Graduation Year

2012

Document Type

Thesis

Degree

M.A.

Degree Granting Department

Art

Major Professor

Elisabeth Fraser

Keywords

Creollismo, Francisco Oller, Manuel E. Jordan, Ramón Frade, Spanish American War

Abstract

In the three decades surrounding the Spanish-American war (1880-1910), three prominent Puerto Rican artists, Francisco Oller (1833-1917), Manuel E. Jordan (1853-1919), and Ramón Frade (1875-1954) created a group of paintings depicting "el jíbaro," the rural Puerto Rican farm worker, in a way that can be appropriately labeled "nationalistic." Using a set of motifs involving clothes, customs, domestic architecture and agricultural practices unique to rural Puerto Rico, they contributed to the imagination of a communal identity for creoles at the turn of the century. ("Creole" here refers to individuals of Spanish heritage, born on the island of Puerto Rico.) This set of shared symbols provided a visual dimension to the aspirational nationalism that had been growing within the creole community since the mid- 1800s. This creollismo mythified the agrarian laborer as a prototypical icon of Puerto Rican identity. By identifying themselves as jíbaros, Puerto Rican creoles used jíbaro self-fashioning as a way to define their community as unique vis a vis the colonial metropolis (first Spain, later the United States). In this thesis, I will examine works by Oller, Jordan and Frade which employ jíbaro motifs to engage this creollismo. They do so by painting the jíbaro himself, his culture and surroundings, the fields in which he worked, and the bohío hut which was his home. Together, these paintings form a body of jíbaro imagery which I will contextualize, taking into account both the historical circumstances of jíbaro life, as well as the ways in which signifiers of jibarismo began to gain resonance amongst creoles who did not strictly belong to the jíbaro class. The resulting study demonstrates the importance of the mythified jíbaro figure to the project of imagining Puerto Rican creole society as a nation, and the extent to which visual culture participated in this creative process.