A few pictures I took at Don Ricardo Alegría's wake. (Saturday, July 9, 2011) He was 90.
All of us as schoolkids growing up in Puerto Rico learned about him: archaeologist, anthropologist, historian, longtime director of the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture, founder of the Centro de Estudios Avanzados de Puerto Rico y el Caribe (Center of Advanced Studies of PR and the Caribbean) where I took these photos in Old San Juan.
It was a hot sunny day, and I had to walk uphill, a bit lost, near houses I want to live in, heh. The line wasn’t too bad when I got in; by the time I left it was really long and people kept coming.There was a courtyard with chairs under a white canopy with people listening to Moriviví, an actor playing a jíbaro, the old-timey humble peasant from the Puerto Rican rural area. He was carrying a (wooden) machete and did a great impersonation of the jíbaro accent, reciting poetry and telling a joke as an encore when he tried to leave and people called him back. In the passage surrounding the courtyard there was a cuatro band, tuning up for later. As I moved in the line away from the courtyard, I could hear the Puerto Rican anthem playing. I overdosed on puertoricaness. Love.
After I signed the guestbook, I walked into the room where they had set up the coffin. There were funeral wreaths on both sides; I particularly noticed the one from Puerto Rican Fraternity Alpha Beta Chi because of its unusual symbol. Later I read that Don Ricardo had founded ABX, and the symbol is a naked man based on a Taíno petroglyph which I’m pretty sure was the Taíno female fertility symbol.
Some people were sitting on benches, chapel style, and I wasn’t sure if they were family or not. I would have taken more pictures of him in the coffin, and they did allow photos (I asked twice) but it still felt awkward. Plus I forgot to once I got close. Kinda just stood there in awe. I want the same pin he had on of two drums covered in the Puerto Rican flag.
El Nuevo Día newspaper has a nice slideshow of his life here. I can’t think of anyone who can fill his shoes- the man was a walking institution and will be missed.