A virtual stew of “non-essential” thinkers and makers

Throughout June 2020, Puerto Rico Syllabus, in partnership with The Clemente Soto Velez Cultural & Educational Center and the CUNY GC Center for the Humanities, organized a series of online gatherings with commissioned videos and moderated dialogues that featured scholars, writers, artists and activists from across and beyond the Puerto Rican archipelago and New York. Each event concluded with a virtual jangueo with DJ sets and live musical performances to defend joy and celebrate community. Events were held in Spanglish with live interpretation by Babilla Collective, although the transmissions shared here are in their original language. 

Did you miss out on #sancocholive? Check out the recordings from the three-part installment & #jointhesancocho whenever you want!
Thursday, June 11th, 2020

The series began by asking the question: How can we understand COVID-19 within a longer narrative arc of disaster, austerity and compounding crisis? To address this accumulation of catastrophes that have plagued Puerto Ricans, and draw connections between the current pandemic and our pre-existing conditions and struggles, Yarimar Bonilla premiered the video  Aftershocks of Disaster, directed by Juan Carlos Dávila, which is an accompanying piece to the anthology edited with Marisol Lebrón and published by Haymarket Books.

After the documentary screening, journalist Alana Cassanova-Burgess moderated a Q&A with the producers and some of the interviewees. This group included professor and coeditor Marisol Lebrón, activist and psychoanalyst Patricia Noboa, artist Sofía Gallisá Muriente and journalist and writer Benjamín Torres Gotay

This first sancocho concluded with a set by DJ Cano Cangrejo from Agitarte.

Thursday, June 18th, 2020

The second session of the Sancocho Live focused on broadening the conversation around how periods of crisis lead to revaluations of cultural work and redefine what is essential. Puerto Ricans have long understood their culture as a tool for political resistance, but how many other strategies do cultural workers deploy to respond, resist and transform their communities? How do their lives and creative processes intertwine? We opened with a video prologue by Nuyorican poet Edwin Torres, who shared a poem to set the tone:

Afterwards, two other artists shared their work through short videos commissioned for the event. Melissa Calderón, from the Bronx, New York, talked about the process of reclaiming her grandmother’s embroidery teachings in 2011, after the economic crisis impacted her directly. The practice of embroidery allowed her to make work about not having work. These ruminations form part of a series titled ‘My Underemployed Life’.

Teresa Hernández, based in San Juan, Puerto Rico, shared her long-term project Bravatas, a work that has extended her artistic practice to design a research process that is an instrument and a performative act at the same time.

To further the conversation, we invited artist Sofía Gallisá Muriente to moderate a Q&A between Marianne Ramírez Aponte, Curator and Director of Puerto Rico’s Museo de Arte Contemporáneo (Contemporary Art Museum), Carla Torres Trujillo, activist and general coordinator of queer cultural space El Hangar in Santurce and Monxo López, activist and current curatorial fellow of the Museum of the City of New York. Although working from very different perspectives, the dialogue was an opportunity to connect those experiences and discuss the myriad forms in which cultural workers engage in social, political and community work in the face of disasters and upheaval in Puerto Rico and the diaspora. 

The second Sancocho Live ended with a DJ set by Buscabulla.

Thursday, June 25th, 2020


The third and final session of Sancocho Live looked at cultural projects created before the COVID-19 pandemic that were already addressing our state of crisis with intersectional approaches that are now more important than ever. We asked, how have cultural workers responded and been prescient to the fundamental needs of their communities in the face of state abandonment? Artists, scholars and activists from diverse backgrounds answered by sharing their on-going work, beginning with a live poetic performance by Urayoán Noel and a series of commissioned videos. 

The first of these videos showcased the work of PATBA (Parceleras Afrocaribeñas por la Transformación Barrial), an organization made up of AfroCaribbean women from the neighborhoods of San Antón, Saint Just and Los Mirtos in Carolina, who have taken over a shuttered school in their community with the mission of rehabilitating and reinhabiting it.

The following video was produced by LIIT, the Itinerant Lab for Theater Research, a group that has been meeting since November 2018 led by writer and artist Aravind Adyanthaya, director of the experimental art space Casa Cruz de la Luna in San Germán. Their video is included in the full transmission below. 

The final commissioned video shared a process of long-distance collaboration in times of pandemic by the fellows of La Práctica, a program of Beta-Local, an artist-run, non-profit organization that works as a support structure for Puerto Rican cultural workers. Participants drafted a manifesto collectively as part of a writing and editing workshop imparted by Adrián Flores Sancho, Costa Rican writer and past collaborator of the organization. La Práctica is made up by:  Laurie de Jesús, Cristóbal Guerra, Andrea Narváez, Andrea Ottenwalder, Raúl Porro y Anamarie Sierra Pagán.

The discussion continued with a Q&A hosted by writer and scholar Ed Morales, who interviewed Frances Negrón Muntaner and Ana Sepúlveda from the project Just XChanges about their initiatives circulating alternative currencies in Puerto Rican communities, Mariana Reyes from La Goyco, a school turned community cultural center in Machuchal, Santurce, and Dania from Espicy Nipples, a transfeminist media collective based in the southern part of the island that was at the frontlines of the grassroots response to the earthquake swarm that began in December of 2019. Later, the creators of the commissioned videos also joined the conversation and answered questions from viewers.

To wrap up the Sancocho Live series in style, this final virtual jangueo was broadcast live from La Goyco, where queer rockstar Macha Colón performed with artist Lío Villahermosa, born and raised in the Machuchal neighborhood, and a group of friends.

Sancocho Live is fully bilingual with English & Spanish interpretation thanks to the efforts of Babilla Collective.

The three-part event was made possible with the support of The Clemente Soto Velez Cultural and Educational Center, The Center for the Humanities at the CUNY Graduate Center.