IN ADVANCE OF UNA PUBLICACIÓN EN ESPAÑOL

La Barra de Paquito, with Christopher Rivera, Paquito, Juni Figueroa, Jorge Gonzalez, Lillian Mulero, Bubu Negron

Tropical Readymades (assisted): the artist as curator
by Jan Galligan & Lillian Mulero, Santa Olaya, PR

In 1913 Marcel Duchamp presented Bicycle Wheel, the first in a series of artworks he called Readymades, objects selected using a method of visual indifference in which the idea came first. At the time, André Breton defined readymade as “an ordinary object elevated to the dignity of a work of art by the mere choice of the artist.” To create Bicycle Wheel Duchamp selected the front wheel and fork of a black bicycle, mounted it upside down on the seat of a white wooden four-legged stool, then signed and dated the work, adopting readymade, a term used to describe manufactured items, distinguishing them from handmade goods. Duchamp adapted the term ironically to specifically define artworks he would create merely by selection. Because he combined two already made objects into one, he labeled Bicycle Wheel a Readymade (assisted) and then created others including With Hidden Noise,  a ball of twine clamped between two brass plates, joined by four screws. An unknown object was secretly placed inside the ball by one of his friends, and he never discovered what it was. Examples of “pure” Readymades include In Advance of a Broken Arm, 1915, a snow shovel with the title written on the handle, and Traveler's Folding Item, 1916, a leather Underwood typewriter cover, signed and dated by Duchamp.

In 2005 Jesus “Bubu” Negron was included in the Whitney Museum Biennial, where he presented Honoris Causa, consisting of a table from an African street vendor selling handicrafts, coupled with a hot dog cart – locating them both outside the museum. In 2014, Radames “Juni” Figueroa was selected for the Whitney Biennial, and he created Breaking the Ice, a small wooden structure, similar to a typical Puerto Rican casita, that sought, says Figueroa “to bring a bit of Caribbean atmosphere to New York with references to the tropical and beachy architecture of Puerto Rico, and which included several heaters placed to warm up the space, recreating a tropical climate.”

Late last summer, Negron and Figueroa took over the Embajada gallery on calle Cesar Gonzalez in San Juan, and turned it into a clandestine speak-easy, of the sort found along the calles of Bayamon. They called it La Barra de Paquito, named after Figueroa's dog, Paquito – who, for the duration of the exhibition, served as the bartender.  

Artists following a similar aesthetic, Negron and Figueroa until this exhibition, had not previously created art together. Billed as a one-person exhibition of new work by Negron, the project was curated by Figueroa who, in the manner of his Whitney installation, built the make-shift bar from various scraps of lumber, at a slightly small scale – to fit the stature of his dog Paquito.

Negron made a number of works specifically for the exhibition, including a series of 30 photographs laminated onto shaped wooden panels, recalling low-cost religious items found in discount stores around the island. Each photo depicts an invented internet meme of the sort typically found on Facebook. Apparently, all of the meme slogans came by way of text messages exchanged between Negron and Figueroa prior to their exhibit. About his artwork, Negron says, “I like working on projects that promote social interactions (usually) against authorities or power structures. What results, usually becomes an art object or documentation,” or as he has been know to say, “Delving into the bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla.”

Other works created by Negron include two cute puppies painted on the back of cardboard beer cases and a slot machine simulating the locally made and illegitimately rigged machines found in convenience stores around the island, this one made of paper mache, cardboard, and an iPad which displays three dogs as the winning combination.

In addition to the work of Negron, Figueroa chose complimentary works by fifteen other artists, some displayed on the bar and others hung on the walls of the back room, including a painting by Leo Fitzpatrick that says: A MAN WALKS INTO A BAR, and a mixed media group of pint liquor bottles by Jessie Stead & R. Lyon called: Duh Angel Signature Cocktail.

In the leadup to their exhibit, on Facebook Negron and Figueroa posted a series of announcements and messages, all carrying the theme: NOTHING CONCEPTUAL. However, it's possible they were speaking ironically, as in NOTHING PERSONAL – which when used as an apology implies that the speaker really did not mean what he was saying. Here, Negron and Figueroa mean exactly what they say. Both artists have a long history of making work and creating installations that are simultaneously entertaining and a challenge to the viewer's sensibilities. Make no mistake, this is art of the most interesting sort, and – it is conceptual. 

