Leenda Bonilla - Artist

with Antonio Martorell

Big Mama was a great project I worked on with other artists and community folks for the renowned Puerto Rican artist Antonio Martorell for El Museo del Barrio's exhibition, Nueva York (1613-1945), held in September 2010.


Martorell asked for artists and local folks to help recreate an installation that served as a theater for the projection for a film on migration to New York of Puerto Ricans and other Latinos after 1945. This installation is inspired by the short story, La Guagua Aérea or The Air Bus by Rafael Sánchez, which focuses on the circular transit of Puerto Ricans between the islands of Puerto Rico and Manhattan.


Big Mama was created to honor not only the women in my life that did the air bus and persevered to make a the best of a dual life on the mainland and well as the island. She represents the mothers, tias, madrinas, daughters, abuelas who ventured on planes when they were rickety, filled with lawn chairs right up to Jet Blue.


My journey on la guagua aerea began at the age of three with my folks, brothers and sister on American Airlines in 1970 something. I wish I saved the little airplane they gave out.

The installation is now part of the permanent collection of the New York Historical Society. I have not visited the installation at this venue yet. Overall, I'm happy that Puerto Rican migration has been recognized but I know there's more needed to expel about PR history. The New York times review was well received when the show premiered at El Museo.





Antonio Martorell and me in front of the installation of La Guagua Aérea.


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