Vine pa’ echar candela, Young Lords office

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Vine pa’ echar candela, is an artistic reinterpretation inspired by the Bronx office of the Young Lords in collaboration with curator Johanna Fernández.

The “office” connects past and present with photos by Michael Abramson and Fred W. McDarrah from the Young Lords original office and new banners with Young Lords’ symbols. In the installation there are books about contemporary and past movements such as Occupy Wall Street and the Young Lords. The “office” includes a computer displaying a social media hashtag aggregator to contemporary issues such as #blacklivesmatter and a radio playing live WBAI programing in the background. In addition, the “office” includes a table map of New York City where visitors can map sites of struggle and FBI files on the Young Lords and Puerto Rican independence movements.

Bronx Office

After less than a year of activism in New York City, the Young Lords launched a chapter of the organization in the Bronx and opened an office on Longwood Avenue (on the corner of Kelly Street) in April 1970. The office allowed the Young Lords to sink roots in the Bronx, which was home to the largest conglomeration of Puerto Ricans in New York, the majority of whom were concentrated in its southern-most section around the old Lincoln Hospital. Of their reception in the Bronx, the Young Lords reported, “Our recruitment is growing rapidly and many brothers and sisters are offering us their services, making us a part of their everyday lives.”

In addition to being a central hub of political activity, the Young Lords’ office was the place where the organization displayed a vast array of posters that captured the aesthetic of a new generation of Puerto Rican artists who were producing political art for the movement.

The movement built by the Young Lords emerged alongside of a wave of revolutions waged by colonized people in Asia and Africa against European colonial rule. As demonstrated by these banners, the Young Lords Party adopted the AK-47 machine gun as an important part of its iconography. To sixties activists, the AK-47 – like Che Guevara –was a symbol self-determination and resistance by poor third world people in the face of European imperial rule and oppression.

The documents on the wall are surveillance records of the Young Lords written by undercover agents hired by the FBI’s Counterintelligence Program (COINTELPRO). These agent provocateurs joined the Young Lords, and other protest organizations, to collect information for the FBI and destroy the group by provoking dissension and violence in its ranks.

Text by Johanna Fernández

This project is part of ¡Presente! The Young Lords in New York, organized by curators Johanna Fernández and Yasmín Ramírez, the first museum survey to examine the radical social group founded by Puerto Rican youth in New York and Chicago in the 1960s. The exhibition examines the thematic, aesthetic, ideological, and historical parallels between the activities of The Young Lords and contemporary artists to demonstrate the organization’s resonance within American art. Presented at the Bronx Museum of the Arts in collaboration with El Museo del Barrio and Loisaida Center.