“12 Vecinas (12 Neighbors) is the most recent project by Puerto Rican artist Marisol Plard-Narváez (b. 1966, Puerto Rico), it consists of a three hundred and sixty-degree view, twelve channel video installation showcasing the testimonies and anecdotal accounts of life in the San Juan district of La Perla by a dozen residents. Eleven females and one gay male are the protagonists of a storytelling round-robin where each narrates recent events and different struggles in their personal lives —with economic hardship, exclusionary cultural and economic policies, and in cases even drug addiction. Each person is chillingly forthcoming, and each speaks from a different screen, making us shift our gaze in all directions as we move to match the source of the sound of each of their voices with the corresponding moving image. Their stories are all real, and they are raw.
“The video installation is set up inside the small house Plard lives in La Perla, where she has invited the public to come and spend time by the rocky Atlantic shore, with her neighbors who casually stroll over when public comes to see the presentation, and with her. The total duration of the video experience is short of thirty-three minutes.
“La Perla is a historically marginalized community that lies along the northern city wall of Old San Juan, Puerto Rico, protruding out to sea about 650 yards (600 m) along the coast immediately east of the Santa María Magdalena de Pazzis Cemetery, and north of Calle Norzagaray. It is a community that rose around San Juan’s old slaughterhouse district, which by Spanish law had to be kept outside of the city’s massive protective walls. During old colonial times, the poor, rejected by the wealthy living inside the walls, built a shantytown near and around the slaughterhouse, as the island nation’s economy grew and San Juan became the seat of municipal, state, and since the 1898 Invasion, US federal power. This spinoff community grew to become a tightly knit, self-policing enclave, with its businesses, improvised electrical and water infrastructure, and independent cultural activity. Aged, shoddy structures, torn down by hurricanes and other tropical weather phenomena, have over the decades been replaced by a colorful cement and asphalt maze, where today hundreds of humble abodes exist amalgamated and connected by labyrinthine stairwells and trails…..”