Héctor Collazo Hernández has been painting flags on abandoned buildings, turning them into tourist attractions. Jose A. Iglesias/Miami Herald/TNS
Photo: Jose A. Iglesias
Photo: Jose A. Iglesias

Flag helped heal his pain, then lifted an island

For the past two years Hector Collazo Hernandez has been carrying out his 78 pueblos y 1 bandera project — Spanish for 78 towns and one flag. His goal is to paint the Puerto Rican flag in each of the island’s towns, turning abandoned buildings into tourist attractions.

Of all the buildings Collazo has painted — his photos are on his Instagram account — Barceloneta’s is the most impressive.

The title for his project was easy, because Puerto Rico has 78 municipalities. But the way the painter came to love the island was painful.

Collazo lost his brother to suicide. He was the one who found the body. It was a hard blow for the family, and family members dealt with the loss in their own way. Collazo decided to leave the home that held so many memories for him.

“During this process of healing I began to develop a big love for Puerto Rico,” he said, adding that initially the flag project was totally spontaneous.

He would select a town and look for a building he could paint. He posted notices on social networks and people came to help.

“The essence of the project, aside from reaching all of the towns, is to rescue buildings, places that everyone thinks are lost,” he said.

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