As you’re leaving Isabel II, headed east on 200 towards the high school in Santa María, you can’t miss the brightly colored house on the right side of the road. Painted green and yellow, the house offers a different message on its façade each month in large letters, along with gorgeous hanging plastic flower bouquets. Sometimes the giant letters celebrate someone’s birthday; other months it’s Happy Mother’s Day! or Congratulations Graduates! This is the home of Francisco Rafael, aka Pito, born and raised in Vieques.
Pito began to explore his artistic side as a teenager cutting and styling hair locally, then left for the main island at the age of twenty to study in a special beauty school. In the ten years he was away from Vieques he traveled as far as San Diego and New York to learn different styling techniques. Pito also spent a few years in San Juan working as a production artist for the famous film director Jacobo Morales before returning to his native Vieques. Here, for the last thirty years, he has had a small salon in his home and a thriving hairstyling business.
A few years ago, worried about the planet and increasing environmental pollution problems, Pito started collecting trash, especially plastic bottles. His parents initially thought he had gone crazy, which caused him to wonder what he was going to do with all the plastic. One night it became clear. He dreamed he was talking to God and asked what he could possibly do with the recyclables, to which God answered, “You’ll decorate your house with it, of course!” Pito was a little shocked and confused by this divine inspiration so he asked God to grant him a little wisdom and a lot of energy to carry out this vision. The next day, while his parents were at church, he sat down and carved out his first plastic flower, which then blossomed into an entire hanging bouquet.
His colorful creations have since morphed into recycled flower lampshades, baskets to place upon pedestals, and other hanging wonders. Pito uses soda, water and Clorox bottles to create his pieces, and his style continues to evolve. Each flower decoration takes over 170 bottles that he gets from his clients, local restaurants, stores and others who bring them by. Until Patronales this past July, this creative man had been gifting his designs to local friends and relatives until a local doctor purchased a few to hang from their balcony.
These whimsical creations are not only keeping trash out of our local landfills but are also providing funky and unique decorations to the island’s already vibrant colors. While Pito doesn’t have plans yet to sell his creations on a larger scale he has picked out a fun name for his future endeavor – Forever Flowers. We’re lucky to have such a creative local Viequense who makes reducing, reusing and recycling look so fabulous.