Puerto Rico, After María

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Source: Meteorologist Eric Holthaus’ Twitter

On Tuesday, September 19, hurricane María began its journey across Puerto Rico. María has caused mass flooding, broken dams and killed about 16 people. The causes of death are mostly due to drowning, however some cases have been reported of death by minor landslides or by fatal impact with flying objects.

The governor of Puerto Rico, Ricardo Rossello, said in an interview with Anderson Cooper in CNN, Tuesday evening that hurricane María was becoming the “worst hurricane in modern history in Puerto Rico.” The hurricane lasted about an entire day. But the majority of the flooding and destruction was caused by the 4 to 8, to even 35 inches, in specific locations of additional rainfall.

“No generation has seen a hurricane like this since San Felipe II in 1928. This is an unprecedented atmospheric system.”

– Ricky Russello

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Street in Guaynabo

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The destruction has not allowed people to use roads within their neighborhoods.

News of the island’s state came slowly to the mainland U.S., and slower still for the people residing on the island. With the majority of the information coming primarily from tweets and other social media platforms, many people were left confused and scared. Below, is a short summary of what has occurred until now.

Support for the island after the devastating hurricane, both federally and domestically, came quickly and efficiently. Already on September 21st, President Donald Trump had issued a Major Disaster Declaration for Puerto Rico. This gave the island access to some federal funds in order to incentivize recuperation after María.

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At 1:24, on September 21, Jennifer Gonzalez, the resident commissioner, notified the few people on the island that still had internet—and the thousands of ex-pads anxiously waiting to hear news of their island—that more than 32,000 federal staff were beginning to respond to recovery operations.

At 2:54 PM, on September 23, Governor Ricky Rossello tweeted a picture of a helicopter reaching the island, letting everyone know that FEMA had arrived to the island with water, electric generators and other resources.

That same day, splayed on all the newspapers were these words from the governor’s address:

“A todos los puertorriqueños y puertorriqueñas, sepan que nos levantaremos. Junto con los alcaldes y alcaldesas, como un solo Gobierno.”

“To all the Puerto Rican men and women, know that we will rise. Together with our mayors, as one, sole government.”

– The Governor, speaking on behalf of the Puerto Rican government, addressing  its citizens.

 So began the hashtag that represented all outpouring support for the island: #PRSeLevanta or #PRStrong, in English.

In an extremely fanatic two-party system, the island’s destruction encouraged a new wave of bipartisanship that had never before been seen. Despite this call to civic duty, no one has stopped looking over their shoulders. People have been disseminating ‘warnings’ all over Social Media and

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A street floods inside a gated neighborhood.

in group messages with friends and family that there have been cases of open stores and houses being robbed at gunpoint in Guaynabo and Bayamon (the heart of the metropolitan center of the island) for generators.

 

Moreover, even as the government assures its citizens that there is enough diesel for everyone on the island, various news sites have challenged their claim. Eagerly pointing to the government that places in which to get diesel are scarce, and as a result, interminable lines for fuel have formed.

Jay Fonseca, a journalist, radio-host and lawyer, has reported worrisomely violent events. A man in Vega Baja was assaulted for his container of gasoline, and that a gasoline station was shot after announcing that it was closing down. Fonseca also reported that police agents and doctors have not been able to work because of the of the lack of diesel.

“It took six hours in line to only receive 10 gallons of diesel. I can’t even tell you about gasoline. All the gasoline stations have policemen. The gasoline trucks are escorted with policemen.

The entire thing is a debacle.”

– Mari Conway, a resident of Puerto Rico

A curfew from 6:00 am to 6:00 pm that was put into place on Thursday, along with a “Ley Seca” that prohibits stores from selling liquor and citizens from consuming it, was extended to last until Wednesday.

 

 

The Biggest Take-Aways from Jennine Capó Crucet’s Conversations on Campus

 

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Jennine listens to a student’s question at El Centro’s Cafe con Leche

By Ana Gabriela García 

It was a busy few days for Jennine Capó Crucet, assistant professor of English and Ethnic Studies at the University of Nebraska and author of Elon’s common reading “How to Make Your Home Among Strangers.”

During her two-day visit to Elon University, Jennine was invited to host two sets of Core Forums, have lunch with English majors, have coffee with Elon’s Hispanic/Latino community at El Centro de Español and speak to creative writing classes; in addition to giving a speech at Alumni Gym.

