If she were judging Puerto Rico based on what the mainstream media shows, Valerie Moreno would think the island was homogenous. But walking down the streets of San Juan, the photographer knows that “you will see boricuas of every color imaginable.” That’s why her photo project, Afros in San Juan, is so necessary. Since August 2016, Moreno has documented the Afro-Caribbeans who are just as much a part of Puerto Rico as those the media chooses to depict, but who don’t receive nearly enough coverage. The result is a stunning set of photos that shows the diversity of the island, and places natural hair in the limelight.
People like Juliana Pache (founder of the #AfroLatinxHistory hashtag), artist Zahira Kelly, journalist Amanda Alcantara, and many others have actively fought for more visibility for Afro-Latinxs and black women, but there’s still a long fight ahead. Moreno credits Kali Blocker, who runs Diosas al Natural – which celebrates natural hair in Puerto Rico – with inspiring her series. As Moreno told Remezcla, writing about Afro Puerto Rican women is incomplete without mentioning Blocker.
Afro-Latinos remain underrepresented in photography and other areas, so Moreno works to learn more about the people she photographs. “I try to be kind and stay open in order to learn about how my other brown sisters live their lives and how I can better portray their beauty,” Moreno told #IAmEnough. “It’s not only about the photograph, it’s caring about their stories. Stories about overcoming pressures from society and even those closest to them, pushing them to straighten or relax their natural curls. Each photo is an expression of acceptance of who they are and victory over systematic attempts to make their ‘natural’ = something that needs to be fixed.”
Check out her beautiful photos below:
July 5, 2017 at 1:25 p.m.: This post has been updated to include a comment from the photographer.