The present essay focuses on the portrait gallery housed in the sala de cabildos of Old San Juan’s city hall during the nineteenth century. Because this was the room in which the city council met, it became a symbolically charged space that acted as a locus of local civic pride. Two impressive full-length portraits of governors of the island stood out within the gallery: the Portrait of Ramón de Castro by local painter José Campeche (1751–1809) and the Portrait of Miguel de la Torre by Eliab Metcalf (1785–1834), a painter born in Massachusetts who sojourned in the island. Both are unusual in that they celebrate Puerto Ricanness and present the viewer with a particular vision of local identity within the context of the Spanish colonial empire. Besides commissioning these portraits, the city council orchestrated social events during which San Juan citizens could view the sala de cabildos and become actors in the performance of social identity.

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