AgitArte: How did you first become engaged with AgitArte | Papel Machete?
I met Jorge Díaz (Co-Director of AgitArte) in 2005 in Teatro Estudio Yerbabruja (Yerbabruja Studio Theatre) in Río Piedras. At that time, we were celebrating “Mixta con Tod@s 6” – a performance marathon – organized by Margarita Espada and Deborah Hunt. I helped run the event while Jorge participated in “ANIMAS”, a mask theater piece directed by Deborah Hunt in collaboration with people from “Santurce No Se Vende” (Santurce Is Not for Sale), a group composed by Santurce residents, artists, and workers who at that time were fighting against the expropriation of the San Mateo de Cangrejos neighborhood.
Following that first encounter, Jorge and I kept coincidentally meeting at protests, puppetry / mask making workshops, and theater events organized by Deborah. One of which was Titeretada, our annual puppetry festival in which we have been part of the organizing committee from its inception in 2008 to the present. This space allowed us to get to know each other’s work and deepen our friendship, but it wasn’t until summer of 2009 that I began collaborating directly with AgitArte and Papel Machete. Jorge called me to do two things: help facilitate a puppet workshop that AgitArte was organizing in Villa Cañona and participate in a parade with Papel Machete and the community during the traditional festivities of Santiago Apóstol in Loiza.
The purpose was to protest against the racist expressions of the then mayor of Loíza, who had threatened with suspending the festivities because he considered them “from the devil”, in a violent attempt to whiten and gentrify a predominantly black community and its culture. I remember arriving at the communal center of Villa Cañona with a bag full of brushes and paints to facilitate a puppet and mask workshop together with Jorge and colleagues from Papel Machete, and then march in protest with the community under the slogan “Cultura es Lucha” (Culture is Fight). It was there, among puppets, banners, music, vejigantes and community cultural resistance, that my journey with AgitArte and Papel Machete began.
I joined Papel Machete in 2009 and shortly afterwards was invited to be part of the Board of Directors of AgitArte, in which I participated for 6 years. My relationship with Papel Machete and AgitArte has been united from the beginning: they are my family, our house-entrenchment, and creative sanctuary; from there we continue to fight for our liberation and for a transformation of our society that ensures a dignified and fair life for all.