Photography by: Gabriel Ortiz

Doña Patria

Part of the Doña Patria: Belleza Dominicana series, Angurria celebrates Dominican culture and the everyday beauty of womanhood. His series of murals, an honoring of his mother, feature Dominican women with their hair in rollers. Hair care and styling is an important tradition in Dominican culture with hair rollers typically being used in the privacy of ones own home. Angurria’s use of them are meant to reflect an intimate moment, with his subjects in their most natural state. He contrasts these moments and the casual appearance of his subjects with strong expressions such as confidence or joy; here Doña Patria wears a stoic, unwavering gazes into the distance. His choice of hair rollers as an accessory was no doubt influenced by his mother who was a hairdresser and owned a hair salon. As such, it is fair to assume he grew up watching strong Dominican women in a somewhat vulnerable moment getting their hair done.

The leaves surrounding the woman in rollers are plantain leaves, representing a major part of the Dominican diet.

Evaristo Angurria, Doña Patria, 2017. Acrylic on primed brick, 40 x 36 ft. Public art. ©Evaristo Angurria. All rights reserved.

In the Dominican culture, hair is a proxy of health, and the less textured (kinky) your hair is, the more your status is elevated. This reflects the narratives of the histories that comprise the Dominican heritage inclusive of: the Spanish, European descent and slave trade. This history is reflected in present day range of Dominican looks, encompassing the spectrum from European to African looks.

Fun fact: Many of Angurria’s works of art feature a woman in rollers.

According to the Boston College Department of History's Global Boston project, Dominicans are the largest immigrant group in Boston. This fact is relevant when you consider the 2015 Color of Wealth in Boston study by Duke University, The New School, and the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston found the median net worth for Dominican households is the Greater Boston area is $0. Yes, $0. Said another way, if you took all the Dominican households and asked them to compare their savings and debts, half of those families will be in debt or break even. Non-immigrant Black households do not fair much better with a median net worth of $8. White households, however, fair considerably better with a median net worth of $247,500.

The impact of net worth on health has been thoroughly explored. People with lower net worth are disproportionally affected by unexpected medical costs, are more likely to stop taking their medication as prescribed, and have higher prevalence of depression and obesity.

Evaristo Angurria

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The Heart + Soul installation is a retrospective of some of the many murals and pieces of art created by artists in collaboration with Beyond Walls. In the fall of 2020, Beyond Walls presented the street art festival Truth Be Told in Lynn, Massachusetts. The artwork featured in the Truth Be Told festival was born of the COVID-19 pandemic and explores the idiosyncrasies of the times. Heart + Soul is a collection of photographs and digital art examining the interplay between community and art. The subjects and symbols within the works reflect the resilience of the diverse people where they reside. As the photographs celebrate the community, Heart + Soul aims to create space that not only reflects the vibrant diversity of the staff and patient community, but celebrates them.

This collection is the result of generous donations from Mass General Imaging and the MGH Office of Equity and Community Health.

Other work from Heart + Soul