Héctor Méndez Caratini is a Puerto Rican photographer who made his life’s work photographing the spiritual expressions of Indigenous and African diaspora communities in the Caribbean, the Americas, and around the world.
Héctor Méndez Caratini is an Original
As far as we know, Caratini is the first and foremost photographer of Caribbean Indigenous and African diaspora spiritual traditions. He’s been working quietly for over 30 years now. When he started, few people cared about the subject.
Héctor started documenting Puerto Rico’s Indigenous Taíno petroglyphs. This led him to Cuban Santéria, Haitian Voodoo, Brazilian Candomblé and many other related traditions. His work has taken him as far as India.
Caratini was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico in 1949 where he still lives and works. He has a BA from the University of Puerto Rico, a Photography Certificate from the Germain School of Photography, and a Masters from the Center for Advanced Studies of Puerto Rico and the Caribbean.
His work is in collections at MoMA, Museum of Modern Art in New York, Center for Creative Photography in Arizona, Museum of Fine Arts in Venezuela, Institute of Puerto Rican Culture in San Juan and many other collections.
He has had major exhibitions at the Smithsonian Institution and the Puerto Rico Museum of Art.
An Important Body of Work that is Priceless and Irreplaceable
Caratini’s body of work is becoming increasingly important because modern life is erasing our heritage. Our traditions are fading away. Our world has changed so much that some of these traditions exist only as photographic memories.
We have no idea how Caratini got permission and the assistance required to create his photographs. Many are very up-close and personal. He also tells the most amazing stories about his travels.
The Indigenous and African diaspora traditions he photographs are sacred. Outsiders aren’t invited and nobody is allowed to take pictures. You can’t just show up at a ceremony with your camera.
Getting people to reveal their spirituality to outsiders requires a lot of trust – especially in marginalized communities which are suspicious of outsiders. But good photographers are always good with people.
Jan Galligan, one of the best and most important art critics in Puerto Rico, pointed us to Caratini. [Thanks to our mentor, the renowned Nuyorican photographer Adál Maldonado. Adál Lives.]
Connected Worlds: The Caribbean, Origin of the Modern World
Caratini discusses his life’s work photographing the Indigenous and African traditions of the Caribbean, especially Cuban Santéria – with Beatriz Cruz of Universidad Ana G. Méndez in Puerto Rico – for the Instituto de Historia in Madrid, Spain on Facebook live @BibliotecaPineroUAGM on Saturday, May 8, 2021 at 11am ET/AT. It’s FREE
Event at Instituto de Historia (Madrid) ih.cic.es