Las Jíbaras Documentary
On September 20th, 2017, Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico, and in a matter of hours destroyed over 80% of the island’s crops and completely destabilized the infrastructure needed to disseminate imported food. This unmasked the extreme vulnerability of the island’s food supply and left most people on the island cut off from fresh food, clean water, and electricity for months.
In contrast to, and in spite of, these catastrophic problems, there were women on the island who were harvesting hurricane-resistant root crops, collecting rainwater and generating solar power, as they had been for a number of years with little governmental or societal support. Overnight, these women found themselves providing a critical example to others on the island, and across the world, of how to move forward and thrive in the era of climate change.
Las Jíbaras focuses on five of these powerful women with over three generations’ worth of knowledge regarding the use of traditional farming methods to promote resilience and biodiversity and to renew social relationships between farmers and their local communities.
I am a Puerto Rican artist from the diaspora. My parents left the island in the early 1970’s and I was born in Hartford, Connecticut. Like many members of the diaspora, I grew up visiting family in Puerto Rico multiple times a year. My experiences traveling back and forth between Puerto Rico and the U.S. mainland throughout my childhood continue to inspire and inform my interest in exploring questions related to identity, independence, and the environment through visual art.
My immediate connection to the story featured in Las Jíbaras began on the morning of September 5th, 2017, when I boarded an almost empty plane having just learned that a Category 5 hurricane was barreling towards the island of Puerto Rico. My ambition of shooting a video series on the island’s herbal medicine traditions quickly became immaterial as two historically catastrophic storms, Irma and Maria, battered the island within the first two weeks of my arrival.
All of the things you might have heard on the news were the reality everywhere I looked.
Months later, I had my first introduction to the agroecology movement at a volunteer brigade sorting seeds that were donated to the island. Agroecology is the use of traditional farming methods, without the use of toxic chemicals, to promote resilience and biodiversity, with a commitment to rebuilding social relationships between farmers and local communities. For the first time since the storm, my attitude truly shifted.
Over the course of this experience, I found a second family. We worked together towards something that had started before the storms—the question of how to feed an island with locally grown, sustainable, organic food. That question, which presented itself to me after experiencing Hurricane Irma and Maria, has persisted in my thoughts and work since then. How to achieve food independence and, more broadly, social independence are the questions that I keep returning to, and the questions I want to keep exploring as an artist.
HOW TO SUPPORT:
I have had the privilege of working with Crystal, Odette, Gabriela, Frances, and Magha over the past two years as I worked to document the agroecological movement in Puerto Rico. This film started as a self-funded passion project and now I need your help to make sure it’s finished properly. Your contributions will help us get this film finished through the last stages of post-production.
Please visit to donate: www.lasjibaras.com