River Rail Puerto Rico Issue
River Rail

Fuerzas Sutiles (Subtle Forces)

nibia pastrana santiago’s large-scale choreographic event took place in 2017 inside a hangar at the Isla Grande Airport with the airstrip and San Bay serving as a dynamic backdrop.

nibia pastrana santiago, <em>Fuerzas Sutiles</em> (2017). Photo: SupaKid.
nibia pastrana santiago, Fuerzas Sutiles (2017). Photo: SupaKid.
Leer en español >>

Translated from the Spanish by Nicole Delgado.

Bay, Dance, Territory: Some Notes

the bay is always open

it only closes during storms and hurricanes

it closes for 7 hours during new year’s eve

El Morro Castle II was the first airplane to transport passengers from New York to Puerto Rico in 1923

the bay has a constant entrance-exit flow: ships, vessels, cruises, airplanes, "merchandise" is the term for everything that enters or exits the bay

Ciudad Trujillo, Port-au-Prince, Santiago de Cuba, and Havana were the stops of the Puerto Rico-Miami flight in 1929

since 1934, the U.S. NAVY expressed their interest in building an air base in the infilled land of the San Juan Bay, including Isla Grande and Miraflores Island

mangroves and swamp, that’s what Isla Grande was

“a site capable of becoming an adequate air base for the operation of patrol aircraft”

“whoever controls the docks, controls maritime traffic; we wanted to control the monopoly that companies like The Waterman had at the time”

the San Juan Bay connects to the Condado Lagoon through the San Antonio Channel

annual average: 700 cruise ships and 1.3 million tourists

in the bay, everything that's part of the landscape day and night becomes a waypoint for navigation: lights, towers, buoys, everything that is fixed in space is a marker

the bay is a highly choreographed territory

access is conditioned by a manifesto, this private document details weight, quantities, measurements, and final or partial destination of the products

there have been immigrants who throw themselves into the water from the cargo ships when they dock

float: to maintain a body on the surface of a liquid

5 hours, 900 movements, 23 drivers: to load and unload the containers of a vessel

dance is image

repetitive change in water levels is influenced by the moon, the sun and the earth; when the three celestial bodies align, force intensifies creating a higher tide: the spring tide

depths vary

there’s a channel that only experienced pilots can navigate

in 2015, the federal government allocated $5.7 million for the maintenance of commercial navigation, and $700 thousand for research on the dredging of the San Juan Bay

the bay is protocol

dance is a device

choreography is a net

“los muchachos de Cataño ya no pueden contrabandear, porque el gobierno tiene una lancha que juega con las olas del mar" – plena song

Tropic Express, Isla Bella, and National Glory are some of the ships that enter the docks weekly

Las Cucharillas Swamp functions like a gigantic sponge to prevent floods

chance is an inevitable factor

El Caño Martín Peña connects the San Juan Bay to Laguna San José and Laguna los Corozos, which in turn are connected to Laguna La Torrecilla and Laguna de Piñones by the Suárez Channel

there were small boats that defended the bay from the mangroves, resisting the sieges of invaders from the waterways

post-military never post-tourism

nibia pastrana santiago, <em>Fuerzas Sutiles</em> (2017). Concept and Choreography: nibia pastrana santiago. Soundscape: Eduardo Rosario. Visuals: Sofía Gallisá.Costumes: Agnessanna. Performers: Sylvia Bofill, Yan Collazo, Mulowayi Nonó & Jesús “Pito” Miranda. Video: Oswaldo Colón. Photos: SupaKid.
nibia pastrana santiago, Fuerzas Sutiles (2017). Concept and Choreography: nibia pastrana santiago. Soundscape: Eduardo Rosario. Visuals: Sofía Gallisá.Costumes: Agnessanna. Performers: Sylvia Bofill, Yan Collazo, Mulowayi Nonó & Jesús “Pito” Miranda. Video: Oswaldo Colón. Photos: SupaKid.


nibia pastrana santiago

nibia pastrana santiago is based in San Juan. nibia develops site-specific “choreographic events” to experiment with time, fiction, and notions of territory. She is co-director at Beta-Local and also serves as the Dance Program Coordinator at Universidad del Sagrado Corazón, the first of its kind in Puerto Rico. Currently, nibia is co-editing an anthology on Puerto Rican experimental dance with dance scholar Susan Homar, to be published in 2021. Her work has been supported by Instituto de Cultura Puertorriqueña and Fundación Puertorriqueña de las Humanidades. nibia is a 2019 Whitney Biennial artist.

Nicole Delgado

Nicole Delgado is a Puerto Rican poet, translator, and book artist. In 2016, she founded La Impresora, an editorial studio specialized in small-scale independent publishing. Her latest books include: Apenas un cántaro: Poemas 2007-2017 (Ediciones Aguadulce, 2017), and Periodo especial (Aguadulce/La Impresora, 2019), which explores the socioeconomic mirror images between the Greater Antilles in light of Puerto Rico’s ongoing financial crisis. Delgado is widely regarded as one of the leading Puerto Rican poets of her generation, and as a cultural worker bringing together artists, activists, and writers from across the Americas.


The Brooklyn Rail

River Rail Puerto Rico

All Issues