NEW YORK — “No matter how many times the right wing defaces this mural, we will restore it,” Marina Ortiz told a couple dozen people at a speak-out in front of the “Dos Alas” (two wings) mural here in the heart of East Harlem Nov. 19. The mural, which depicts Puerto Rican Nationalist leader Pedro Albizu Campos and Argentine-born Ernesto Che Guevara, a leader of Cuba’s socialist revolution, was badly damaged by an attack in early November. Ortiz has been centrally involved in preserving the mural.
The mural highlights a stanza from a poem by Lola Rodríguez de Tió, “Cuba and Puerto Rico are two wings of the same bird,” referring to their common struggle over centuries, first against Spanish- and then U.S.-colonial rule.
The event also celebrated the anniversary of the birthday of Lolita Lebrón, who spent 25 years in prison for an armed protest in the U.S. Congress in 1954 held to expose Washington’s lie that Puerto Rico was not a U.S. colony.
Right-wing opponents of the Cuban Revolution have defaced the mural five times over the last year and a half, targeting the painting of Che Guevara.
The mural was painted in 1999 by artists from Ricanstruction Network and the Puerto Rico Collective, with participation of local residents. It is “one of 10 throughout Harlem to oppose gentrification and to make a stand about Puerto Rican history,” Ortiz said. “It also recognizes the legacy of the Cuban Revolution and its importance all over the world.”
Dozens of residents passing by were outraged at the attack on a historic work of art and landmark in the area. Many signed a petition protesting the defacement. Ortiz urged participants to bring others to visit the mural and to hold more events there, near the corner of East 105th Street and 3rd Avenue.