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Puerto Rico: Where colonial meets controversial

Puerto Rico: Where colonial meets controversial

Posted by Juan Gavasa on August 19, 2014

Murals with a message

San Juan, Puerto Rico’s picturesque capital, is known around the world for its charming 16th- and 17th-century Spanish colonial buildings. But southeast of the Old Town, in the formerly run down Santurce barrio (neighbourhood), street artists have transformed some of the most derelict facades into vibrant murals that might just say more about Puerto Rico than any renowned city-centre museum could hope to. (Luke Waterson)

Top artists, hot topics

This Lichtenstein-inspired pop art piece (left) was finished in spring 2013 by internationally renowned British artist D-Face. At about 15m high, the artwork dominates the already-enormous work beside it, in which a traditional farming scene is altered to include a mountain of fast food discards in the cart – a comment on Puerto Rico’s unusually high density of fast food outlets. (Luke Waterson)

Charting Puerto Rico’s past

In addition to the country’s contemporary issues, Puerto Rico’s history is also frequently depicted in street murals. Here, one of the island’s indigenous people, the long extinct Taíno, reclines, eyes covered, with a plant sprouting from his chest, perhaps suggestive of a return to nature. (Luke Waterson)

For the love of pork

Puerto Rico is in many ways a culture of excess. With year-round sun and surf, it has become the US’ summer playground, a veritable epicentre of rum-fuelled fiestas. But perhaps the island’s defining excessive experience is a visit to one of its lechoneras – roadside stalls serving up whole roast pig – in which every self-respecting local gorges at least once a week. This mural plays on the idea of this Puerto Rican love of pork. (Luke Waterson)

Invasive iguanas

In the 1970s and ‘80s, iguana populations rocketed in Puerto Rico, making them one of the protectorate’s most pesky modern-day pests. Authorities even started encouraging restaurants to serve iguana soup! (Luke Waterson)

Street art tours

The street art craze has taken off so successfully that locals Eddie and Tisha Ramirez have become the first people to offer dedicated tours of the Santurce murals, bookable through theirCasa Sol B&B in the Old Town. The art keeps changing, too. Every April or May, the Santurce es El Ley street art festival ensures colourful new additions to the scene. (Eddie Ramirez)

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