Culture

Exploring your Blackness in Puerto Rico

Since I was a child, I have been told that I have African heritage in my blood. That is a part of who I am and is portrayed in the music, food and dancing. However, most of the time there weren’t museums or history classes narrating their stories aside from the fact that they were brought as slaves, and we acquired their customs through their arts. It was when I grew up that I found out that even though I have African blood in my veins, the people and the country are under the bubble of a peaceful and harmonious idea that we live in peace together instead of the harsh reality that we are still fighting racism in Puerto Rico. 

Nevertheless, compared to when I was a child, there are more resources available to learn about Puerto Rico’s African legacy. Right now in Puerto Rico are two institutions and a blog promoting the awareness of the Afro-descendants on the island through the arts. The former is El Museo de Las Américas (The Americas Museum) and the other one is Corredor Afro. The latter is the blog called Black Art in Puerto Rico/ Arte Afro Puertorriqueño

El Museo de Las Américas was founded in 1992 and is located in Cuartel de Ballajá, San Juan. The institution has four permanent collections: “Folk Arts in the Americas,” “American Indigenous,” “Our African Heritage,” and “Conquest and Colonization.” The exhibition “Our African Heritage” is based on the book “La Herencia Africana” (The African Heritage) by Ricardo Alegría. There, it shows the history, religion and practices before the slave trade. Afterward, it tells the story of their fight, abolition and the legacy of their customs in Puerto Ricans. 

El Corredor Afro in Loíza was founded in 2019 by Dr. Marta Moreno Vega and Maricruz Rivera Clemente. The gallery focuses on highlighting and conserving the visibility of Afro-descendants that live in Puerto Rico, the Caribbean and across the Americas. The exhibition exposes Black-Puerto Rican artists and their African heritage. Furthermore, the museum host activities such as documentaries, seminars, videos and more to divulge the history and legacy of Africans in Puerto Rico. 

The blog Black Art in Puerto Rico/Arte Afro Puertorriqueño is a newly founded website by the artist Edwin Velázquez Collazo. The blog is a place to collect and archive all Afro-Puerto Rican arts, artists, videos, documentaries, performances and more. In addition, it also tries to be of help for research and lovers of art. 

Finally, if you need to learn more about Afro-Puerto Rican culture you can visit these places when you arrive in Puerto Rico. If you don’t have the time to travel, these institutions have the online option to view, learn and participate in the learning of African heritage in Puerto Rico. For those who want to learn more about their Afro-Puerto Rican identity, these museums will be your guide to embracing your African legacy.

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