Wherever she went, she engaged students with her quick wit and dry humor. While always fostering an environment of understanding and openness as she tackled topics of inclusivity, race and diversity on college campuses.

Lauren Kier, a professor of sociology at Elon University who attended one of Jennine’s Q&A’s and the author’s speech at alumni gym, said about Jennine: “She’s just so personable. I just think she’s really down to earth and that just makes someone really interesting to talk to.”

“I always love that, when I see that a speaker is just connecting with students. And that’s what she (Jennine Capó) does.

– Lauren Kier

Isabel, a student at Elon University who attended Jennine’s speech at Alumni Gym also had positive feedback regarding Jennine and the topics she chose to discuss with Elon students. “I thought professor Capó’s talk was very powerful because it was honest, straightforward and entertaining in a way that truly made me reflect on her experience and that go many first generation college students–or of just any student coming into a new environment.”

“I’m really glad that this (Make Your Home Among Strangers) was this year’s common reading, and this is a topic that I believe every Elon student will find themselves discussing at some point of their college education.”

– Isabel

These are the biggest takeaways from Jennine Capó’s conversations with students:

Discomfort is where growth happens

Jennine reiterated this idea many times during her Core Forums and in her speech at Alumni Gym. The author was mainly referring to ‘discomfort’ in the context of participating in new experiences or discussions in college. Urging students to always be willing to be uncomfortable. According to the author, “To be uncomfortable is a precondition to growing.”

Faculty and students should work at understanding each other

During Thursdays Core Forum Q&A in the Great Hall at Global Commons, professor Capó encouraged students to learn more about their own professor’s and to seek out their books. In order to have good relationships with their professors, students have to be just as interested in the faculty, as the faculty is of them.

The student’s job is to know the value of their teacher’s work.”

– Jennine Capó Crucet

The faculty should be just as diverse as the student body

While on the subject of inclusivity and student-teacher dynamics, Jennine asked the Core Forum: “When you look at your professors, do a lot of them look like you?” She challenged Elon students to think about the privilege of having a professor that can represent them, and to think about what message their University is sending about diversity with their faculty.

This is especially relevant at Elon University, where there is a lack of diversity within the faculty. An article published on ENN earlier this year by Stephanie Ntim found that only 25% of Elon’s faculty members identified as a person of color, in 2015. More worrying still, it was reported in the 2015 Presidential Task Force that 74% of the 63 black faculty and staff members at Elon 74% reported having been belittled with race-related comments. It is interesting to note that out of the 151 black student respondents, 65% reported also having similar experiences.

For Jennine, diversifying faculty at college campuses is a subject that she considers very important, as the lack of diversity within her own undergraduate faculty body greatly influence her college experience. In her speech at Alumni Gym, the author confesses that one of the things that helped her make her home among strangers and stay in college was her menor, and one of the few Latina professors on campus, Helena María Viramontes.

Helena María Viramontes was especially helpful in making Jennine’s college experience a good one because she knew exactly what books to give to Jennine. If these books had never reached her hands, Jennine says she would not be where she is today, nor would she be giving a speech at Elon University.

Coincidentally, the books Helena gave Jennine are major influences in her creative work. In total, there are six books which the author says sit in a special shelf, Jennine’s own ‘Pantheon of Authors.’ These are:

  1. Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston
  2. Under the Feet of Jesus, by Helena Maria Viramontes
  3. Faith Healer of Olive Avenue, by Manuel Muñoz
  4. The Woman Warrior, by Maxine Hong Kingston
  5. So Long, See You Tomorrow, by William Maxwell
  6. Beloved, by Toni Morrison

If you think you want to be a writer- don’t

Finally, the last piece of advice to take away from Jennine’s visit is to try very hard to not become an author. When asked when she had decided to become a writer, the author quipped that for a long time she tried to deny the fact that she wanted to be writer. “If you think you want to be a writer, try to do anything else.” The author said. You become a writer because you have to, because you tried everything else and failed at everything else. Jennine reminded the students that writing doesn’t come with guaranteed recognition or rewards.

“If you find yourself compelled to write, do something else. Try really hard to love something else, and if that fails, then you know that you were meant to be a writer.

I tried to do a lot of different things in my life to make myself happy, and nothing made me as happy as writing. And so, I just sort of gave up and became a writer. Or gave in and became a writer ”

– Jennine Capó Crucet

 

 

Rethinking Sculptures: Exploring space with form, narrative and satire

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Gallery 406, Arts West.

