What lead me to Valerie was her project Afros in San Juan, which”exists to give visibility to Afro Latina beauty as seen on the Streets of San Juan, Puerto Rico and beyond”. Being Afro-Puertorrican or even Afro-Latina, can be compared to feeling like an unexpected adopted child. When people who haven’t had cultural exposure to Afro-Latinos me meet me, the first reaction is “you don’t look Puertorrican”. Of course, the implications of that statement are quite lamentable and we can’t blame anyone but the media. When people think of a Latina, many picture Sofia Vergara, Salma Hayek, or even Penelope Cruz (who is actually European), not so much someone like me or the beautiful women Valerie photographs in her work. I am certainly a social media enthusiast because through these channels, we, the everyday people, are reclaiming power over the narratives, the images and conversations that for such a long time were only directed by large media companies. Creatives like Valerie are gracefully dismantling stereotypes that have been long rooted in the collective consciousness, one picture at a time.
Profession or Passion: I am a multi-passionate creative. That’s a pretty way of saying that I wear many hats and that I love to be part of many different projects. That being said, I mainly create visual content for blogs, magazines, and businesses to post on their social media but I also teach part-time.
Where are you from? I am from Montreal, Canada but I am of Latino descent. My parents are originally from El Salvador.
What lead you to start the project Afros in San Juan? In short, curls and justice. Before I got married and moved to Puerto I had never really seen black Puerto Ricans because though there are quite a few on the big screen they are always cast as other cultures. This led me to believe most Puerto Ricans looked like J-Lo which is not at all true. When I moved here I would swoon over the beautiful Afros I would see and tell myself “someone needs to be documenting this!”. It took me 3 years to actually get the courage to just start and here we are.
What would you like the impact of this project to be? I want people to get used to seeing beauty in different ways and forms. To break out of the typical mold of what we are told is beautiful and teach our eyes and heart to see beauty everywhere. I hope to see more Afro Latinas featured on mainstream media as Latinas that they are.
What other projects are you currently working on? Mostly keep building my creative career which is taking most of my attention these days and keep taking pictures of things and scenes that make me happy.
Describe a day in your life? Never the same but mostly I work for myself during the day and teach in the evenings. During the day it could mean; shooting, meeting clients, editing, submitting portfolios, etc. I usually start working at 9:30 AM after having breakfast. I usually take a break for lunch at 12 as I watch something funny or fun and then go back to work until 2:30. After that, I pick up my husband from work and usually spend some quality time together for 2 or 3 hours before going to work in the evening. I work hard now because I’m in the “building” process of my business but I truly hope and plan to work solely for myself soon.
What hobbies do you enjoy? Do you have any routines, rituals or practices that help you keep focused and motivated (meditation, spiritual practice, affirmations, etc.)? Prayer and meditation are big for me. I also stretch during the day at random times. I try to eat well, on time and in a balanced way to fuel my body for the type of life I lead. Sometimes I fail but the trick is to keep trying. I allow myself time for pure fun and uninterrupted self-care moments. I like to read. I read a lot but these days I find myself reading articles and blogs more than anything else. I also travel quite a bit because most of our friends and family live abroad but we also like to explore new places.
How would you title your autobiography? Good question! I don’t know but it will probably be related to “always in the making”
What advice would you give to your 20-year-old self? Everything will work out. You don’t have to have it all figured out. No pain, no gain. Every desert or dark valley is meant to make you strong not to destroy you so take it like a woman and grow by learning your lesson in every season. You will heal from that heartbreak. You will meet the love of your life when you’re not looking and at the moment when you are finally ok with being single. He will be gold. Nothing in life will get easier, you will just get stronger. Nothing can replace hard work. Turn your dreams into goals. It will be your light and not your darkness that will intimidate you, press on, you are magic. It’s about quality, not quantity so purge all the unnecessary: relationships, clutter, attitude and thought patterns, debt. Don’t hold grudges, forgive and renew your mind daily. Have faith. You were made with purpose.
Your choice of
- A song: at the moment “we can take the world” Johnnyswim
- A place: inside a hug of the people I love most
- A moment in your life: every beginning of new adventures in my life are my favorite moments