Afro-Boricuas Take Center Stage In This Vibrant Photography Series
Valerie Moreno was caught by surprise at the number of Afro-Latinos she came across in Puerto Rico after moving to the island four years ago to be with her husband.
“I didn’t know there were as many black Latinos and as much diversity as there is,” the Canadian photographer, who happens to be of Salvadorian descent, told The Huffington Post. “Why? Partly because of my ignorance but also because every Puerto Rican I saw in movies and pop culture looked very much like J. Lo ― culturally homogeneous.”
Through her series “Afros in San Juan,” Moreno dismantles the common misconception. “In a very small way, I wanted to show people outside of Puerto Rico what I see when I walk the streets of San Juan.”
Since August 2016, the visual artist has committed to exploring “Puerto Rican culture beyond popular history” by shifting the focus on women often rendered invisible in their homeland. “It has been a way for me to learn through personal stories about women, their hair, and for most, the stigma attached to it,” she said of the labor of love.
When we stop beautiful Afro Latinas in the street and rave about their hair and beg them to allow us to photograph them, everyone around them looks at us wondering how it works. I started this project because I want women that are under-represented in the media to know, feel, and be reminded that they are beautiful in every way. When was the last time you heard it: YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL. YOU ARE ENOUGH.
While she isn’t Afro-Latina herself, Moreno does not take her role in expanding the standard of beauty in Puerto Rico lightly. “I choose to lend whatever privilege I might have, whatever voice I have, to the benefit of the beautiful people I photograph,” she explained. “I simply want to document the people I’ve seen around me and their words, so that when people look back at this generation and our contributions, they remember some of the beautiful, real faces that were here at this point in time. Because, why should a black person be a hidden figure in their own country?”
See more of “Afros in San Juan” here.