In 1969 Sol Lewitt published 35 Sentences on Conceptual Art in Art-Language magazine. A couple of examples: #1) Conceptual artists are mystics rather than rationalists. They leap to conclusions that logic cannot reach; #14) The words of one artist to another may induce an idea chain, if they share the same concept; and #30) There are many elements involved in a work of art. The most important are the most obvious.

At that time, conceptual artists were considered dry, humorless, intellectual, and against any art that was decorative or representational. Developed in opposition to the tenets of critic Clement Greenberg, who championed formalism against illusion, conceptual art promoted ideas above objects. As artist Lawrence Weiner declared: “Once you know about a work of mine you own it. There is no way I can get inside someone's head to remove it.”

Now you know about some of the work of Jesus “Bubu” Negron and Radames “Juni” Figueroa and so you own it -- it is yours do with as you wish. Just be careful that they don't come looking for you …

Nothing Conceptual, La Barra de Paquito by Bubu Negron, The Warriors



Embajada, Calle Cesar Gonzalez, 382 – www.embajadada.com

Jesus “Bubu” Negron www.artsy.net/artist/jesus-bubu-negron

Radames “Juni” Figueroa www.artsy.net/artist/radames-juni-figueroa


San Juan Art Diary : Summer, 2016

by Jan Galligan and Lillian Mulero 
Santa Olaya, PR

“I still say the art here reminds me of New York's Lower East Side in the 1980s,” says Lillian.

“What? Do you think that the art here looks like Neo-Geo, Neo-Pop, Street Art, and Neo-Expressionism?” I ask.

“No.” What I mean is that the New York art world at that time had a youthful energy and a sense of community and cooperation between artists and gallery owners. Artists worked with colleagues to develop a new culture. At the same time they participated in the international art world and were recognized with important opportunities and represented in influential exhibitions. That's what it feels like here now,” she explains.

Roberto Paradise gallery and Walter Otero Contemporary Art featured in ArtInfo listing for 2015 & 2016.

A good example of that type of energy and commitment is El cuadrado gris / The Gray Square a project of the art couple Anna Astor-Blanco, curator and Ozzie Forbes, photographer. After working and living in an art filled apartment, they decided to find a place of their own that could serve as both a home and an art gallery. They discovered a small uninhabited house in Barrio Obrero which they could remodel to their specifications. Having turned the basement of their building into what they call “a platform for contemporary multimedia artists and their work,” in early 2015 they began presenting exhibitions and multimedia art installations. First time visitors may be surprised to find that from the outside, the building looks like many of the other houses nearby. Except for decorative lights on the front porch and rather loud club music coming from inside, (Forbes has the reputation as a serious dj for contemporary music from Argentina) 455 Tito Rodriguez is hard to distinguish from surrounding houses. Passing through the front rooms and kitchen, you discover a small narrow stairway leading down to El cuadrado gris, two interconnected basement rooms – walls, ceiling and floor painted a medium gray, creating a perfectly neutral environment for the presentation of contemporary art.

Most recently, Astor-Blanco and Forbes turned their subterranean space over to the fertile imagination of artist Nayda Collazo-Llorens who took literal advantage of the opportunity, creating the project she calls Debajo de la Casa / Under the House. Collazo-Llorens says she immediately felt an affinity between their repurposed domestic space and her own house where she grew up, the homes of her aunt and grandparents, and the house she used as her studio, all in nearby Santurce. She says she was captured by a curiosity about this hidden space, “not knowing what might be found, a mix of the familiar and the unknown, the near and the far, it is a space that requires navigation.” Her answer was to bring elements of her earlier experiences into this underground architectural space, presenting them in a new and updated context. These include a collection of her grandfather's books that she stacked in a corner, from the floor to the ceiling, placed with their spines against the wall hiding the titles from the viewer and creating a sense of mystery about the stories and history they contain.

The largest and immediately impressive element of her installation is also the most mysterious. Entering El cuadrado gris one discovers a series of light gray, abstract, concentric designs painted directly on the walls and pillars. As you walk around they seem connected, but only when you find a specific location do these designs coalesce into one coherent pattern that suddenly floats within the space, appearing to hang in the air just out of reach. The effect is startling, impressive, and is its own reward for having exercised your curiosity.

