Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Sugar [Cane], Part II

I like browsing through The Library of Congress' American Memory digital archive--if you go to the "search" box and type "Puerto Rico," you will be able to see several hundred digital images (mostly maps and photos) of a Puerto Rico long gone. Images of the Puerto Rico where my grandparents, and parents grew up. As I child I caught glimpses of the sugar life, but by that time the cane was mostly growing wild and the Lafayette sugar mill (around which some of my family lives), was closed and decaying: a "corpse of history" (as I call it elsewhere). Here I share a few images that I selected specifically because they focus on the life of sugar cane workers during the first half of 20th century. The photos I feature here were taken by the now iconic Jack Delano. Through his beautifully composed photos of everyday life, we witness the vibrancy of life in mid-century Puerto Rico. (The archive also contains the work of several other photographers aside from Delano). Delano first traveled to Puerto Rico on assignment for the Farm Security Administration (FSA), and by 1946 he and wife Irene decided to make Puerto Rico home. His book "Puerto Rico Mio," is for me an incredibly informative visual record of living and working in Puerto Rico between the 1940s and the late 1980s.

 Above: Lunch of a sugar worker on a plantation, 1942, J. Delano

 Above: Sugar cane worker and his woman, 1941, J. Delano
Above: FSA borrower and participant in the sugar cane cooperative, 1941, J. Delano
Above: Crane at a "central" sugar cane gathering place, 1942, J. Delano
Above: FSA borrower who is a member of sugar cooperative, 1942, J. Delano
Above: Crane at "central" gathering place, 1942, J. Delano
Above: Rice in a lunch of a sugar worker, 1942, J. Delano
Above: Rice and papaya lunch in the lunch of a sugar worker, 1942, J. Delano
 Above: Harvesting sugar cane in a burned field, 1942, J. Delano
 Above: Son who brought lunch to father working on sugar cane field, 1942, J. Delano
 Above: Tenants in their garden, 1941, J. Delano
 Above: Burning a sugar cane field, 1942, J. Delano

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