Monday, March 17, 2008

A Puerto Rican Funeral for a Nuyorican Artist

My favorite artist, and probably one of the most influential artist (outside Francisco Oller) in the entire Puerto Rican Archipelago, Rafael Tufiño, is dead, at 86. The governor of the island ordered all government institutions to fly their flags at half staff and Tufiño's body lays in state in the National Gallery of the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture (where his most famous work, Goyita, is posterized on its pastel, Viejo San Juan building). He will also be buried in the famed María Magdalena de Pazzis cemetary in Viejo San Juan alongside poets and nationalist leaders. The Puerto Rican people (Diaspora and island) has truly lost " A People's Artist" who depicted rural and urban Puerto Rican life with all its music, death, violence, and poverty. Ironically, he was was born in Brooklyn, New York (he moved to PR when he was 10), where he later returned to found Taller Boricua and El Museo de Barrio - two important Nuyorican artistic institutions. One of his sons even told the island newspaper, El Nuevo Día, that his nationalist art was created through his "distinct perspective" as being a Puerto Rican not born on the island, but finding the island later in his life. No one can claim that Puerto Ricans born outside the island are not truly Puerto Rican - New York claims the origin of our flag, the music of salsa, and one of our greatest artists. Even Chicago claims the largest Puerto Rican flag in the world.

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