Puerto Rico in the 1940's and 1950's

I came across this amazing collection of photographs taken in Puerto Rico by missionary workers from the 1940's and 1950's. The collection of photographs is available in Flickr from a set created by Tom Lehman. Apparently he has been scanning slides taken by his Father and many other missionaries who worked at hospitals at La Plata and Castaner.

According to Lehman his objective is to: show what life was like in those countries before modernization began. An interesting and very important perspective.

Ironing with charcoal ironBut we have WII elbow...

This photograph shows a young woman ironing a shirt. Not really that significant until you realize that she is using a iron heated by burning charcoals.

This story brings home to me one of my mother-in-laws' favorite well when I grew up we had to walk 2 miles in the snow to get to school story. Of course, minus the snow part. But listening to her and to finally see a picture (since I'm mostly visual in nature) makes her story come to life. As we say here, ironing a shirt with a heavy steel iron filled with burning coal is a large male goat.

I'll never tell her, but I really enjoy listening to her stories. It really gives you a sense of how far (and fast) Puerto Rico has come in the last 50 years. Which many say, including yours truly, has taken its toll on Puerto Rico. Listening to her stories I also got a sense that before Operation Bootstrap, Puerto Rico has a very humble country filled with survivors. A population focused in overcoming the challenges they face. How far we've fallen.
Plowing with oxen
In the place of humility and survival, we now have a population filled with vanity and over-consumption. It's easy to see how our former condition has led to the current one. But at the same time, I believe that we've lost our cultural connection to our shared past. Without a doubt, the early decades of the 20th century were hard ones for Puerto Ricans, but we've lost our previous innocence and have become drunk on our new found abundance.

My point here is not to wish for, or over-glamorize (is that even possible when looking at these photos), a return to these forlorn days. However, I do wish for more humility among the populace and for us to recapture our sense of survival. Not in the sense of survival of the richest, but survival of a culture, survival of a history, survival of a country. We face huge challenges. And I believe the only way we'll be able to overcome them is through regaining our sense of solidarity that while we all may have different dogma, we all share a singular past that forevers unites us.



19 de junio de 2007, 10:59
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"As we say here, ironing a shirt with a heavy steel iron filled with burning coal is a large male goat."

Most def! ^_^