Growing up I often looked for movements to belong to. I read books about Malcolm X and the Black Panthers and became entralled in their sotries and scarifices for change. Being that was all I knew it was all I could identify with as an ethnic person. But I always wished there was something even more personal to me to latch on to.
In college I finally learned there were. I learned that Puerto Rico had it’s own struggle for independence that went as far back as the 1950’s. And even more so, that fight had a prominent woman in the forefront: Lolita Lebron.
Learning what she did to promote the freedom of my parent’s homeland triggered something in me. It also made me feel proud, like I had a movement of my very own to belong to. Who knew actions that took place over 20 yrs before I was born would affect me so much.
Needless to say, I was saddened to hear of her death this year on August 1st, 2010. Though I had never met her, I felt as if I knew her. Her influence was felt so strongly that a series of events commerating her life continue to take place months after her departuture. One of those being a photo exhibit of some of her most memorable moments. Casa de Las Americas – a cute lil exhibit space for Puerto Rican cultual events I never knew existed – hosted the raw and uncut photos by photo journalist Bolívar Arellano.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words and I never belived it until now – even as an art major. When I walked into the exhibit and saw the infamous photo of Lolita getting arrested outside the House of Representatives I had chills. Besides those photos there were pictures of her in prison as well as her release and return to Puerto Rico. Her activism didn’t stop there as she was documented at other protests including one in Vieques to stop the bombings there by the US.
This exhibit told the story of a woman that had her own ideas on how people should be treated and spoke out to fight for them, at a time when it was taboo for women to do so. She was passionate and unyielding and backed up her ideas with action. I continue to use her as an example for the type of woman I want to be. And the type of Puerto Rican I know I already am.
Check out the exhibit with raw, unedited photos for sale at the Wifredo Lam Gallery182 East 111th Street (Between Lexington and Third Avenues) in El Barrio.