I wasn't planning a second long walk this year after I returned home from Northern Ireland earlier this spring. But sometimes opportunities come along without appointment and you have to choose to pass or play.
After returning from my Walk Across Northern Ireland
where I commemorated the 50th Anniversary of the Belfast to Derry Civil Rights March, my brother, Keir
, co-founder of Amber Art and Design,
contacted me regarding an idea he had.
He said he was inspired by my walks over the past two years and asked if I would be interested in walking across Puerto Rico with him as part of a cultural exchange project?
The walk would be a follow up to other cultural exchange work that he has been doing over the past year, including an artist-in-residency program at the Allentown Art Museum
. The residency involved collecting personal artifacts and other expressions of solidarity with residents of Puerto Rico as part of the museum’s Tin Can Trust program
in partnership with the Caring Place
, a youth development center in Allentown.
After easily convincing me that this is a cultural exchange project I should be involved with, he went on to explain the walk involves three to four other artists, including two of whom are from Puerto Rico. In addition, round-trip air, a sag vehicle to help carry our bags over the mountains, community engagement activities, and a film crew will be part of the journey.
My mouth dropped open at the resources the group was bringing. The idea of attempting a 114-mile long walk over 2-3,000 foot mountains without having to carry a fifty-pound backpack every inch of the way is a gift since that is the only way I have backpacked up to now. It is being made possible by a grant money from a Canadian arts organization to help support the walk.
While the grant will aid some aspects of the journey like airfare, I am fundraising to assist with meals, travel expenses, a few shared room nights, and equipment specific to Puerto Rico’s tropical climate . Goal of the ProjectSin Cita/Without Appointment
, the name of the walk, is a learning journey across Puerto Rico. It serves as an opportunity for artists to listen and engage with vibrant and vulnerable communities, while examining our own approaches and strategies to instigate positive social change.
In a symbolic effort to mark two years since the arrival of Hurricanes Irma and Maria, members of four arts and culture organizations are initiating a 114-mile solidarity walk across Puerto Rico, from September 7 - 20, 2019.
Starting in Quebradillas on September 7, in the northwest corner of the island where Hurricane Maria rejoined the sea, members of the Sin Cita project group will walk a diagonal trajectory across the Cordillera Central Mountains to the southeast coast where the storm first made landfall in Yabucoa on September 20, 2017.
Our intention is to explore what’s possible when people look inward to revive traditions and cultural practices that support the spiritual and material development of communities. These communities have learned to trust themselves to find answers or solutions to resolving issues within their community that allows them to take control of their own future.
The walk will be captured in a series of video vignettes and a short documentary film featuring interviews with artists, community leaders and others along the route who can express the change, growth, joy, and adversities that residents on the island continue to experience today.
The organizations and individuals participating in the Sin Cita collaboration are: ArteSana (www.villacarmenatelier.org
), a San Juan-based community museum and art space dedicated to preserving the cultural legacies of Puerta de Tierra; ArtsEverywhere (www.artseverywhere.ca
), an international platform for artistic journalism; Amber Art & Design (www.amberartanddesign.com
), a Philadelphia-based public art collective that facilitates social/economic/political transformation through the arts; Heryk Tomassini (www.heryktomassini.com
), a Puerto Rican born multi-disciplinary artist and architect; and Ken Johnston, (www.ourwalktofreedom.com
) an intrepid hiker responding to the call of social change, history and ancestral spirits.
Sin Cita was born out of our shared interest as a group of concerned artists focused on ways of advocating community partnership, collaboration and the development of individual cultural expressions towards the advancement of social justice and in defense of basic human rights in Puerto Rico and beyond. Post Script
The recent political strife in Puerto Rico has delayed my efforts in publicizing the walk due to the sensitive nature of the events on the ground. It is my goal and the goal of the group to be in solidarity with the people of Puerto Rico. I look forward to learning about any significant changes on the island since the resignation of the governor on August 2, 2019.