Buenas! My name is Camila Aguayo and I am currently a rising senior majoring in Art History and Marketing with a minor in French. I am from San Juan, Puerto Rico. Coming from such a small island, I’ve always wanted to create awareness on Puerto Rican culture and society. Having been a colony for more than 500 years has really shaped my country’s identity and character. This is why I chose to investigate the effects of colonialism through Puerto Rican art and artists for my Brackenridge research! I’m extremely interesting in studying the way Spanish and American rule have changed and manipulated Puerto Rican culture and identity. I am also interested in seeing how we have tried to maintain our own national pride in spite of being governed by foreigners. A random fact about me is that I can do Stitch’s voice from Disney’s Lilo and Stitch.
Puerto Rico’s complex history of colonization and oppression has transformed the island’s culture into a rich blend of African, European, and Taino traditions. This phenomenon has created an autoethnographic identity among Puerto Ricans since they define and recognize themselves as a mélange of customs from different nations. Puerto Rico’s colonial background in the Caribbean has also made it acquire a complicated political status that can only be understood through the island’s history. Since Puerto Rico has never been independent, its identity has been influenced by outsiders and powerful nations that have tainted the island. This exchange of contact results in a hybrid culture. Many Puerto Rican artists have expressed this notion of hybridity and influence in their works, such as Jose Campeche and Francisco Oller.
These artists helped transform this transatlantic phenomenon into painting and culture in the Caribbean. They draw on a mix of local indigenous and European colonial models that represent an important site of cross-cultural conflict and contact. Even though they were native born painters, they emulated classic European styles. Jose Campeche learned techniques from both his father, a former slave who had purchased his freedom by carving altarpieces, and from exiled Spanish artist Luis Paret. He concentrated on religious themes and portraits in Spanish Rococo style. Similarly, Francisco Oller was inspired by Campeche’s work. He spent twenty years in Madrid and Paris, where he was inspired by the art of Gustave Courbet and joined the avant-garde circles of such artists as Paul Cézanne, Camille Pissarro, and Claude Monet. While European Romanticism, Realism, and Impressionism formed a critical jumping-off point for Oller’s aesthetic, his most important source of inspiration was Puerto Rico, where he painted tropical landscapes, still lifes with indigenous fruits and vegetables, and portraits of distinguished artists and intellectuals.
This project will bring together the history of Puerto Rico and the paintings produced in this era. These works are extremely famous within Puerto Rico and are a significant source of pride for residents of the island, but they have been neglected in the way art history is taught in the mainland US and further afield because they aren’t part of “European” art history, but they also are not part of the “indigenous” tradition. Studying them in relation to broader patterns will help promote understanding of the uniqueness of Puerto Rican culture and will help explain how the island’s complex history has transformed the its culture into a rich blend of African, European, and Taino traditions.
My goal would be to achieve a stronger understanding of 19th century painters in Puerto Rico, with the future goal of applying to graduate programs and studying paintings in Puerto Rico at an advanced level. This project will not only give me the opportunity to learn more about my country, but it will also allow me to explore the history and creation of Puerto Rican culture and identity.