Defend Puerto Rico was founded a few months ago in response to the debt crisis on the island and how the American and Puerto Rican governments are handling it. It was created by four artists from New York City: DJ Christian Martir, filmmaker Eli-Jacobs Fantauzzi, graphic designer/educator Michael Cordero, and artist/educator Adrián ‘Viajero’ Román.
It’s a multimedia project designed to document and celebrate Puerto Rican creativity, resilience, and resistance in response to the debt crisis. They’re currently working on telling the stories of the Puerto Rican people through video. We recently caught up with artist Adrián ‘Viajero’ on why the project was started, and what’s coming up next for #DefendPR.
HipLatina: I was so glad to hear Defend Puerto Rico had been created. What’s the purpose of this group?
Adrián Viajero: Defend Puerto Rico serves a few purposes. One of the them is to bring awareness to what is happening in Puerto Rico from a certain lens and perspective. I think a lot of information about Puerto Rico and the debt crisis that is being spread here in the states through social media and mainstream media has been incorrect or selective. So a couple of folks and I wanted to go over to Puerto Rico and really get information from the people. We wanted to interview people living there who are actually struggling and going through this fight and doing positive things in spite of the crisis. We just want to tell their stories. It’s really about sharing information—information from the mouths of the people that are there.
HL: What’s the message of your group?
AV: Our message is to show unity by bringing the Puerto Ricans of the diaspora together with the Puerto Ricans on the island and trying to do something positive, to network and connect one another. There are amazing grassroots projects that are going on over there and we want people here in the states to know that these things and these people exist. They are fighting to be self-sufficient. It’s fully possible for us, for Puerto Rico, to be self-sufficient, to self-govern, to take care of ourselves.
HL: What is Defend Puerto Rico doing right now? Are you currently filming in Puerto Rico?
AV: Eli, one of our partners, is filming out there. He’s recording some interviews. Today (Wednesday, August 31st) was the major protest against the Promesa Bill conference in San Juan and the protesters were actually victorious in stopping the conference from happening. We have some amazing video footage of that, with political figures, and some locals. We also have footage that shows the treatment of our people and the police brutality that goes on everywhere, which is something that exists not only here in the States but on the island as well. Those are the things we are trying to highlight. The good, the bad, and the ugly. To see the videos, check out Defend Puerto Rico’s Facebook page.
HL: There is a lot of change going on on the island right now and there are people that want change. However, it’s very common in these situations that they don’t even know where to begin. Do you have a call-to-action for the people, both of the diaspora and on the island?
AV: I think it starts with pure intention. Then, you have to educate yourself about the issues. People need to know what the issues are. People need to know what’s happening before they can know how to help, figure out how to do something about it, or even figure out how others can allow you in, to see where you fit.
Defend Puerto Rico has also looked into how technology is being used and we have created an overlay Facebook feature where everyone can participate to show their solidarity in this cause. By going to our website, you can upload a photo that will be overlaid with our logo and asks you the question: “How do you defend Puerto Rico?” You answer it any way you want and then upload it as your profile picture on Facebook.
To support Defend Puerto Rico, pre-order their tees or tanks (for both men and women), which will begin shipping on September 16th. All funds go to support the project.