Bridges, Rivers and Streams: bio-cultural interactions with the Piedras River Watershed
By: Julio Vallejo González
There is a need to link ecological infrastructure with cultural interest and social necessities, in order to promote a sustainable and participative development of the city. And in an urban watershed, where the human element is more dominant, it is important to promote, incentive and facilitate empirical and practical methodologies that will not only restore a bridge or plant a forest; it will create social connectivity with ecological infrastructure. Internationally there is also the need to access information and methodologies for the application of bio-cultural initiatives in other watersheds.
Bridges, Rivers and Streams: bio-cultural interactions with the Piedras River Watershed is a project that meets this need to link social and cultural activities with the acknowledgment and conservation of the urban green infrastructures and rivers. As the main hydrographic unit within the San Juan Metropolitan Area, the ecological health and green areas of the Piedras River Watershed are crucial to provide services that benefit both its residents and long term environmental health of the city. However, the basin remains ‘lost’ under the gray infrastructure of the city. Every day, thousands of residents of the metropolitan area and all of Puerto Rico move above or next to the river and their forests without realizing that they are there. This project seeks to include artistic and cultural activities as a community outreach methodology of the San Juan Urban Long-Term Research Area (ULTRA), to promote the participation of the neighbors of the watershed in its planning and management. San Juan ULTRA is an investigation program inserted in the International Institute of Tropical Forestry that has studied ecological and social aspects of the Piedras River Watershed for three years. In the year 2012, San Juan ULTRA initiated the ‘Registro mi Cuenca’ Project, an interactive virtual map that registers, categorizes and disseminates social and ecological information about the social and ecological strongholds of the Piedras River Watershed. The proposed Project will be the first Cultural Intervention marked as a stronghold of that map, locating it in time and space and registered as social connectivity with bridges, rivers, streams and its ecological infrastructure.
Bridges, Rivers and Streams has been translated into Puente a puente: ciencia, arte y comunidad, an it is been developed by the Corporation for the Conservation of the San Juan Bay Estuary through a Cooperative Agreement with the USDA-Forest Service, International Institute of Tropical Forestry. During February and March, the project is involving community in oral history investigation as part of the iconographic conceptualization for the plastic interventions in the bridges between the Piedras River and the Juan Méndez Stream, the San Juan Ecological Corridor and the Río Piedras Urban Center. In the month of April the project will be realizing reforestation activities, in May the plastic interventions, and to culminate the project, the Third River Watershed Environmental Fair will take place in the surroundings of the restored bridges.
Here are the links to view the film material that its being used as a methodology for the community outreach phase one:
- Piedras: memorias de un río urbano (2012) – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xdtKoJLfYWo
Directed by Tania Rosario-Méndez, this short documentary compiles the oral histories of the inhabitants between the Piedras River and the Juan Méndez Stream, narrating the communities relationship to the water in the mid 20th Century. The project was filmed during the realization of a methodology developed by the director, called Círculo de la Memoria, that utilizes artistic techniques for the narration of knowledge and memories.
- Los criamos a biberon (2012) – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OUJsI2GkC54
Directed by Jean Vallejo, this short-documentary interviews one of the founders of the Arboretum de Cupey, a community-based initiative that reforested part of the upper-watershed lands of the Piedras River and promoted an amendment to the San Juan Ecological Corridor Law, first conservation urban corridor made by the Puerto-rican government. The movie was filmed during a restoration project that converted an illegal dumpster and parking-lot into an urban native forest besides the Ausubo Stream, tributary to Piedras River.
- Puente (2007) – http://ynohabialuz.com/puente/
Directed by Pedro Iván Bonilla with the collaboration of the Puerto-rican theater company Y no Había Luz.
Its a short-fiction film that tells the story of a community of clowns that live in the Piedras River watershed.
- Cosiendo agua (2010) – http://vimeo.com/22618485
Directed by David Moscoso.
This documentary shows one of the works of the Art Professor Dhara Rivera, that holds an art-environmental workshop with students of the School of Fine Arts, located in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico. This project was filmed in Las Margaritas Stream and it was financed by the Puerto Rico Film Comission in their 2010 series known as Micros.
- El Puente (1954) – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VzjrAoEoWiI
Directed by Amilcar Tirado, this docu-fiction film project was part of a Community Education Division of the new Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, known as DIVEDCO by its acronym in spanish. The film recreates communities vulnerabilities towards the river and promotes community organization in the process of building a bridge.