By Ana Gabriela García

Within each one of Michael Sanford’s sculptures there is a story (though hyperbolic and extremely satirical) about our current political culture. The figurehead of his stories is our commander-in-chief, Donald J. Trump.

His art invites the audience to look at a subject who is often linked with hate and intense sentiment through a humorous, sincere lens. So that the ideas of ego, of taking command, chauvinism, disrespect and the “stupid American” are brought forth in a way that welcomes laughs, reasoned dialogue, thought and honesty.

Currently in exhibition at the Biennial Studio Art Faculty Exhibition, in Gallery 406, Arts West, these sculptures are a breath of fresh air in a political crap-storm. This exhibition will last until October 20.

“Each satirically comments upon and challenges our assumptions about a world where fear becomes a weapon of the powerful and propaganda abounds.”

– Michael Sanford describing his sculptures in an excerpt on the wall of Gallery 406, Arts West.

Sanford’s goal is not to make a sculpture that everyone loves. What he considers as a true achievement is creating a sculpture that best presents the message he is trying to share with his audience. “I look back at my work and ask myself , did it successfully convey the ideas that I had mind?

Part of answering that question is based on audience response, so when I’m talking to people or people are talking to me about the work, and they give me a certain kind of feedback, then that helps me determine whether the message that I wanted to convey was coming through or whether there are things that other people see that I had not even thought about.” Sanford explains.

 

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Sanford’s sculpture, “I am not a teapot, you silly American.”

Sculptures, according to the artist, are about “exploring space with form.” Yet Sanford’s work makes it evident that a sculpture can also be about conveying an idea through story-telling. In these sculptures, the ideas seem to be: What would Trump look like if we transformed all his hate-speak and selfish demeanor into physical attributes? And: What kind of situations would these faults get him into?

To answer these questions, Sanford has created a world in which personality traits determine a person’s physique. Trump’s ego and his temperament have disfigured his entire body. In the sculpture, “An Inflated Sense of Self,” the president’s body is, literally, inflated, and his gorging cheeks and pout make his lips look like the circular, protruding tip of a balloon.

 

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Sanford’s, “Inflated Sense of Self,” Backside

When explaining his decision to inflate Trump’s body and paint it all over in a gaudy gold color, Sanford said: “If I have an inflated sense of self, I think that I am more important than everyone. I don’t (referring to himself), but if I think that I’m more important, then my ideas are more valuable. My approach to problem solving is always right.”

“So there’s a kind of preciousness and value to who I am, that no one can approach. And a way to symbolize that is for me to be golden.”

Michael Sanford, explaining why he painted Trump’s disfigured body bright gold, in his sculpture “Inflated Sense of Self.” 

The idea that Trump is an egotist is not the only one that is presented in the sculpture, “Inflated Sense of Self.” This sculpture also subtly insinuates that Trump’s dominant and aggressive behavior stems from lack of self-esteem or compensation for some flaw.

When referring to this sculpture, Michael Sanford says, “If you look really closely, he’s not wearing any pants. You have to bend over and look. And his genitals are really, really tiny. There’s a theory that men are patriarchal, dominant and aggressive because they feel that they are diminished in ‘some way’. So that’s a symbolic way of suggesting that. It’s a playful way to suggest that.”

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Sanford’s “Inflated Sense of Self,” Frontside

The narratives that Sanford has added to his sculptures are as whimsical as they are hard-hitting. Prompting the question of art’s role in today’s political situation. When asked what role he thinks art should play in today’s political spectrum, he said:

“First of all, art is not a singularly focused term, art can be many different things. There’s art that seeks to educate and inform. There’s art that is made as protest. There’s art that is made to document the historical facts. So art can serve all these purposes and one of the many things that art can do is that it communicates in a variety of languages.

So if you think of the language of form and color and texture. Or if you think of the language of tempo and music– that’s more word-based. Or if you think of dance, which can express so much through movement and gesture it the human body. ”

“Through all those languages art has an opportunity to reach people in ways that journalism and editorialism and video documentary cannot.”

– Sanford, talking about art’s role in today’s political culture.

Sanford’s engaging storytelling fills his sculptures with life and the exhibit with laughter. But he does not just attribute his sculptures for this reaction, Sanford credits his titles for helping make his stories interesting.

“One of the things that I would say about my work is that the titles play an important role. They serve as a way of provoking thought or creating associations or creating humorous dimensions to the work. It’s also an essential aspect of the satire. It’s not just the sculpture, it’s the interplay between text and visual image.” Sanford said.