Teresa Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies
Teresa Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies

After the Storm: Exhibition Opening Explores the Urgency of Puerto Rico’s “Death Debt”

Mon, October 9, 2017
After the Storm: Exhibition Opening Explores the Urgency of Puerto Rico’s “Death Debt”
“Legisladores, banqueros” by Eduardo Lalo

By César A. Salgado, with Susanna Sharpe

LLILAS Benson Latin American Studies and Collections welcomes the celebrated Puerto Rican writer and artist Eduardo Lalo to campus for the opening of Deudos / Death Debt: The Art of Eduardo Lalo, a collection of black-and-white photographs. The event will take place on Thursday, October 19, from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. in the Benson Latin American Collection second-floor gallery.


In a number of equivocal tweets and comments during his recent visit to the island, President Trump reminded Puerto Ricans that they will still owe unaudited billions to the United States while coping with devastating losses and crassly underreported fatalities after Hurricane Maria.

Now more than ever, Eduardo Lalo’s exhibition of photographs Deudos / Death Debt speaks to how expendable the lives of “second-class” citizens can be under oppressive debt in the island’s colonial dilemma.

Even before the devastation of Hurricane Maria, contemporary Puerto Rico was confronting unprecedented challenges. The island Commonwealth’s spiraling $70-billion debt crisis has earned it the moniker “Greece of the Caribbean.” A record-breaking population exodus to the mainland, draconian cuts to public services and education funding (including a $160 million reduction in the state university system budget), and the return of pro-consular colonialism through a budget junta imposed by the U.S. Congress have led to mass protests and confrontations in the streets and greater taxes, business closings, and overall poverty throughout the island. In the wake of a direct hit by a Category 4 storm, Puerto Ricans face the destruction of their communications, transportation, waterworks, and energy infrastructure as well as the ecological devastation of the island. The economic and political ramifications could take years to resolve.

In Deudos / Death Debt, prize-winning writer and visual artist Eduardo Lalo has chosen photographs that, seen together or separately, illustrate the increasing vulnerabilities and anxieties of Puerto Ricans affected by the debt crisis. Deudos / Death Debt not only exhibits a topical selection of Lalo’s distinctively trenchant visual work and graphics. It also opens a unique window to make fully visible the ruinous economic, political, and social dispossession that Puerto Ricans continue to suffer at this crucial moment.

The Conversation

Along with Eduardo Lalo, Puerto Rican scholars César A. Salgado and Jossianna Arroyo-Martínez (both of the Department of Spanish and Portuguese) will assess, discuss, and rethink the visual politics and critical representations that the works in Deudos / Death Debt propose about the island’s inhabitants under oppressive debt before Hurricane Maria from the vantage point of the images of a fully devastated island currently circulating in global media.

Lalo will answer questions from the audience following this conversation. A reception follows.

This event is free and open to the public.

For more information, contact Susanna Sharpe.

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  • Teresa Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies

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