In homogenous areas of the world, it may be difficult to imagine living in a more diverse world. But when you aren’t able to experience another culture firsthand, you may have to rely on others to capture the sights for you. Luckily, with the ever-growing popularity of social media platforms like Instagram, you can get a glimpse into just how much variety — and beauty — the planet has to offer.
Take @afrosinsanjuan, a visually stunning Instagram account created by photographer Valerie Moreno. When this shutterbug moved to Puerto Rico four years ago, she had no idea how racially diverse the island was.
Moreno, who is of Salvadorian descent, told The Huffington Post that she initially had no idea just how many black Latinos were living in Puerto Rico.
She said, “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.”
But she soon found that her preconceived notions about the cultural makeup of the island were way off base.
In the same vein of the “Humans of New York” series, she soon started to capture portraits of the beauty she found in these Puerto Rican Afro-Latinas, then posted the photos on her Instagram account. Echoing the natural hair movement of African-Americans here in the U.S., many of the women Moreno features rock a natural style.
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Several of her images feature women posing with bouquets or with flowers in their hair. Not only do these blooms represent the Caribbean aesthetic, but since 89% of women say receiving flowers makes them feel special, Moreno seems to use them to highlight their femininity and confidence.
Still, their looks are anything but uniform. Almost every skin tone is represented in the photo series, as is every mood and walk of life.
Americans tend to think of themselves as a positive bunch, but research has found that only 33% of U.S. residents described themselves as “very happy” in 2011, a slight decrease from just a few years earlier. And although many Americans might make assumptions about the quality of life in Puerto Rico, Moreno’s project shows the tenacious and jubilant nature of the human spirit. While some portraits are pensive and weighty, most are filled with genuine joy.
Moreno’s goal in starting the project was to 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, the story is incomplete.”
Ultimately, Moreno hopes she can bring more visibility to Afro-Latinas, both in Puerto Rico and around the world.
“I choose to lend whatever privilege I might have, whatever voice I have, to the benefit of the beautiful people I photograph,” says Moreno. “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?”
So many wonderful things happened today. I SIMPLY CAN’T STOP POSTING ALL THIS BEAUTY! Dominican + Haitian from NYC living in Puerto Rico. •••••••••••••••••••••••••••••• Btw here in Puerto Rico we are very very happy because our team has won every game in the world baseball ⚾️ classic. We made the finals and tomorrow is the last game . #teamrubio