#Conservaeloso: The Campaign to Save the “Alcatraz of the Caribbean”

Photo by José Jiménez, used with permission.

The partial demolition of Oso Blanco has already begun. Photo used with permission.

The Governor's recent announcement stating that Puerto Rico's infamous State Penitentiary called Oso Blanco (White Bear) would be finally demolished, years after the initial decision, has spurred massive campaigns calling for it's preservation as an architectural and historic site. The space will be used to open a center for cancer treatment.

Architect Miguel Rodríguez Casellas explains [es] that besides its architectural value, Oso Blanco, founded in 1933, holds a profound historical value:

A lo mejor usted no tiene o tuvo familiares convictos, pero para un amplio sector de nuestra ciudadanía que si los tiene o ha tenido, este sitio es un monumento al sufrimiento, a los aciertos, pero más que nada, desaciertos de la filosofía de crimen y castigo desde el mollero estatal. Borrar todo eso, de un puercazo mecánico o implosión de dinamita, a favor de causas simpáticas — “la cura del cáncer” — es quizás una pérdida aún mayor que la gracia estilizada del inmueble, que ya de por sí, los que sabemos del asunto, defendemos. 

Maybe you do not have or had convicted relatives, but for a large part of our citizenry who have or have had, this site is a monument to suffering, to the successes, but most of all, the failures of state's brutal crime and punishment philosophy. To erase all this, with a mechanical action or the implosion of dynamite for sympathetic causes -“cancer cure” – is perhaps even a greater loss than the stylized grace of the building, which already, those of us who understand its value, defend. 

Photojournalist José Jiménez has started the online campaign #conservaeloso (save the bear), and has spread his photographs of the prison throughout the capital city of San Juan with messages such as: “The murder of a historical building” and “Fear is also history.” There is also a Facebook page. The architect Cristina Cardalda opened an online petition to demand that the governor, Alejandro García Padilla, paralyze the destruction of the jail. 

"The murder of a historic building." Photos by José Jiménez, used with permission

“The murder of a historic building.” Photos by José Jiménez, used with permission.

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