When I first met Leticia Vazquez, she taught me the word tocaya – it’s the Spanish term for “name twin.” She’s my first tocaya – and the only person I’ve ever met who pronounces our name in that special way, “Leh-tee-see-ah.” Our relationship has been based on sharing since our first encounter at a “paper flower” workshop at Global Gallery in the early 2000s. Vazquez has been committed to cultural sharing since her arrival to this city.
When I met Orlando Ruiz, he unabashedly told me of his propensity for playing Pokémon Go, love of hockey and weight-lifting, and pride in his ride – a Subaru WRX that runs on E85. Ruiz has many interests that play a huge part in the way he identifies as a true “melting pot of cultures,” and makes him immediately likeable.
A 2013 study stated that women only make up 24% of the workforce in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fields. Even more startling, only 3% of workers in the field are Latina. Jessica Cáceres is counted in this 3%. Working for the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), she merges her passion for environmental advocacy with her interest in community development.
Adam Hernandez’s art will take you to another place. A land where surreal creatures meet heroic figures cast in vibrant hues. You’ll find yourself immersed in this world, which is Hernandez’s very intention. Since moving to Columbus nine years ago from the Bronx, Hernandez has expanded and refined the realm his art encompasses in the city he finds both calm and gracious.
On their way to school each day, two sisters passed salon Azul Violeta in their hometown of Michoacán, Mexico. The constant presence of the storefront inspired them to one day operate their own beauty shop. Years later and thousands of miles away, the sisters opened a salon in Whitehall, Ohio. They named it Azul Violeta Salon, commemorating their hometown’s business. When the sister’s decided to sell the shop to care for an ailing loved one, the salon became Cristal Galloso’s. The acquisition fulfilled yet another aspiration for the 24-year-old Galloso, who dreamt of one day running her own business.
Nic Flores is from Olton, Texas – a small town between Lubbock and Amarillo in the state’s panhandle. As he explains it, this is the “Texas” part of Texas, an agri-business community where white farmers employ a predominantly Mexican and migrant workforce. Education brought Flores eastward, when he was accepted to DePauw University, a liberal arts college in Greencastle, Indiana. The Midwestern context awakened Flores’s consciousness, raising specific questions of self-identification and societal perceptions of “whiteness” as practice and privilege.
The study of movement brought Marya Barrios to Columbus and the practice of movement (for the moment) keeps her here. Her father moved from Venezuela to New York in 1993 and then from New York to Ohio to pursue his Master’s in technology and dance through the Ohio State Dance Department. Barrios joined her father shortly after his move to Columbus. At the age of 15, she left behind a Venezuela already exhibiting early symptoms of political and social unrest.
Amarelis Martinez was born during one of the most devastating storms in recent memory. The category 5 tempest, Hurricane Hugo, robbed Puerto Rico of electrical power. Martinez’s mother gave birth in a lightless and waterless hospital room with nineteen other women while the hurricane raged on outside. Her birth, Martinez suggests, set the tone for the rest of her life. She can go without much and still make it – head first.
A broom in constant motion and the consummate jingling of store bells accompanied Martin Noriega. He was busy sweeping the floor at Estetica Ivette Salon when we first arrived at his North Side business. Ivette is his mother, the salon Noriega’s gift to her. Once finished at the salon, Noriega dashed next door to answer phone calls and stock the shelves of his newest endeavor – a small Mexican styled grocery store. During our visit, he continued darting between the brick and mortar realities of Noriega’s decade long dream to one day own a business.
As an energetic kid with a penchant for science and math, Nathali Bertran dreamt of building a spaceship and visiting the moon. Her current job isn’t lightyears away from this either. She now builds more terrestrial machines as a design engineer for Honda R&D Americas in Raymond, Ohio. In addition to engineering cars, Bertran is also part of a team working to streamline and simplify the process of applying for DACA (that’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) status that allows recipients to attend public universities and garner U.S. work authorization.