Debajo de la casa, site specific art installation by Nayda Collazo-Llorens

El Cuadrado Gris / The Grey Square, 455 Calle Tito Rodriguez, Barrio Obrero. Visits can be scheduled by appointment via email sent to: elcuadradogris@gmail.com


After a nine month residency, part of Beta-Local's La Practica program, artist Ramon Miranda Beltran was given use of Casa del Sargento to present sujecto/objecto, a series of related sculptures and projected photographs created during his residency. Beta-Local was founded as a non-profit in 2009 in the spirit of 1980s New York organizations such as Exit Art, and Art in General. Beta-Local is dedicated to promoting local artists and connecting them to the international art community. Through programs like La Practica, they support and encourage artistic practice and aesthetic thought working to make art an essential social and political part of the life of the community.

Beltran, a recent graduate of UPR and the School of the Art Institute in Chicago, has made his sculptures from cement and wood native to Puerto Rico. Each object, meticulously crafted, has been carefully placed within the main room of Casa del Sargento, situated for easy viewing, but also arranged in a precarious balance. Made from heavy and substantial materials, the sculpted objects lean on and support each other in such a manner that an incautious or accidental touch would cause them to tumble to the ground. Beltran's photographs follow a similar narrative. One group of pictures were made looking out the windows of model apartments in the controversial Paseo Caribe complex and the others were taken through the windows of office spaces used by residents of the adjoining Caribe Plaza – residents who have come to the island specifically to take advantage of new tax exemption laws. For Beltran these businessmen have a relationship to the island as tenuous and uncertain as the parts of his sculptural constructions have to each other.

Ramon Miranda Beltran, sujecto/objecto, installation view at Casa del Sargento

Ramon Miranda Beltran, http://ramonmirandabeltran.com
Beta-Local, http://betalocal.org
Casa del Sargento, Calle Sol esquina Barbosa, Viejo San Jan


Last winter, Christopher Rivera and Manuela Paz converted a small clothing store in Hato Rey into a clean white space for showing art, leaving one of the walls, covered with floor to ceiling mirrors, intact. This was an excellent decision, as it makes the long and narrow space feel much larger, while providing an interesting challenge for artists when displaying their work. In the most recent four person exhibition, LEAN, artist Esther Klas who was born in Germany and works in Barcelona, used the mirrors as the surface onto which she drew a series of small faces. They are subtle and could easily be overlooked. On the floor sits a pair of bright orange running shoes, sculpted from beeswax, by Melissa Hopson of Indianapolis. Together Hopson and Klas created a pair of inkjet photographic prints which are mounted on the front window and can be seen from either side, depending whether you are inside or outside the gallery. Claudia Peña Salinas, born in Mexico and lives and works in Brooklyn, has used the former fitting room to present a group of one-of-a-kind inkjet prints which are mounted on wax panels which adds a luster to their day-glo colors. Among Brooklynite Linda Matalon's sculptures is a pair of wooden frames, coated with wax, which literally lean against the wall. The six struts for each frame are assembled, unattached. Three pieces lie on the floor, while two others lean against the wall, with the final strut balanced on top.

Lean is a good title for this exhibition, as many of the works are presented leaning or balancing instead of being traditionally attached to the walls. The exhibition itself is lean. These works, curated by Elena Tavecchia, are judiciously few in number, spare in their materials, minimalist in presentation, while they seem to have a special resonance in these lean economic times.

Installation view, LEAN, group exhibition. Note mirrored wall on right.

Embajada, Calle Cesar Gonzalez 82, Hato Rey, http://embajadada.com


Now in its third year in a refurbished commercial building in the Puerta de Tierra district, Walter Otero's gallery is distinguished by the full length glass paneled overhead door which is its front entrance. On particularly balmy evenings the door is raised and the gallery becomes an open-air emporium. The door also serves a practical purpose, allowing large scale art works to be easily brought into or out of the building.

