Back Story :: Madness Caravan
In 2000, I moved to Puerto Rico for about a year and a half. In part I was running away, but I also knew that I was stagnating in Bellingham, and that I needed a fresh start. I also really wanted to learn to speak Spanish and I was determined to start a career in video production. All of this crystallized when I got an apprenticeship working for my father's cousin, who is a successful commercial photographer in San Juan.
This move led me on a journey of self-discovery that I don't know how to start describing. First of all, I had a broken heart that needed mending. I was lucky to have lots of family in PR, and that I made friends rather quickly. I loved Puerto Rican food. My job was fun and exciting, and exposed me to some interesting people. I fell in a with a group of artistic women in old San Juan and began to make my own artwork. My favorite concept involved scouring the streets with my friend Amy to find garbage to make basurarte - or "garbage art." While it didn't always work out, it was fun. [By the way, it was Amy who translated the text for my flyer, pictured here.]
Puerto Ricans know how to party, and old San Juan is alive with an addictive energy once you tap into it. Tapping in was a long time coming, and at first I would stay in my little studio apartment at night, making trips to the grocery store, and drinking wine alone as I made artwork while sitting on the floor. A lot of the time I was feeling sorry for myself. My family was very worried about me, and I resented it. I would get angry each time I left the house because the men there were so overt about appraising women with their eyes. I couldn't help feeling objectified constantly.
A friend of mine, Paul, came to visit me. My sister and her boyfriend did also. And serendipitously, I found my friend Kathryn walking by herself one afternoon. She had sunglasses on to hide her tears. She too had a rough time adjusting to the Puerto Rican culture and was questioning why she had come to San Juan for a month or two by herself. She had barely arrived. I couldn't believe my luck and after this we were constantly together, exploring San Juan, meeting people, and eventually going on a trip to Tortola and some other islands together. Being together boosted our confidence. [We had met only a few times before through mutual friends in Bellingham.] And besides that, we had a shared love of capturing the world through a camera lens. Kathryn taught me a lot, inspired me to buy a Rolleiflex camera, and basically helped me build my confidence. Eventually my heart felt full to bursting, and I wanted to share this exhilaration with everyone.
Because I was experiencing the beauty of people from different cultures communicating together through art, I wanted to continue to do so. And I have finally reached the title of this post.
I met Peter, an ex-boyfriend of Amy's, who shared my affinity for San Juan and my excitement for the arts. We decided that we would gather friends to join us for a traveling caravan of artists and performers who would put on shows wherever we went. We swore to each other that we would make it happen. We gloried in our mutual courage. And we decided that despite the odds, this was worth it. We would do this thing.
I moved back to Alaska, and felt culture shock anew, but this time it was my own stiflingly distant and cold culture. No more spontaneity of emotions. No more warm affection. No more salsa music. And then, September 11 hit. Peter and I decided to still embark on our caravan, but the wind was gone from our sails. And the trip itself was a real disappointment. But I still believe in the dream.
[In English, the text is a translation of Rumi:
"Come, whoever you are.
Wanderer, worshipper, lover of leaving.
It doesn't matter.
Ours is not a caravan of despair.
It doesn't matter if you've broken your vow a thousand times,
Come, yet again, come!"]