Almanaque is a collaborative research project about Puerto Rican design and culture. The journal was written, edited, designed, and published by Jason Alejandro and Laura Rossi García as part of their graduate studies at Vermont College of Fine Arts.
In the late 1940s, literacy in Puerto Rico was low, and most of the rural population had no more than a third-grade education. Inspired by FDR’s New Deal programs, Puerto Rican governor Luis Muñoz Muñoz developed DIVEDCO, a new educational program that used films, photographs, posters, and informational booklets to provide basic education for Puerto Rican communities. Not only did the new educational program radically depart from standard curricula, but the educators themselves were artists, designers, and filmmakers.
DIVEDCO combined art, design, education, and popular culture to produce informational material about everyday matters (health, hygiene, and nutrition) and critical issues such as men and women’s rights, history, and what it meant to be a citizen of Puerto Rico and, in turn, the world. Posters announcing the films were distributed throughout rural communities, the films were featured in an open-air mobile cinema, and members of the community received booklets elaborating on the films’ subject matter. It was studying these booklets, akin to government zines self-published by the artists of DIVEDCO, that led to our decision to create the Almanaque, the first in a new series of publications aimed at highlighting Puerto Rico’s rich culture and history. By exposing the work of artists and designers, we hope to generate a greater awareness of Latino identity while also offering a more expansive idea of what it means to be Puerto Rican. It is our goal that this work recaptures the original spirit of earlier works that utilized art/design for social and educational purposes.
The publication is bilingual and includes essays about DIVEDCO, the design of the PR flag, an interview with Alberto Rigau, a photo essay on contemporary street art by Pablo Delano, music lyrics, poetry, and a timeline of Puerto Rico’s history. The inner cover features a composite of digitized hand-lettered type from both the original posters and booklets. The main body text is set in Irene (designed by Laura Rossi García), a typeface inspired by the work of Irene Delano,the first director of DIVEDCO’s Graphic Arts program. The display face, Leon, originated from typography found on a poster by Puerto Rican artist Lorenzo Homar.