While Calle 13’s Residente and PG-13 are working on solo projects during the band’s indefinite hiatus, guitarist Mark Rivera is using his time to build (literally) a sanctuary in Santurce, Puerto Rico.
El PsychoDeli is a small venue that sits in a larger, dilapidated building (which is currently being rehabilitated.) The deli is just that, serving food from a deli-style menu, along with a full bar providing plenty of Medallas and booze. As Rivera puts it, the space provides “an opportunity for both locals and foreigners to participate in the growing art movement in Santurce.”
I was able to visit Mark and El PsychoDeli for it’s soft-opening during the annual Santurce Es Ley festival, and was able to experience first-hand the creativity and energy that permeated beyond the walls, and spilled into Calle Cerra. Maybe it was the rotating musicians on stage for the three-day opening, or the children’s crafts workshop, maybe it was the many art installations decorating the walls and ceiling, or the mounting vintage radios behind the bar, but wherever I looked, some form of art was smacking me in the face; and I loved it.
I followed up with Mark after the festival to find out about the origins of his passion project.
What is the story behind El PsychoDeli? Why this type of business, in this particular neighborhood?
Once upon a time in 2013, Calle 13 took a year off touring. I had just recently sold my house, which was also my woodworking shop. I needed a new shop and a place to live. I called my good friend Alexis Bousquet, who worked with Calle 13 on various art projects and is also the founder of Santurce Es Ley. He has been working out of his gallery in Santurce, and mentioned many times that it was a great area to have a shop. So I took his word for it and he gave me a tour of Calle Cerra [the main street that runs through Santurce.] That’s when I discovered this rundown building for sale and bought it. When Calle 13 went back on tour, I invested every penny I had and worked on getting this falling-apart-shithole in functional condition in between tour dates.
Through the process, I noticed a need for some type of business that gives back to the community, since there’s nothing around this area where you can eat, drink and hang out. The idea of a local deli came to mind while talking about it on tour with Kacho Lopez [music video director] and Ismael Cancel [Calle 13 drummer.] A name for a psychedelic house jam band came along “The Psychodelis”—it has deli in it, get it? I thought it was a brilliant idea to name the deli that! So I mentioned it to Alexis, who was going to curate the art and graphic designs. He saw it from the psycho point of view, so a combination of ideas made this what it is— a cultural hub for artists, community, foreigners or locals to have an experience and participate in a movement that started with art!
Was it always in your agenda to set up your own business, and if so why?
I’ve been doing this [woodwork] as a living for many years. This time it’s for me!
The venue itself looks more like an art gallery than an actual deli, with art installations throughout; tell us why and also how much of that work was created with your own hands?
The Deli is 99% built out of up-cycled or recycled material in an abandoned warehouse, made into a spot where you can enjoy art, music and good food. Whoever approaches me with a crazy idea, here we can give it a try—a place to exchange ideas and make a broken-down city an amazing place to be at. We’re reinventing the name of business! So expect the unexpected here!
Live music had a strong presence at the three-day grand opening during Santurce Es Ley. Can we expect that to continue?
Live music always has a strong presence for me, simultaneously with art. Many new talents arise all the time and I would in any way collaborate in giving a small place to play in. More low key; this is a restaurant with a twist, but not a big venue. Unless we take it to the street, which may be part of our concept later on.
With the financial crisis Puerto Rico is in, what is your hope for El PsychoDeli and Santurce?
Everywhere in the world, communities adapt to their surroundings and situations, in our case “a crisis.” Here all we care about is a quality of living that can easily be accomplished with art and music. So the word crisis doesn’t exist in El PsychoDeli.
Mark shares that he is 99 percent ready to open El PsychoDeli’s doors, and is hoping to host the grand-opening this summer.