About

Senior Thesis

The University of the Arts Graphic Design 2022 Senior Capstone Project Award Winner

Senior year at the University of the Arts was an exciting time for me. I had finally come to the cusp of reaching my bachelor’s degree after six years of stress, sleepless nights, a global pandemic, and both financial and food insecurity. At the beginning of the first semester, my peers and I had to formulate a plan for how we wanted to leave our mark on the department. How did we want to be remembered for our time here at the University of the Arts? This project was how I chose to be remembered.

Being in a college of the arts, you encounter a lot of different people of varied disciplines and ideologies. But apparently, you do not encounter many people of color. I was the only Latino in almost all of my classes, and some teachers made that incredibly obvious to me. That said, I knew there were very few if any people of Latin descent in my field, especially here in North America. But I was woefully unprepared for the problems that came out of that. I knew I was different for being Puerto Rican, but people here knew very little of what a Puerto Rican was outside of a person who speaks Spanish. Then Hurricane Maria happened in 2017, and everything changed.

People really did not care.

Too often I came across people in public and online that were strongly against supporting Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. The majority of the arguments I heard stemmed from a misbelief that we (Puerto Ricans) are not United States citizens. The Jones Shafroth Act of 1917 apparently did not happen. What was considered the first shot of World War I in the Santa Rosa battery of El Moro was a fantasy, and we didn’t fight in World War I nor any other military engagement of the United States since. That was when I got pissed off.

¡Carajo!

I filtered the disrespect and feelings of anger, and betrayal into my work. I began using class projects as opportunities to craft a series directed toward this issue. Each project led me closer to what inevitably became this website, my senior thesis project.

Given the core issue was a lack of knowledge, you can’t get mad at someone for not knowing any better right? So the best plan of action was to educate people, while also learning a lot myself along the way.

The journey begins.

Ignorance is bliss. But if left alone, it grows into something ugly and dangerous called hate.

For me, it all started with my mom and grandmother passionately teaching me about la cultura, and it grew within me from then on. My mother taught me our ways of cooking, forced me to dance salsa while cleaning, and would play reggaeton legends like La Caballota and Los 12 Discípulos in the car. My grandmother recited stories of El Coqui, which explained why she had an unreasonable amount of frog figures, and plushies all around her Cramer Hill apartment. These and many more moments of my life taught me to Love myself and where I came from. Through understanding, I believe people can better connect to, and respect another’s culture. They may even learn to love the people of that culture rather than hate the things they do not understand.

I carried these memories instilled in me throughout my life, and sometimes it led me to be treated differently by some over the years. More often than not, it simply came from how I looked. I know right?! I only look Latino during the summer time but somehow hate always found a way. I tuned out the hateful noise, but it got very loud after Trump became President of the United States and Hurricane Maria hit. After that, I could not ignore the hate, the ignorance, and the lies any longer.

I practiced my rebellion in silence while working on my projects, including my online store Vené. I eventually arrived at this online website encyclopedia project that I named ENCANTADA | Isle of Myths.

This website is a platform for me to share Puerto Rican culture through my own artistic expression. I began with researching Taino (indigenous people of Puerto Rico) myths until I selected three that I felt could be reinterpreted into contemporary short stories. I then wrote the stories, and designed three unique ways of illustrating them. Additionally, I toiled over a very long glossary to provide factual and textual evidence of my findings, as well as resources for understanding the Taino words and practices found in these stories. I intended for people to have the opportunity to learn and discover the culture of Puerto Rico in a personal, and judgment-free space.

Growing up bien blanquito, with hazel eyes, I was very often ridiculed for not looking the part. It was awkward when Spanish-speaking Latinos would joke about my complexion, assuming I did not understand the vulgar expressions they were using right to my face. If you have ever seen Game of Thrones, the scene where Queen Cersei Lannister is paraded around King’s Landing nude, while onlookers yelled “SHAME!” and threw trash at her, is similar to what it feels like when you are a non-Spanish speaking or looking Latino. This essence of shame permeates throughout our lives because, for many of us, our parents chose not to teach us Spanish. For others, we forgot how to speak Spanish because we were reprimanded for speaking it in school by our teachers, and even our own non-Spanish speaking friends.

Assimilate or die.

Many of us who grew up this way were living in limbo. We were not allowed to express ourselves or our culture in public, or any setting outside of our homes and family gatherings. But, we were also not allowed to ask about our culture, or even to be taught Spanish because we did not look the part or should have somehow figured it out on our own without help. Therefore, many have gone about their lives struggling to feel belonging while existing within two societies that reject them for simply existing.

It is going to be ok.

This is why I want this website to be available to people. Not just for those of us non-Spanish speaking Latinos, but also for non-Latinos who want to learn without the fear of being attacked or ridiculed. Here you can learn at your own pace, and share that knowledge so that you don’t forget who you are, or where you came from, regardless if that knowledge was hidden or stripped from you.

This website is meant for us.

This website is meant for you.

Please do not copy my work. I spent an unholy amount of hours of difficult researching, writing, editing, designing, and illustrating everything on this website by myself!