Cactus Gallery LA
Taina Protectora by artist Tania Pomales
Oil on wood panel, 11" x 14”, framed to 16.5" x 19.5"
Via the artist: I chose 2 endangered species in this painting: The Puerto Rican Parrot (also called "la iguaca") and the Coqui Llanero (frog) … and 1 threatened species, the Puerto Rican rain tree (the white flowers to the right). Each of these species was endangered before Hurricane Maria struck, and their numbers were drastically affected after the meteorological catastrophe.
The Puerto Rican Parrot survived through Hurricanes Irma and Maria thanks to recovery efforts from conservationists on the western side of the island in an area called Rio Abajo. The population living in El Yunque rainforest suffered immensely though. Still, the amount of parrots living on the island is very low, warranting the endangered status and passionate efforts for population restoration and conservation. It is as iconic to the island as is the Coqui frog and the Flamboyan tree.
The Coqui Llanero frog only lives in one freshwater wetland portion of Puerto Rico, and it only reproduces on the bulltongue arrowhead plant. Such specific needs compelled the federal government to designate the species as endangered with a critical habitat in 2012. After Hurricane Maria in 2017, it appears that the wetlands where the Coqui Llanero lives were not as severely affected as other areas of the island.
The Puerto Rican rain tree is threatened due to habitat loss from human and natural destruction. The species is only found in the Luquillo Mountains of Puerto Rico and very rarely at certain elevations in the El Yunque Rainforest.
The other red-orange flower is the Flamboyan tree flower. It is not currently listed as endangered or threatened, however it is iconic to Puerto Rican culture and is often depicted in art and souvenirs. My grandma has one in her yard in Puerto Rico.
The title "Taina Protectora" translates to "Taina Protector." The Taino Indians, basically a subgroup of Arawak Indians, once inhabited the island and were fierce protectors of the wildlife. They worshiped many gods, and each god was responsible for things like the sun, hurricanes, and the forest, for example. Due to Spanish invasion and disease, they were extinct by the 1500s. But they didn't go out without a fight, often forming rebellions to protect their people. Their spirit lives on today in the resilience, passion, and fortitude of the Puerto Rican people and their culture. I chose to represent the endangered species resting atop the head of the Taina Protectora because she is carrying them to safety and hopefully to a cleaner and more conscious planet. With her strength she is lifting these creatures up, and she is not shaken by fear or by the uncertainty of what may come. With calm focus, she closes her eyes to ground herself and to move forward.
I am proud to be who I am, and for as long as I live I will always happily share what I can about Puerto Rico and its vibrant history, culture, and art.