When I outlined the title for this article I thought of the pioneer travelers from Spain (there is no written evidence about Viking and Asian expeditions; even on more recent dates some speculation has been made about a Chinese Admiral’s visit long before the Genovese’ s we know about) that drew the original cartography, full of legends and adventures, with the light of illustrations and imaginative notes emerged from reality and from the fantasy of new excited Marco Polo who were not aware of the magnitude of the lands they attempted to conquer and colonize. Still less, were they conscious of the future of these regions, slightly sketched on the maps drawn by their hands of cartographers.

I thought of the way in which some Latin American authors, like the Colombian Germán Arsiniegas in his Biography of the Caribbean or the Venezuelan Gustavo Pereira in his Histories of the Paradise or the Uruguayan Eduardo Galeano in his various books of chronicles, have made a Latin American and contemporary re-reading of those first testimonies made by European colonizers. In most of the cases they have had a colonizing, mutilated and “western” vision, where the black legend about our indigenous peoples prevails.

However, the book Insular Horizons reveals much more of the present of these islands than of their past. Two times that become one when it comes to Art and Literature and they turn into a future within this project created and headed by ­organizers Orlando Britto and Nilo Palazuela Borges.

The selection of islands responds to geographic, anthropologic and historic criteria: Canary Islands, Madeira, the Azores, la Guadeloupe, Cape Verde, Reunion, Dominican Republic, Cuba, French Guyana, La Martinique, and Puerto Rico,*1It also responds to the impact of the very symbolic and metaphoric creation that characterizes contemporary art and the creators gathered here: Teresa Arozena, Gregorio González (Canary Islands), Ricardo Barbeito (Madeira), María José Cavaco (The Azores), Jöelle Ferly (La Guadeloupe), Tchalé Figueira (Cape Verde), Thierry Hoarau (Reunion), Belkis Ramirez (Dominican Republic), Sandra Ramos (Cuba), Roseman Robinot (French Guyana), Shirley Rufin (La Martinique), and Julio Suarez (Puerto Rico).

Intellectuals who analyze the “contemporary context of their cultural expressions in the area of visual arts and literature” are to be added to the above list: Cristina Court (Canary Islands), Assunção Melo (Azores), Isabel Santa Clara (Madeira), Irineu Rocha da Cruz (Cape Verde), Benjamin Bru (Martinique-Guadaloupe-French Guyana), David Mateo (Cuba), Amable López Meléndez (Dominican Republic), Haydee Venegas (Puerto Rico) and Alain Gili (Réunion).

It is just the well-defined and appropriate selection of the islands, plastic artists and writers that share this Project what makes Insular Horizons to achieve; both in the exhibition and the accompanying catalogue, the objective of the creators:

It has been outlined and designed in such a way that its final result becomes a reality through the preparation of a contemporary art exhibition and the creation of a literary collection. Both projects, interrelated, with the main intended objective of helping generating knowledge, communication and exchange spaces among all cultural geographies dealt with.

It is another discovery, another one after the “first one”, another one; way after some of the renown writers from the “old continent”, being part of the intercultural triangle between Europe, Africa and our hemisphere, had any correspondence with our Caribbean region: Tirso de Molina who lived in the Dominican Republic between 1616 and 1618, or Gongora advancing to the so-called “negritude poetry”, or Zorrilla touring around xix century Havana; and long time after figures from the Empire and the Revolution in Europe were born like Josephine Bonaparte in Martinique or Pablo Lafargue, in Santiago de Cuba.

Therefore, common sensations, grieves, ideas, prejudices, desires, beliefs are discovered. What causes the admiration of the eyes is revealed: the oceans, the Earth, the horizon, the Sun. Similar stories are expressed. They are stories of colonization, of mixture of fight, uprooting and migration, of loneliness. They are all aimed at giving some sense to the Caribbean, insular artist’s state who enjoys an intercultural situation, a diversity and complexity that is only possible in these islands.

The traveling condition that characterizes this project translates into the idea of “connecting” these islands and the intermediate spaces; not physical spaces, but cultural, artistic and linguistic spaces that join them together. To achieve the understanding of the diversity of “the others” on the basis of what belongs to “us”, to “all”. That is why we can look at an experience that opens up several options and, at the same time, it shows common ways. “To be united in diversity” is maybe one of the premises of this panoramic vision that allows for getting in contact with contemporary literary and artistic creation in these places.

Different generations of artists and intellectuals that are the evidence of different schools and development stages, with diverse perspectives and ways of expression, and different techniques and formats (photography, video, painting, installations, mountings.)

This plurality, taken into account to conceive the Project, and which we have attempted to give an idea of, contributes to a deeper analysis of the meanings of the vision of the whole group of works. At the same time, it also allows for a deeper analysis of each work in particular. This way, the particular interests and individual ways to understand the thematic lines and the interconnection between art, culture and context can be appreciated.

Insular Horizon is an important curator work that has originated in these islands and is projected to the rest of the world. It joins contemporary art and thought in an action that “discovers” and “reinforces” at the same time. It reinforces the wealth and vitality of our islands; most of all, their cultures and those who build them and enrich them to go deeper in their sense of belonging and prosperity. It reinforces also the need of knowledge, self-recognition and communication.

The testimonial value of art shows a self-consciousness of individual and collective history which legitimizes a work or a text. The discourse strategy used by the artist and the writer to convey what he wishes holds up their identity while granting the project a distinctive character.

This concept of insular art is well defined by the Cuban art critic David Mateo, who is engaged with the project: “It is during the systematic arguments between the society and the individual, the nation and the subject, that metaphors or transcendental judgments about what defines us like Cubans, like insular men and women, emerge, from the specific perspective of Art. This argument has also given some privilege to a permanent agreement with history; an emblematic balance of past and present as of expectations that they have been able to cover and even to expand.”

El Vedado, December 2010