Puerto Rican Sculptor Tomás Batista
Visitors to Puerto Rico may take note that a number of the island’s landmark monuments were created by award-winning Puerto Rican sculptor Tomás Batista. These include the Monumento al Jíbaro Puertorriqueño located in Barrio Lapa of the municipality of Salinas; the sculpture of Taíno Cacique Hayuya located in the town of Jayuya’s Cultural Center; the sculpture of activist and author Julia de Burgos in the park named in her honor; and a statue of Rafael Hernándes at the municipal offices of Bayamón.
Born in Luquillo in 1935, Tomás Batista discovered his artistic talent at a young age. After graduating from high school in his home town, he continued his education in San Juan where he met Spanish artist Angel Botello and began to work with him. It was during this time that Batista found he had the knack for the restoration of wood, a talent he developed under the tuition of Botello.
Batista’s first presented work of art, the Crucifixion, was completed in 1957, and in 1958 he was awarded a grant to study sculpture techniques at the Puerto Rican Institute of Culture. In 1960 he received a Guggenheim fellowship to study art at La Escuela Nacional de Bellas Artes La Esmeralda in Mexico, and he also traveled to Spain to study at the Instituto de Cultura Hispánica. In 1966, Batista was appointed by the Puerto Rican Institute of Culture as the Director of the Department of Sculpture and Restoration.
Batista’s awards include Second Prize at the 1965 Sculpture Competition for Young Artists in Latin America for his work entitled Caracol, and in 1976 he was selected by the Junior Chamber of Commerce as “The Most Outstanding Young Man in Puerto Rico”. The Medalla de la Orden del Quinto Centenario was awarded to Batista in 1987.
Visitors to the City of Bayamón can view the permanent exhibition of the sculptor’s work at the Salón Batista in the Francisco Oller Museum. There is also a permanent exhibition of his works in his hometown of Luquillo. Moreover, his works of art are to be found in the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture in Old San Juan and the Ponce Museum of Art, as well as in New York and Washington, D.C. Tomás Batista’s works are also sought after by private collectors.