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Cajiga Biography

  Luis Germán Cajiga was born in Quebradillas, a town on the North West of Puerto Rico in 1934. At age eighteen, Luis worked in Don Guillo’s (his father) cigar shop, dreaming about being an artist but uncertain about what his artistic future would look like.

One day he saw a copy of the magazine "Alma Latina" where he read the story of a young artist named Alfonso Arana, who was going to study painting in Europe with the help of Doña Inéz Mendoza de Muñoz, the governor’s wife. He saw this as an opportunity and made two drawings colored with tempera. One depicts a countryman (jibarito) and the other one had a portrait of Muñoz Marin (the governor of Puerto Rico). He wrapped both drawings and sent them to the First Lady, with a note expressing his desire to be an artist. To his surprise, he received an answer within a week. A letter from La Fortaleza! Doña Inéz invited him to come to San Juan for an interview. In Luis’ mind, San Juan was a long way from home and he asked himself: How will I get there? Don Guillo took him to see Fello Vargas, who was a well-known political figure in his town. Fello promised to take Luis with him on his next trip to see the governor.

The expected day arrived and Luis went to San Juan. Doña Inéz invited him to stay in La Fortaleza. She sent him to the Division of Community Education with a note of introduction. In the first page of "El Mundo" newspaper appeared a photo of Cajiga at his drawing table and a report that read: "Jibarito from Quebradillas makes his dream come true." From 1952 to 1958 Mr. Cajiga studied art in the Division of Community Education. His teachers, Lorenso Homar, Rafael Tufiño, José Meléndez Contreras and Fran Gervoni provided the educational foundation upon which his art career developed and flourished.

The Division of Community Education, at that time, was the principal art center of Puerto Rico, producing award-winning films, "books for the people," that contained stories by René Marquéz, Pedro Juan Soto, and other prominent writers, and great artwork. Particularly, their engravings and posters were circulated around the world. Soon Cajiga became an expert in the shellac film cut, essential raw material for the reproduction of serigraphs. In his paintings, he orchestrates Old San Juan pastel colors, mountain greens, reds and earth colors to produce eloquent descriptions of Puerto Rican scenes and costumes. His brush has captured the soul of El Viejo San Juan in artwork that is now part of the city. Cajiga’s first art exhibition was at the Ateneo Puertoriqueño in 1956. The openings at the Ateneo were always held on Friday nights, but due to Cajiga’s Adventist belief, the opening was programmed for Thursday. "Nobody will come," said the officials. But they were wrong. There was a full house the night of the opening. Cajiga has also participated in art exhibitions in Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Cuba, Costa Rica, United States, France, Spain, Japan, and Russia.

Over his career, Cajiga has dedicated most of his time to silkscreening. From "Escalerilla de las Monjas" in 1957 to "Mi Campo" in 1992, his artwork in this medium adds to more than 300. Much of his early work has considerably increased in value. Among his many artworks, "El Revendon" with an edition of 100, sold in 1960 for $25.00 but is now valued at $2000.00. A great part of his career was also dedicated to the creation of educational drawings that were used in books printed to educate children. In 1960 Luis German turned his attention to acrylics. His love for this new medium has been expressed through hundreds of paintings and posters.

Critique

"Cajiga is a trained professional, yet in his art, he continues the same folkloric’ style and themes he developed early in the 50's, and makes no bones about it. He has the timeless attitude of our santeros; some of his figures are even santo-like in style...short, squat and simplified of gesture, drapery, and technique. Some occasionally heavy baroque details creep in, as in his 1961 "Crucifixion," a linoleum cut with serigraphic color, but normally his work is a simple santo style in his figure work and an orthodox realism in his landscape or urban ‘fincas’. His is a world to affix your nostalgia on."

by Felix Bonilla Norat

The 1997 Hispanic Heritage Month Poster

In 1996, the National Council of Hispanic Employment Program Managers and the HEPM Foundation selected Luis German Cajiga to design the 1997 Hispanic Heritage Month Poster. The Poster titled, Excellence in Education: Building Opportunities for our Youth, was unveiled to the Hispanic Community on January 22, 1997.

Get this vintage Poster and a CD with songs written by Cajiga.  Click Here.



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