The Memory of Elephants: Has the Puerto Rican collective dream died?


From left to right: Joshua Santiago, Ymaris Irizarry, Paola González and Dyan Serrano

The gravedigger and elephant’s translator

The piece La memoria de los elefantes, written by the dramatist, filmmaker, and producer Kisha Tikina Burgos, was presented on a spring night of Tuesday, in the theater of Figueroa Chapel at University Campus at Mayagüez.

The theatre play, directed by student Joshua Santiago Rodríguez, is about the population exodus of a nameless place. Salomon, the governor of the town, has lost his memory to the point of not recognizing the time he’s carried in political power.

Olivia, the first lady and interpreted by Paola A. González Santiago, is the vivid and submissive voice who keeps a toxic marital relationship with Salomon. She served as a mental rod for the annotation and elaboration of his sham political speech. Olivia, in her despair, hires a foreign translator of elephants, which helps to discover the reason why elephants insist on perpetuating themselves in that country.

The findings of the translator, interpreted by Ymaris N. Irizarry, together with the gravedigger, Dyan Serrano Alicea, will lead Olivia to the reason of her continuous dreamlike delirious with the elephants.

The character of Salomon, represents the bad times. Olivia’s character alludes to the history and the elephants symbolize the memory. The translator is the intermediary foreigner who tries to solve the affairs of the people, outside of her. While the gravedigger is the allegory of those who face the power.

Olivia’s character, the antithesis of the second one, Salomon.

The piece explores themes such as gender violence, abuse of power, chauvinism, murders, selective memory of people, the lack of history in society, among others. Being ambiguous and contextualized in a place without a name, makes it available to the reader for the adoption towards the contemporary problems of their own country, and invites them to reflect on the historical, political realities.

We can adapt the play to the events the Puerto Rican people are facing. The history of Puerto Rico, in a way, is an image of what we are as a result of our ancestors over the centuries. But that image is often incomplete. This is because a society never ends up being completed since there are always problems to solve. The needs and aspirations of society change over time. Therefore, the function of each one of us and the generations to come is to complete and put together the pieces of that portrait of who we are, and together as a society, aspire to be.

We can see it as that engineer trying to rebuild a building. The first thing you should do is find the layouts that comprise it, to be able to see the structure in its originality. With this, you could identify where the water pipes pass, the electricity cables, leaks, etc. Well, in the same way, to rework Puerto Rican society, we must know its past. That is, we must know our ancestors, our portrait, from a historical political-Puerto Rican perspective. Therefore, the history works like a rear-view mirror, where it is represented as that bridge that connects with the past to combat the current socio-historical disorder. The unawareness of our history serves to nourish the fantasy that is lived among natives as a colonized population without political condition, that we can’t be independent or we should follow the “american dream”.

"The Memory of the Elephants" makes an invitation for society, as a whole, to be educated through history, because those who leave the past behind do not learn from it and, therefore, have a high probability of repeating mistakes. Unfortunately, very often we have fallen into the error of believing that we can continue without learning from the past and this has led society to make such obvious mistakes as to continue with practices such as slavery, modern racism, human trafficking, among many others. So, what are you doing for rebuild society? Do you know the history of your town?