In February 2020 I received the pleasant news of being part of the sixth edition of Caribbean Linked at Ateliers ’89 in Aruba. From that moment on, I felt very excited and hopeful because several years ago I had a deep interest in creating connections with the Caribbean islands, and I knew that the Caribbean Linked residency was the answer to that desire. However, in March 2020 we would be facing the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic in our islands, an event that would transform the ways of life and the projections that were in place. Like much of the planning on the agenda, the residency was also postponed to August 2021 virtually and with a second face-to-face session in 2022.
This in-person session gave me the pleasant opportunity to meet and live with a masterful group of creative thinkers who, more than colleagues, became friends; people with whom you want to stay close and continue what is fostered here: connection, communication, empathy, solidarity, work and collaboration.
Being in Caribbean Linked VI made me realize that Puerto Rico’s situation in terms of the islander’s identity, the idealization of paradise as a social mirage and the economy, is something that is shared with the sister islands and countries that were present in this edition of the residency: Aruba, Barbados, Cayman Islands, Guadeloupe, St. Martin, The Bahamas, Venezuela, Mexico and Puerto Rico.
Why didn’t I look at the Caribbean before? I didn’t because I didn’t know. I had to start decolonizing myself to look at other coordinates; those to which I also belong. Languages, although varied (Papiamento, Dutch, French, English and Spanish) are not a barrier to our communication, because we are united by the visual language of our geographies, the water, the human warmth, the humid air we breathe and our colonial history. We have an identity: we are islands. But simultaneously we are territories of industrialized nations that take advantage of our resources and natural spaces as objects of consumption and marketing; we are the paradise of the world, the place where sometimes it is difficult for us to live but where others want and can live without much trouble. Suddenly, we all had something in common. We are sisters.
On the other hand, the resonance in the artistic practice rose to a higher point when in the middle of the residency I was infected for the first time with Covid-19. Despite the frustration of being sick and far from my homeland, I can say that I was never alone. My companions, the sister islands, were there, almost as if they knew what I was wishing and thinking. Solidarity, compassion and care have never been so strong in my life as during this time. I feel conviction of this wonderful human community which I wish to preserve and embrace forever. I am eternally grateful.
Today more than ever, I am and want to remain Isla.