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José A. Torres Martinó, a Puerto Rican artist, considers both the Primera [1st] (1970) and the Segunda [2nd] (1972) Bienal de San Juan de Grabado Latinoamericano [San Juan Biennial of Latin American Graphic Art] to be the most significant biennials. Based on those two experiences, some of problems with the biennial have been clarified, and some have even been resolved. Among other issues, the biennial eliminated the Puerto Rican Art Prize, which sidelined Puerto Rican artists from the international competition; so they are now on an equal footing with the other artists. However, the writer states, one problem yet to be resolved pertains to the selection jury; another unresolved matter is the process of awarding prizes.


The Biennial de San Juan del Grabado Latinoamericano was one of the most important events held in the Caribbean region, given that it fostered an exchange of ideas and contact among different artists. The first of these biennials was organized by the Instituto de Cultura Puertorriqueña [Institute of Puerto Rican Culture] (ICP) in 1970. Printmaking was selected because it was a form of expression that was widely practiced by Puerto Rican artists, who were producing very high quality work. In 1986, “y del Caribe” [and Caribbean] was added to the name of the biennial so it could include that geographic area in the event. Parallel to this change, the biennial included two exhibitions to recognize artists’ work: one to honor a Puerto Rican artist and the other to honor a foreign artist.    José A. Torres Martinó (Ponce, born 1916) is considered the ideological leader of the generation born in the 1950s in Puerto Rico. As such, he was among those who defended the creation of an autonomous artistic movement in Puerto Rico. He also played an active role as arts educator and promoter of the graphic arts. In 1969, he founded and taught at the Taller de Diseño Gráfico [Graphic Design Workshop] de la Escuela de Arquitectura de la Universidad de Puerto Rico. Working with the artist Myrna Báez, he founded the Hermandad de Artistas Gráficos de Puerto Rico in 1981. The reason for organizing this group of artists was to protest against government intervention in cultural matters at the time.

Flavia Marichal Lugo
Museo de Historia, Antropología y Arte, Universidad de Puerto Rico, San Juan, Puerto Rico
Courtesy of José A. Torres Martino, San Juan, Puerto Rico