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55 Fieldworker in the Cane A Puerto Rican Life History in Wood and Words Julián Antonio Carrillo At ninety-three, José Lugo Arroyo is many things: a woodcarver, painter, poet, chronicler, and novelist, as well as a retired soldier, teacher, mathematician, and university administrator. Most importantly, perhaps, he is also a jíbaro in mind and soul—a small farmer in Puerto Rico, typically from a mountainous region.1 Having recently convivido with him in his rural Virginia home, I am adding “ethnographic fieldworker” to his list of occupations.2 In 1974, Sidney Mintz published Worker in the Cane: A Puerto Rican Life History, which presents the life of don “Taso” Zayas, a sugarcane worker who, like his peers in the 1930s and 1940s, was impacted by the socioeconomic changes brought on by westernization.3 Don Taso’s life history serves, as Mintz (1974, ix– xii) puts it, as a testament to a superbly intelligent man as well as to his drastically changing society. This chapter presents the life of don José Lugo Arroyo, who like don Taso, labored in the Puerto Rican countryside during a similar time of transformation. Yet, here I focus on his artwork. Before leaving the island at the age of eighteen to serve in World War II in 1943, don José lived the first part of his life in rural Puerto Rico where he experienced , learned about, and documented vernacular practices all around him. Much later as an adult, don José began to recollect those experiences and materialize his memories in a collection of handcrafted wooden figurines documenting the rich diversity of Puerto Rican folklife of the 1930s and 1940s.4 Based on the nature and content of his woodcarvings, I label don José a folkloristic ethnographic fieldworker and his carved scenes an “ethnographic” collec3 The Expressive Lives of Elders (2018): 55–79, DOI: 10.2979/expressivelivesofelders.0.0.04 56 | The Expressive Lives of Elders tion.5 Parting from this premise, this chapter asks the following questions: Why does the need to carve ethnographic sculptures become a necessity later in the life of don José? What is involved in his woodcarving, and why does the creative process become an activity in its own right? Moreover, how do the sculptures acquire value? To answer these questions, the chapter looks at how don José’s condition as a fieldworker involved a creative process that was based on the mobilization of memory in various ways. This chapter also explores the ways that the intimate value of his collection has grown throughout the years to acquire greater value as heritage. Last, I show that as folklorists we have something to offer elders if we highlight and work from the intra- and intergenerational connections, which are crucial to the valorization of their folk arts. Expressions in Wood Don José currently resides with his daughter Sonia Ivette Badillo and her husband , Leslie Elvis Badillo, in a house nestled in the thick woods surrounding the town of Christiansburg, Virginia. The many rooms of this country home are dotted with evidence of how proud this strong family is of its Puerto Rican heritage. The halls are adorned with photographs of the Badillos’ three adult sons, Walter, Brian, and Alex, next to paintings of their parents’ and grandparents’ cherished Island of Enchantment. The first thing we see when we enter the room dedicated to don José’s collection , which he calls Expressions in Wood, is a white wall with symmetrically placed shelves. These hold one hundred hand-painted sculptures, some of which are a few inches tall while others are so large that they must be picked up with both hands. Collectively, the carvings make up an entire colorful village of miniature people, all engaged in activity (fig. 3.1). Some of these villagers are at home tending a fire on a traditional stove with sand, wood, and rocks; feeding their children or husbands; or sitting on a small wooden bench patiently rolling tobacco. Other people’s work extends outward to the barrio, like the barber cutting a man’s hair under a palm tree or the man selling piraguas (snow cones) from his little cart. A few kids play games. One, for example, is on the street with la rueda, rolling a metallic wheel without letting it fall over. Country folk are also portrayed in the midst of the daily grind—fishing, hauling jugs of water, carrying lumber, cutting open coconuts with their machetes , and working the caña (sugarcane), either...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780253037091
MARC Record
OCLC
1016693886
Pages
240
Launched on MUSE
2018-11-08
Language
English
Open Access
No
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