Reflections from El Barrio

The art world has lost a great artist and sincere warrior

Fernando has been a great friend and a brother since I met him on August 5th, 1981. We have created together and fought battles for the arts, culture, and identity in El Barrio New York, Puerto Rico, Paris, Krakow and other parts of United States.

When I met Fernando he was with his inseparable friend Jorge Soto. For me, both were a symbol of the committed artist who by their very presence projected the warrior spirit of our Boricua ancestors. Since then Fernando, a dreamer and achiever, always looked to expand the presence of Taller Boricua, the arts, and his fellow Puerto Ricans in El Barrio and the City of New York. He worked tirelessly in the Taller and in the halls of power to acquire property securing the permanence of the workshop for posterity, creating venues for exhibitions, and establishing housing for artists. Of note, Taller Boricua is the only Puerto Rican workshop created by artists that remains in existence and deserves ongoing support.

Communication between visual artists and intellectuals from the seventies was a source of enrichment to Fernando’s work from those pen and ink drawings created in the 110th subway station booth, to his iconic paintings like “Despierta Boricua”, “Una Vez Mas Columbus”, and the painting in honor of MartĂ­n (Tito) PĂ©rez. When Fernando decided to use new technology to continue his artistic expression, he took his creative expression to new domains documenting life of El Barrio from his unique perspective. His graphic work is extensive and needs to be documented and reassessed for future exhibitions, as do his sketchbooks created during his convalescences in the hospital over the last years.

In our conversations at the corner of 106th and Lexington Avenue, we used to articulate our history and visions of Puerto Rican art with our friend Marcos Dimas, co-founder of El Taller, and many other artists, friends, and community members concerned about our identity. I will miss our conversations and the joint projects we shared.

Fernando was a wonderful husband, father, and guardian of the community. The art world has lost a great artist and sincere warrior. May his spirit rest in peace after his arduous struggles to define himself and the community. I thank him for his artistic manifestations and contributions to Puerto Rican art and our community. Mostly I thank him for being part of my life / our lives and for being our friend.