La Gran Limpia (March 13, 2011)
Public performance in and around San Juan, PR

This series of events is meant to cleanse specific incursions, on real and symbolic levels, into the landscape of Puerto Rico. Beta-Local invited me to do a smudging of Puerto Rico based on my recent project, The Greater New York Smudge Cleanse. I am curious, as an outsider, to take the generous knowledge and concerns shared with me, and listen to the specifics that also resound beyond the borders. Through research and discussions in and around Beta-Local, the general theme of incursions began to form in my mind: incursions as a general phrase to frame issues of continued colonialism, ecological destruction and the absurd toll of a ballooning and unrealistic economic growth that degrades the history and integrity of the land. How do we begin to comment on the policies that create these situations? What can be done? While La Gran Limpia does not propose to solve these issues in Puerto Rico, it begins with a speculative attempt at cleansing and frame for thinking about the overwhelming situation of the “present.”

On January 20, 2011, as an attempt to approach to contemporary history of Puerto Rico, we initially smudged Fundación Luis Muñoz Marín. This was initiated as a means to approach and consider Puerto Rico in the contemporary period beginning with Muñoz Marín’s complicated guidance as the first Puerto Rican governor. The grounds of the Foundation were smudged in hopes of preparing for a new beginning in Puerto Rican politics. We ended at the bohio where Muñoz Marín conducted much business and intellectual debate over questions of the future. We read from a book of his letters and speeches as well as his FBI reports.

List of sites:

11 am: Catedral de San Juan Bautista, Viejo San Juan- A mobile cleansing of Ponce de Leon’s burial site(s) as emblematic of the Colonial imperative and the basic philosophical issues of human rights. The reading of historic texts will include: Aristotle’s Politics, Friar Antonio de Montesinas’ sermonto colonists, Friar Bartolomé de las Casas’ deposition, Texto del Requerimiento de 1513, David Walker’s Appeal, 1829; President William McGinley’s speech, after the Treaty of Paris, 1898.

3 pm: Paso del Indio, Vega Alta is the site of 1200 years of civilization, layered under PR-22’s overpass and bureaucratic excesses. It represents the notion of culture easily forgotten in the glut of development as well as a funerary site for taino and pre-taino cultures and approximately 50 dogs in 2007. Texts to accompany the cleansing of the site include: AP article about the recent extermination of dogs; and an archeological report.

5 pm: Playa de Levittown (El Resort), Toa Baja will be cleansed against the intention to build the Gasoducto, destroying a community’s social space and possibly the safety of a much larger population. Readings include: William Levitt’s obituary; definition of the “state of emergency” currently being used to legitimize the building of Gasoducto; and report’s from yesterday’s tsunami damages that have destabilized nuclear power and oil refining plants in Japan.