I was born and raised in New York City of Puerto Rican parents who came to this country during the heavy migration from the island of Boriken in the early 1940s. I grew up in the slums and projects of New York struggling to understand this society and its impact on my people, the Boricua.
At that time, you were forbidden to speak Spanish in school -- I remained in silence as I learned the language and tried to comprehend the culture around me that was so different from what I knew at home. My artistic abilities were praised at an early age and I saw it as a means to escape my surroundings both on a mental and physical level. My imagination, art and books became my friends and teachers.
As a child I was always told that I had Indian, Spanish and African ancestors, but my school books never mentioned my people or culture. Ancestral spirits beckoned me at an early age to learn more. I was fascinated by native cultures and read everything I could about the original peoples of this continent.. As I looked for the history and culture of the Boricua, and I learned of their generosity, nobility, love of family and the land, and the betrayal and attempted genocide that they were met with upon the arrival of the Spanish and then the Americans.
As I had good grades, I was encouraged to apply for college and in 1969 attended Ohio State University. My culture shock was so intense that I retreated into an early marriage with a fellow Boricua who I met there. We moved to Youngstown, Ohio, a steel town with a sizable Puerto Rican population. I felt safe in the embrace of a culture I understood. In 1976 we moved to the Washington, DC area and in 1981, I became a divorced single mom with 2 children. Up until that time I worked in administrative and clerical positions. In 1982, I decided to pursue my dream of an art career. I quit my full time job and went back to school to study fine art full time at George Washington University. Though I had to stop studying for two years for financial reasons, I finally graduated in 1986 with honors. At that point I went to work as a production artist in a Spanish language weekly newspaper and developed my skills as a graphic designer. I began exhibiting my work in the DC area and New York and continued to seek out information on Tainos. I also continued my studies at the Art Students’ League, the Corcoran School of Art and other institutions. I have been fortunate to have studied with artists who have encouraged me to continue.
I had always believed that the Native Americans from the North would not accept me as indigenous since I was of mixed blood. When I finally met and became involved with Northern Indians, nothing could have been further from the truth. In fact, they led me to other Tainos searching for their ancestors and knowledge of that way of life. I got involved with Taino groups both in the mainland and on the island of Boriken and participated in native ceremonies. As a result my art gained more insight and became more spiritual in nature.
I am still searching and learning about my indigenous ancestors and cherish the knowledge that I have gained.