Temporarily closed for July vacation, the gallery recently presented a group show by a dozen gallery artists. Prominent among them was a group of working drawings by Jennifer Allora and Guillermo Calzadilla. Titled Body in Flight (Delta), they depict one of six works presented at the 2011 Venice Biennale under the title Gloria. Each drawing in this set shows a female gymnast in a brightly colored leotard using a business-class airline seat as a platform for her Olympic style balance beam routine. During the Biennale, Allora and Calzadilla presented Body in Flight (Delta) as a continuous series of gymnastic dance performances. Local gymnasts, were instructed to perform a routine, choreographed in conjunction with a modern dancer to include both gymnastic and dance elements. Unlike normal gymnastic routines lasting two minutes, these were designed as 17-minute tests of endurance contradicting, as they say “the intention of the luxurious airline business class seat designed for maximum comfort of the passenger and functioning as an object of admiration in our capitalist culture.”

Another contradiction of creature comfort is found in the work of Rademes “Juni” Figueroa, a 2013 graduate of the Beta-Local La Practica program who also exhibited at the Whitney Museum Biennial that same year. Figueroa here presents a pair of automobile radiators whose grills have been incised with a blunt object, probably a screwdriver, creating brash, yet delicate drawings on the surface of the cooling fins. The drawings have the characteristic of slapdash graffiti wall drawings seen all over the city, and the imagery, palm trees, pirates, sunbursts, and occasional words like VAQUERO, COCO, or even phone numbers completes that connection. Of course, once the surface of the fins are damaged, the device will no longer function to provide cool air.

Radamés "Juni" Figueroa, .40 Living the Dream, 2015, Air conditioner


Walter Otero Contemporary Art, 402 Ave. Constitucion, http://www.walterotero.com



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Personal Attention (an art installation and performance)

ARTISTA EN PERFIL: Chaveli Sifre

by Jan Galligan and Lillian Mulero 
Santa Olaya, PR

We first encountered Chaveli Sifre and her art at Roberto Paradise when the gallery was located in a beautiful old wooden house on calle Hipodromo. We wrote about her exhibition, Fixed on the Scent of Light, in a June 12, 2013 article titled Chaveli Sifre: Scents and Sensibility. Since then, Sifre has moved to Berlin where she continues her art practice and sings with her pop band House of Life, while Roberto Paradise has relocated on calle Roberto H. Todd. We remained in contact with Sifre by way of Facebook, and were delighted when she posted an announcement for a one night project to be presented at La Estacion Espacial in the Miramar arts district which includes galeria Agustina Ferreyra and the recently announced El Museo de Arte y Diseno de Miramar, scheduled to open in 2018.

La Estacion Espacial, directed by Guillermoe Rodríguez and housed in a former bodega is a temporary platform for contemporary art created with the support of Beta-Local's La Practica project. La Estacion Espacial presents a continuing series of micro-exhibitions and seeks to open a local / international dialogue in the art community.

Sifre's description of her project Personal Attention said she would convert the exhibition space into a healing center employing different faiths, various rituals, and therapeutic methods – in particular the Japanese alternative medicine technique Reiki, which was developed in the 1920s by a Buddhist and has since become a world-wide phenomenon. The name is derived from the Japanese words rei – miraculous spirit, and ki – breath of life. Reiki masters claim that they are able to perceive a subject's ki-energy and determine if the life force is functioning at a high or low level. If the energy s low, a Reiki master can, by passing hands over the affected areas, transfer energy and improve the subject's health and happiness. This appealed to me because for many years I have suffered from tinnitus, a condition of the inner ear which fills my head with various ringing, roaring, buzzing, clicking and hissing sounds. Apparently listening to rock and roll music at very high volume when I was in my twenties caused this. Now that I am nearly a septuagenarian, I am haunted by the echoes of my youth. There are no cures for tinnitus, no medications and no operations which can silence the background noise. I've tried various homeopathic treatments, but they had no effect.  

