When Valerie Moreno moved to Puerto Rico four years ago to be with her husband, the Canadian photographer was surprised to find an incredible amount of racial diversity on the Caribbean island.
“I didn’t know there were as many black Latinos and as much diversity as there is,” Moreno, who is 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.”
Moreno hopes to change those types of misconceptions about Puerto Rico and the people who live there with her own set of images she shares on her Instagram account Afros in San Juan.
“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,” she said.
She says the goal of Afros in San Juan is to also show the world “there’s diversity, beauty, and talent in Puerto Rico that goes well beyond the narrative of a broken economy and political limitations that we’ve all been fed. While [the] limitations are real, that story is incomplete.”
The photographer began the project in August 2016 and has since filled her account with vibrant portraits of mainly Afro-Latinas on the island that showcase the subjects natural hair and the picturesque streets of San Juan. Moreno also interviews each person she meets and often includes their quotes in captions.
“This has been a creative way for me to explore and learn about Puerto Rican culture beyond popular history; lessons that one day my husband and I will have to teach our children,” she told HuffPost. “It has been a way for me to learn through personal stories about women, their hair, and for most, the stigma attached to it.”
Every picture on the account is a result of a personalized session and interview with the subject because, not being Afro-Latina herself, Moreno doesn’t “want to assume to speak on behalf of people who’s life experience is beyond my scope and experience.” The photographer says she’s also just one of the many voices working to bring more visibility to Afro-Latinas.
“I choose to lend whatever privilege I might have, whatever voice I have, to the benefit of the beautiful people I photograph,” she said. “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?”
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Source: HuffPost Black Voices