to the conversation about Puerto Rico and the evolving definition of Puerto Rican identity.

Bienvenidos! Welcome!

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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