Preparing the background for Sifre's installation

When I told Lillian about Sifre's project and insisted that we attend the performance, she treated me to a series of Ricky jokes about Ricky Rosello, Ricky Riccardo, Rikki Tiki Tavi - Rudyard Kipling's mongoose, and that joke about Ricky Martin changing a light bulb. Arriving at La Estacion Espacial, we found many people outside the storefront. Inside it was calm and serene. The wall opposite the entrance was covered in a large diaphanous fabric that rippled gently with two fans providing a cooling breeze. I learned from Sifre that the fabric was professionally dyed using two colors certified by Pantone corporation, the international arbiter of color popularity. Each year Pantone names a color of the year. For 2016 they picked two colors: number 13-1520, Rose Quartz and number 15-3919 Serenity. Pantone attempts to lead the marketplace with their color choices. They say, “As consumers seek mindfulness and well-being as antidotes to modern day stress, we join together Rose Quartz and Serenity (a warm embracing rose tone and a cooler tranquil blue) to effect a soothing sense of order and peace.” Sifre has literally joined those two colors in a subtle blend from rose to blue creating a gentle mauve where they mix together.

In the center of the exhibition space Sifre installed a sinusodial sculpture made from metal mesh painted an aqua color. The center peak serves as a bench where a person sits when having a Reiki session. Two Reiki masters dressed in matching white tunics imprinted with various religious symbols simultaneously apply their no-touch massage therapy, while the subject, facing away from the audience, can contemplate the slowly wafting fabric or dream their own thoughts as the treatment progresses. I watched two patients being treated while I waited for my own session to begin.

Meanwhile, Sifre explained a video she had installed on a small monitor in one corner of the room which can be watched while sitting on a soft white cushion imprinted with the same symbols as the Reiki robes. This video is designed to induce ASMR in the viewer. ASMR was named in 2010 by a New York cybersecurity professional. When watching and listening to security monitors for long periods, she would feel a subtle sensation of tingling and euphoria, starting on the scalp and moving down the neck resulting in a kind of spine-tingling brain orgasm. She named this sensation Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response and started a Facebook Group to share her experience. Sight or sound can cause the sensation. Repetitive sounds can trigger a response. This might explain the feeling that I often have of fingers caressing the top of my head and the back of my neck. It could be that the repeated ringing and clicking noise of the tinnitus in my ears is causing an ASMR response on my skin. I was asking Sifre about this when her assistant told me it was time for my Reiki session.  

Watching others receive Reiki made me realize that not only are they the subjects of the treatment, but they are the material of Siefre's art. The Reiki masters, acting on Sifre's behalf, sculpt and mold the energy field of the person under their treatment, adding or subtracting ki and altering the subjects overall mood and well-being. As I sat down on the sculpture bench to begin my session, I realized that I know what it is like to be the subject of an art work – a portrait or a self-portrait, and the object of an art work – the viewer or the recipient, but never before have I been the actual material from which the art is being made. Not only that, but this art work, of which I am the material, if successful, will remain with me after I leave the exhibition and if it has any long-term effects might continue to exist in the days ahead.

Chaveli Sifre's Personal Attention, with Wave sculpture, tunics and Reiki masters

I decided to keep my eyes open and stare straight ahead at the soothing color of the curtain in front of me. Because I have an age-related eye condition, I am not able to see well on the periphery, so I did not see the two Reiki practitioners as they begin working their way around my body. I did feel my hair begin to stand up – on my head and the back of my neck, and I swear I could see waves of energy flowing in the space between me and the curtain. The curtain moves in the breeze, but I saw separate, distinct waves rising from the area near my waist then floating away, above my head. A sense of peace began to overtake me when the Reiki master touched me on the shoulder to say that my session had ended. I stood up slowly and thanked them both for the personal attention.

Back outside, I found Lillian in conversation with a small group of artists. “They were just telling me about TMS,” she said. “Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation. It's a new scientific technique that uses electrical pulses to stimulate the brain. A writer for the New Yorker described how TMS made him feel like a savant when he tried it. He was smarter and excelled at mental tests and mathematics. And another writer, with no skills in drawing, made remarkable pictures while under TMS stimulation.Let's try it,” she exclaimed.

I wonder what effect it would have on my hearing or my vision.


Note: Chaveli Sifre, House of Life, Roberto Paradise, En Rojo, La Estacion Espacial, Galeria Agustina Ferreyra, Guillermoe Rodríguez, Beta-Local, Reiki Puerto Rico, Ricky Rosello, Ricky Riccardo, Rikki Tiki Tavi, Ricky Martin, Pantone, ASMR Preliminary Research, Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation and the New Yorker are all available on Facebook.



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@ el CERRO, Naranjito, PR -- con la EXITOSA y mas

Jan Galligan sharing a drink with Tonino near the top of el CERRO.

