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Bernardo Medina’s Sofrito Manifesto slaps like a flip-flop

Bernardo Medina’s mother chased him into art with a foam rubber flip-flop.

“Latina mothers call it a chancleta,” says Medina, a San Juan, Puerto Rico-based pop artist and publicist. “It is the weapon that they use against you as a kid. I was very hyper, and since there were no medications for it, it was my mother’s slipper.”

As a lad in the rural northern coastal town of Hatillo, Medina knocked over a porcelain sheep and shepherd from his mother’s prized Lladró nativity scene, and Medina’s older sister Millie pronounced him dead. “My sister told me, ‘She is gonna kill you physically,’ so I ran outside and climbed a breadfruit tree.” Medina’s mother stationed herself at the base, slipper in hand, and he was only spared the wrath of the chancleta after his father argued for clemency.

His parents thought they’d found a productive outlet for that kind of energetic “lack of precaution” by enrolling him in art class, where he produced his first still life, a simple still life of an apple and a book. But before long Medina began to disrupt class as well, rendering the fruit in impossible patterns and colors, eventually painting entirely imaginary varieties.

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