Muñoz Marín estaba plenamente consciente de la cuota cultural y espiritual que la Operación Manos a la Obra estaba teniendo en la Isla, y por lo tanto se propuso demostrarle al pueblo puertorriqueño que la modernización no acarreaba la pérdida del orgullo nacional.
En otras palabras, él convirtió en una prioridad demostrar que el avance económico y la conservación de la cultura no eran tareas mutuamente exclusivas. Con tal fin, en 1949 el gobernador Muñoz Marín firmó la Ley 372, con la cual, entre otras cosas, creó la DIVEDCO. La idea de Muñoz Marín de educar al pueblo a través del arte, películas, y literatura había sido inspirada en parte por el Federal Arts Program (FAP), la sección de artes visuales de la Works Progress Administration, la cual fue la más grande de las agencias del Nuevo Trato del presidente Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Tres individuos que habían participado en los programas del Nuevo Trato del Presidente Roosevelt también desempeñaron papeles claves en el desarrollo de la DIVEDCO: Edwin Rosskam fue su primer director, y Jack e Irene Delano estuvieron a cargo de los departamentos de cinematografía y gráfica. Eventualmente, la producción cultural de la DIVEDCO sería reconocida como emblemática del programa que Muñoz Marín denominó Operación Serenidad, la contraparte espiritual y cultural de su Operación Manos a la Obra.
Marisel C. Moreno y Thomas F. Anderson
Muñoz Marín was painfully aware of the spiritual and cultural toll that Operation Bootstrap was taking on the island, and he thus set out to show the Puerto Rican people how modernization did not necessarily imply the loss of their sense of national pride.
In other words, he made it a priority to demonstrate that economic advancement and cultural preservation were not mutually exclusive. To this end, in 1949, Governor Muñoz Marín put into effect Law 372, which, among other things, created the DIVEDCO. Muñoz Marín’s idea of educating the people through art, film, and literature had been partly inspired by the Federal Art Project (FAP), the visual arts arm of the Works Progress Administration (WPA), which was the largest of the New Deal agencies established by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Three individuals who had been involved with President Roosevelt’s New Deal also played key roles in the development of the DIVEDCO: Edwin Rosskam was its first director, and Jack and Irene Delano were in charge of the film and graphics departments. Eventually, the DIVEDCO’s cultural products would be recognized as emblematic of the program that Muñoz Marín called “Operación Serenidad” [Operation Serenity], the spiritual and cultural counterpart to Operation Bootstrap.
The Division of Community Education’s main goal was to educate the Puerto Rican people, especially the semi-illiterate rural population. Aware of the many challenges that this sector was experiencing as a result of Operation Bootstrap, the government made it a priority to aid and to facilitate this demographic’s transition to modernity. The emphasis on the jíbaros (Puerto Rican peasants) and their lifestyle became a trademark of many of the materials produced by the DIVEDCO, which featured rural backgrounds or situations with which this specific target audience could easily identify.
The topics of DIVEDCO’s didactic products ranged widely, as can be seen from the selection of posters featured in this exhibit at the Snite Museum of Art. This collection constitutes a representative sample of the best work done by the DIVEDCO throughout its 40-years of existence. For decades the posters have remained the DIVEDCO’s most widely recognized and valued products, and they are prized commodities among collectors of Puerto Rican, Caribbean, and Latin American art. This is due in part to the fact that most of them were designed by the island’s best-known and most accomplished graphic artists – Lorenzo Homar, Rafael Tufiño, Antonio Maldonado, Carlos Raquel Rivera, Eduardo Vera Cortés, Rafael Delgado Castro, and José Meléndez Contreras – who did much to turn the silk screen into the most popular printmaking technique in Puerto Rico.
Many of the posters produced by the DIVEDCO’s artists – and most of those included in this exhibit – were created to promote the films produced by the same entity. Given that the DIVEDCO’s main objective was to educate as many people as possible, the posters had to be striking and attractive, but they also had to capture the peasant public’s attention with a visual summary of the main themes of the films. These posters – which are so highly valued today – were often printed in editions of over 5,000 copies, most of which were plastered to walls, posts, trees, or any centrally-located object where they would be visible to the public. Strategically displayed in even the remotest corners of each community, the posters advertised the hour and location of a particular film screening. These popular events – which typically took place outdoors during the evening – fostered a congenial and amicable atmosphere that served to promote the community spirit that the DIVEDCO strived to foment.