Annie Y. Saldaña: Casitas

© Annie Y. Saldaña | Casitas
© Annie Y. Saldaña | Casitas

The relationship between a child and their grandparents is a multifaceted mix that’s very different from that between a child and their parents. It is often the case that a grandma would love her granddaughter even more than her own child, without admitting it in words of course, and the reasons for this are yet unknown. The freedom and liberation that both sides feel — grandparents are not ultimately responsible for the child’s upbringing in many cases and children know they can get away with more than they would with their parents — certainly has something to do with it. Through our grandparents we inherit stories and values that stay with us for the rest of our lives.

Annie Saldaña’s grandmother would share her country-life stories with the young photographer-to-be, free from the constraints of modern life and technology constantly fighting for our attention. Those were days where houses were made of wood and the locals would walk barefoot without worrying they would damage their tender soles. Saldaña began documenting wooden houses in 2013 in homage to her grandmother and her simpler, purer way of living in harmony with nature. She would employ bright, highly vivid colours in line with the colourful life in the Caribbeans and its aesthetics.

Saldaña’s project Casitas exposes the living conditions that Puerto Ricans have to endure such as natural catastrophes, limited government support and unstable electric service. Although the series began in 2013, it wasn’t until 2017 when Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico that Saldaña realised the series is something more than just a personal project — it is a testament of the residence of the local population. It’s incredibly easy to take things such as electricity for granted and forget that fellow Americans who don’t live on the other side of the world have had to adapt their lives to make do without the luxury of modern conveniences.

Nevertheless, the houses are bursting with colour and life, the walls decorated with all sorts of quirks and nicknacks, from maps and pictures to guitar replicas, toy cars and religious symbols. Being inside someone’s home is generally reserved for their closest friends and family so the viewer might experience a slight sense of voyeurism, being privy to something that isn’t meant for their eyes.

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