On January 7th, 2017, 500 participants gathered in the unique landscape of the tropical forest to join Papo on his triumphant return to Puerto Rico.
At 3 p.m. that day, what was supposed to be the beginning of the performance, Papo told me he had to do something with his musicians and actors and he would be right back. We kept waiting. An hour went by and it was 4 o’clock, then 4:15, 4:25, and the sun was beginning to set. Huh, I thought, Papo was always telling me he was a trickster. Did he trick me by telling me he would disappear after the performance? Did he do it early, at 3 p.m., without telling me?
I lined up all of the animals, carriages, and participants along the road, ready to go once Papo arrived—the most a curator can do. And then, finally, he reappeared with his pickup truck loaded with all of his performance talent. Without a word, he took his position at the front of the procession, with the actors around him, and started to walk. After so many months of planning, the performance had begun.
We made five stops, including one at a waterfall, one in a clearing, and one in the darkest, densest part of the forest. The actors made beautiful tableaux vivant, like in a Fellini movie, and, despite the fact that we were in the most stunning landscape, everybody’s attention was fixed on the performers. And yet, you couldn’t escape the powerful presence of nature over those two-and-a-half hours.
When we finally arrived at Papo’s foundation, we enjoyed the feast of fried chicken and mofongo that we had organized, and a three-piece band performed. The artist walked over to the river for a ritual cleansing, and participants joined him, washing off dirt and clay from the procession. It was the end of Papo’s procession, on what might have been the first rainless day in weeks, that shed light on the beauty of Puerto Rico and the urgency of its current crisis.