The Mural La Plena by Rafael Tufiño is an extraordinary artistic work that truly exemplifies Puerto Rican culture. La Plena documents a historical musical form of Puerto Rico; it also documents the history of the island and brings awareness to Puerto Rican history and folk music. The painting and a related documentary were commissioned during a time when Puerto Rican culture was being assaulted. One of the goals for the work’s creation was to bring back a musical form nearly lost due to racial prejudices that encouraged the suppression of Puerto Rican identity by the United States. Both the mural and the musical form brought cultural pride back to an island that had been nearly deprived of it. However, to truly understand the mural and its significance, one must first understand the history of Puerto Rico and the musical form “La Plena.” This presentation draws upon my research in Puerto Rico, when I worked, with the support of a Cornell Fellows grant, at the Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico this past fall. This paper covers the history of Puerto Rico from 1898, when the United States took control of the island, until the revitalization movement of the 1950s. This history is very important to the mural’s significance and meaning. The analysis of the mural will identify the different songs within the mural and compare those findings with that of the Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico. Furthermore, the research discusses why the twelve songs were chosen by the artist and how they represent Puerto Rican identity. Finally, the analysis shows that the painting is indeed a mural despite its ability to be moved. All three sections are crucial to fully understanding how the mural, La Plena, summarizes the revival of Puerto Rican culture in the mid-twentieth century.
Kristal Viera, ’16
Sponsor: Christina Penn-Goetsch