Lillian Mulero, stopping in a shady spot, half way up the hill of el CERRO.

El CERRO is an ongoing project by artist Chemi Rosado-Seijo of San Juan, PR -- located in the el Cerro community of Naranjito, PR 30 miles south of San Juan in the foothills of the central mountainous corridor. 

Chemi says, "for the first time in 14 years we present to the general public The El Cerro Project in the beautiful community known as el Cerro in Naranjito, Puerto Rico. Since 2002, we worked with the residents to paint their houses with different shades of green to so honor the design and spontaneous architecture of this community. In addition, we are offering creative workshops, training and other activities of social impact for the community.

During this past year, thanks to the financial support of an "Artist as Activist" grant from the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, we were able to paint more than 60 residences and impact the economy of  this community helping many residents become proficient at the skill of painting -- some have even turned professional."

ABOUT THE PROJECT

more photos here ...

SURPRISE CELEBRITY VISIT @ THE ART SALE & SHOW


Pleasantly surprised to have a surprise drop-in by a young friend of many years, and
his family for our FINAL FRIDAY ART SALE & SHOW yesterday -- during our end of
an era, one-time-only clearance event. Big ups and shout-outs all around.

note: he won the 3-CONE MONTY game giving him the opportunity to take home any
artwork of his choosing. Flattered that he picked something from Lillian & Jan, and passed
on the Cory Arcangel, the Felix Gonzales Torres/Christopher Wool, & the Jasper Johns.


AVALANCHE -- a briefer

Jan Galligan in AVALANCHE magazine, RUMBLES, Issue 13, summer 1976.


Historical Note (via the Museum of Modern Art, archives)


Avalanche was co-founded by Liza Béar and Willoughby Sharp in New York City in 1968. The impetus for the magazine's creation was to intentionally challenge the more critic-based, formalist-driven, art journals such as Art Forum. The mission of Avalanche was to give artists a voice, a space to discuss their works, their creative processes, and even their political opinions. Béar and Sharp focused their attention on those artists who circulated in avant-garde circles of the 1960s and 1970s, both in New York and internationally. They paid particular attention to those artists who considered themselves practitioners of Conceptual, Post-Minimalist, Earth, performance and video art ...

Each issue included artist interviews, extensive photographic spreads, and textual documents of various artists' works. Additionally, each issue (except for issues no. 6 and no. 9) included a "Rumbles" section, which promoted and described current art world events as well as recent publications and artist messages. 

The thirteenth and final issue of Avalanche was published in the summer of 1976. Production ceased largely due to finacial strains. Béar and Sharp were transparent about the magazine's economic troubles by choosing to reproduce a page of their ledger book on its final cover.


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WOCA Triennial 2015 ‪‪‪#‎francescovezzoli‬ ‪‪#‎puertorico‬ ‪#‎andywarhol‬ ‪#‎jakeanddinoschapman‬ ‪#‎vikmuniz‬ ‪#‎trienalpoligrafica‬ ‪#‎alloraandcalzadilla‬ ‪#‎carlosbetancourt‬ ‪#‎imperfectutopia‬ ‪#‎walteroterocontemporaryart‬ ‪‬ ‪#‎myrnabaez‬ ‪#‎angelotero

Trienal Poli/Gráfica de San Juan event : checked in @ Walter Otero Contemporary Art with Peter Rawley, Betty Kaplan & 183 others. Photo via WOCA, animation by Jan Galligan



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RUM DIARY

"Santurce rules," say Jan & Lillian, of Santa Olaya, PR. 
SnapChat photo by Lydia Mulero, 04 Sept 15


When we first moved to the island, we made weekly trips to Border's bookstore in Plaza Las Americas. We'd rarely go seeking a specific book; normally we were guided by serendipity. Lillian would browse the bookshelves, I would surf the magazines then we would meet in the cafe for coffee and pastry to share our discoveries. It was a disappointment when they went bankrupt. We wandered, a bit aimlessly, for months.

Bookstores come and bookstores go. Cronopios, a used bookstore and cafe in Santurce closed. Things improved when Libros AC opened on Ponce de Leon, with a bookstore, bar and cafe. A good book is improved by coffee, but is even better accompanied with a glass of wine or a shot of rum.



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