Governor Cuomo unveils Hurricane Maria Memorial in honor of the Puerto Rican group
“New York took pride in standing hand in hand with our Puerto Rican brothers and sisters when they needed our help most, and we will never forget the victims who tragically lost their lives in Hurricane Maria.” Governor Cuomo said. “We are committed to building a monument that symbolizes the spirit and perseverance of the Puerto Rican people, which was completed in a year, and today we keep that promise. New York continues to stand with Puerto Rico, and this monument becomes that serve as evidence of this persistence. ” Partnership today, tomorrow and always. “
On the first anniversary of Hurricane Maria, which struck Puerto Rico on September 20, 2017, Governor Cuomo established the Hurricane Maria Memorial Commission to solicit designs for a memorial to honor the victims and stand as an international symbol of the resilience of the Puerto Rican community. The commission was tasked with finding the governor by the location, design and installation of the monument and making recommendations to him.
The commission received 120 applications for designs for the Battery Park City monument as part of its search for architects published in August 2019 and, after a thorough review process, recommended that the governor design and draft Puerto Rico-based architect Segundo Cardona and artist Antonio Martorell build the monument.
According to Cardona and Antonio Martorell “Like many other Puerto Ricans, we witnessed the horrific effects of Hurricane Maria first hand. Our proposal for a memorial in New York City to commemorate the victims of the hurricane arose from a shared vision that one can always transform the sad memory of adverse memories Circumstances into something positive and poetic that can bring comfort to everyone. The poem Farewell to the Welfare Island by one of Puerto Rico’s greatest poets, Julia de Burgos, is interpreted as an organic form of calligraphy that leads to an exuberant expression of color, letters and Shapes. Their timeless and specific message is sensitive to New Yorkers and the Puerto Rican community of all genders and ages. A message designed to engage passers-by, encourage curiosity, stimulate thought and contemplation. “
The Hurricane Maria Memorial is an ascending glass spiral, reminiscent of both a hurricane and a seashell, and is a symbol of protecting living organisms from a hostile environment such as extreme weather. The monument envelops and projects bright blue, red and orange sunlight onto the visitors. The spiral is crowned by the upward rotating star of the Puerto Rican flag, representing the hope rising from the desolation. The glass panes painted by Martorell contain the poem “Farewell from Welfare Island” by Julia de Burgos, one of Puerto Rico’s most popular poets. The poem, which tells of the resilience of the Puerto Rican people, was written by de Burgos while she was living in New York and is the only work she has ever written in English. Together the piece grows out of the place and connects art, architecture and literature in an organic way.
Benches are built inside the monument, inviting visitors to sit and reflect. In the base of the monument there is a dedication by the New Yorkers:
On September 20, 2017, Hurricane Maria, the strongest hurricane in Puerto Rico in nearly a century, landed causing catastrophic damage and an unprecedented humanitarian crisis. New York stood in solidarity with Puerto Rico, providing immediate relief and helping rebuild the island.
This memorial honors the lost and is an enduring tribute to the resilience of the Puerto Rican community.
The spiral is reminiscent of a hurricane and a grenade: symbols for destruction and protection. Ascending from the center with hope is the star of the Puerto Rican flag. Everywhere are words from Julia de Burgos’ poem Farewell from Welfare Island: “It has to come from here, in this case exactly, my cry to the world.”
Read more about the Hurricane Maria Memorial and listen to an audio tour here.
Segundo Cardona, FAIA is a Puerto Rican architect and developer whose previous work has focused on bringing urban landscapes, nature, architecture and art together to create accessible and stunning spaces.
Antonio Martorell, born in Santurce, Puerto Rico, has his workshop in La Playa de Ponce and has been artist-in-residence at the University of Puerto Rico in Cayey for more than 30 years. His work has been exhibited worldwide. He is a member of the Academia Puertorriqueña de la Lengua Española.
The Hurricane Maria Memorial Commission is overseen and coordinated by Congressman Nydia Velazquez, Congressman Jose E. Serrano, SUNY Trustee and Former Congregation Member Marcos Crespo, Congregation Member Maritza Davila, and New York Secretary of State Rossana Rosado.
The members of the commission are:
· Tonio Burgos, CEO of Tonio Burgos & Associates
· Edwin Melendez, Director, Center for Puerto Rican Studies, Hunter College
· Dennis Rivera, past president, 1199 / SEIU
· Casimiro D. Rodriguez, Sr. President of the Hispanic Heritage Council of Western NY
· Havidan Rodriguez, President of the University of Albany
· Santos Rodriguez, Director of Community Affairs and Strategic Initiatives, Building Construction Trades Council, Greater New York City
· Hilda Rosario Escher, former President and CEO of the Ibero American Action League
Teresa A. Santiago, Chair, November Committee
Brenda Torres, General Manager of the Corporation for the Conservation of the San Juan Bay Estuary
· Elizabeth Velez, President of the Velez Organization, resident of Battery Park City