Gerardo is enrolled in the Vagelos Integrated Program in Energy Research, pursuing a dual degree in Chemistry and Materials Science & Engineering and a minor in Fine Arts. His senior design project consists of developing liquid crystal elastomer plastics for responsive building skins that modulate the flow of solar radiance to reduce indoor energy consumption. Additionally, he is currently involved with the Penn Program in the Environmental Humanities, working on a photo essay that traces and proposes a taxonomy of infrastructures that mediate public access to the Lower Schuylkill River, given the oil industry’s ownership and exploitation of surrounding lands. His research interests include issues of temporality, memory, and preservation in the landscape (as an object-place) and plastic (as an object-material); perception through non-audiovisual senses; and ways in which art practices can explore these issues to propose alternative modes of making and living in the Anthropocene.
Penn Humanities Forum Undergraduate Fellow
2016—2017 Forum on Translation
Chemistry; Materials Science & Engineering
The insidious network: Translating the invasive biology of the Cuban marabú tree into a model for radical politics
A species native to Africa, the marabú tree was accidentally transported to Cuba in the form of seeds the transatlantic slave trade. Since then, it has been described as a weed that hinders agricultural development of the island with its dense rhizomatic thickets. Particularly during periods of agricultural stagnation, marabú spread with ease over the colonial legacies of sugarcane monocultures, becoming an insidious threat to the utopic agrarian policies of the Castro regime. Yet this sprawl prevented erosion and extinction of native species, reconfiguring the industrialized agricultural landscape with no regard towards political and colonial paradigms. As a network woven into the landscape, the marabú tree materializes the relationships between issues of migration, environmental decay, state failure, and decolonization. Tracking references in Cuban agronomical reports from the early 19th century and Fidel and Raúl Castro’s speeches, this project interprets marabú as a material-discursive system that imposes itself with a biological drive. How does marabú employ tactics of (in)visibility and insidiousness to reshape the landscape and its social, cultural, and political paradigms? How does marabú operate as an agent of dissent and resistance against totalitarian politics and colonial legacies?