Carlos Tapia Ortíz

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Tapia Ortiz, Carlos - Picture of You copy



The year was 1974 in Vieques, Puerto Rico. My great-grandmother, Petra Torrens, was watching television on her farm when suddenly she heard this loud BANG! Something had hit the floor really hard. She rushed outside eager to find out what had happened; only to find this huge metal object anchored to the ground.

It was of cylindrical shape, and orange. At that point my great-grandmother got really desperate because she didn’t know what she was staring at. She didn’t know it could have exploded at any moment. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a man grabbed her arm and pushed her to make her leave her own house and farm.

This man was a marine stationed at Vieques. A few moments later, more military vehicles invaded her home. All she could see were men searching around for scraps. After a half hour, my mom arrived at my great-grandmother’s farm as usual –my great grandmother was her babysitter– only to get pulled away by force and placed with my great grandmother. They both got really anxious not knowing what was happening and my mother started asking her grandmother about the orange crayon stuck on the ground. Petra didn’t know what it was and worst of all, her fear increased because it was getting dark and her husband hadn’t come home yet.

After a few hours the men started to leave, signaling that their search was finally over. One military vehicle remained and it approached the family. A man dressed with camouflage clothes stepped out and looked at them with a grin on his face. He walked up to Petra but stopped a few feet away from her, as if he had forgotten something. He kept walking, facing Petra. He said – “the area is clear you are now allowed to walk into your land”. He faced the other way and left.  Just like that the crayon was gone. Not even a hole was left in the ground.

The next day Petra woke up with the noise of men knocking on her door. These guys were from a revolutionary newspaper of the time. They proceeded to explain what had happened and they wanted my family’s account in order to complete the article. It seems that was one of the first military tests in Vieques that had gone wrong. The military was testing a guided missile. The moment Petra heard this she thanked God for keeping her safe. After all it that was an armed explosive that could’ve gone off at any moment.

This is truly a fascinating story not only for me, but also for my whole family. Thanks to that incident a revolution began against the military personnel stationed at Vieques. It showed that the military didn’t care for the people living on the island; they just wanted to test their bombs and missiles on a not so remote place. People until that moment didn’t know how bad it was for the military to be testing weapons so close to them. My mother is proud of that story because as a little girl it opened her eyes to see that the government didn’t care for its people. And one should take matters into one’s own hands. You should never wait for some promise the government makes to you during elections.

The technology I used was voicethread along with some picture reenactments of what my great-grandmother and my mother lived.

Carlos A. Tapia Ortíz is a nineteen-year-old, second year biology student from Mayagüez, studying at the University of Puerto Rico who wants to change the system in which we all live in.


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