Interview with the Artist

Photo of Anaida Hernandez

Lehman College Art Gallery Interview with Anaida Hernandez
Hasta que la muerte nos separe (Til Death Do Us Part)
asta que la muerte nos separe (Till death do us part)" is a major installation by Anaida Hernandez. It focuses on the issue of domestic violence and the murders of 100 women. Based on information collected from police records in San Juan, Puerto Rico, over a three-year period in the early 1990's, it is a dramatic and moving work which has toured in the Caribbean and Europe.

"Hasta que la muerte nos separe" has recently been seen in the Museo de Arte y Diseno Contemporaneo, San Jose, Costa Rica; the Ludwig Forum Museum, Aachen, Germany; and V Bienal de la Havana, Museo de Bellas Artes, Havana, Cuba.

The Lehman exhibition is its first showing in the mainland United States. Also on view are two related works by Hernandez--a second installation, "Crucigrama", and illustrations for "Contigo Debajo", created in collaboration with the writer Ana Lydia Vega. The following is drawn from conversations which took place in October 1997 and January 1998.

Susan Hoeltzel: For the last ten years your work has focused on social and political issues--domestic violence, immigration and human rights. "Hasta que la muerte nos separe" was created in response to legislation that was passed in Puerto Rico in the early 1990's?

Anaida Hernandez: "Until Death Do Us Part" is the title of this installation about domestic violence and the women killed. "Until death do us part" is the blessing that the priest gives to couples when they are getting married.

Until death do us part is the blessing that
        the priest gives to couples when they are getting
        marriedThe idea of this work started with the signing of Law 54 which was passed to deal with issues of domestic violence--and is based on the protection of women and the family. The law was signed in 1989 and implemented in 1990. It was the first law in the Caribbean area that dealt with domestic violence issues. And it has been the model for other countries to try and implement their own law. For example, Costa Rica used it as a model.

It was a very important law also for the family in general. What the law basically does is that it characterizes the act of domestic violence as a crime. It includes not only violence against women, but against children, men, and also against elders.

One of the important things about this law was that instead of cataloging every single crime as murder in the first degree or the second or whatever, they started putting it together in a separate category which was domestic violence. And we could count how many people were actually being killed. And that was the way in which new data came in terms of how many cases there were.

In 1992 senators in the government of Puerto Rico started questioning the law and they wanted to change that law. Some senators were accused under Law 54 after it was signed. And then feminist groups understood that the law was going to lose a lot of force, so they really didn't want the law to be touched. I was feeling very enraged. I decided that I wanted to work regarding that situation.

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