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Seaside port with wagons and supplies on the dock. Ships are seen in the distance.

Americans disembarking in Ponce, July 27, 1898

After the U.S. landing in Guánica on July 25, 1898, U.S. troops progressed east to the southern port city of Ponce, the island’s politically progressive hub and economic capital. Painted by Catalan artist Manuel Cuyàs Agulló, this luminous port scene presents a drastically different atmosphere compared to the menacing mood of Entry of North Americans into Guánica Bay (on view nearby). 

By juxtaposing the island’s bustling activity in the foreground with U.S. war ships floating over placid waters in the background, Cuyàs Agulló captured the cautious optimism felt by many Puerto Ricans as they witnessed the arrival of the U.S. forces. The painting is based on a photograph that was prob- ably taken by the Puerto Rico-born Frederic Ballell Maymí. An engineer by training (and Cuyás Agullò’s brother-in-law), Ballell Maymí lived in the Ponce neighborhood of La Playa.

Manuel Cuyàs Agulló (active c. 1850–1900)
Oil on canvas
59.8 × 99.2 cm (23 9/16 × 39 1/16 in.)
Museo de Arte de Ponce The Luis A. Ferré Foundation, Inc.; gift of José and Mary Jane Fernández
Audio file
Audio commentary by Silvia Álvarez Curbelo, Professor, University of Puerto Rico, Recinto de Río Piedras

Audio Transcription: This painting is meaningful for me as a clue, a metaphor, of the transfer of power from Spain to modern and future-looking United States, as the imperial master. There’s apprehension, there's fear, although the battleships are peaceful and placid-looking… Workers and drivers that are helping unloading the arms, the munitions, as if they were merchandise… Business as usual. This is a military scene, but also a business representation. There is hope, there is calculation. There is apprehension too. They're going to bet on the Americans. All the ingredients are mixed– emotions and interest. As one Puerto Rican writer said about the invasion at that time, “My heart was with Spain, my head was with the United States.”

– My name is Silvia Álvarez Curbelo. I am a Puerto Rican historian.