In 1995, my family and I traveled from Reno to El Salvador in my dad’s Mazda pickup truck. Although space was limited, we filled the truck bed with clothes and other miscellaneous items to bring back for our extended family. The journey to El Salvador lasted ten days. I remember daydreaming and watching the landscapes shift as the miles stretched. But what I remember most is this was the last trip we took as a family before my dad passed away.
On a quiet day in January of 2017, I sat drawing in my sketchbook, vividly remembering that last trip to El Salvador. As I drew, I had an inkling that I should go back. It was a feeling I had never experienced before, but an inner knowing that it was important for me to go. I had never traveled on my own very much, let alone internationally. Undeterred by my fears, I booked my flight to El Salvador. Deciding to return home after 22 years was monumental for my personal and artistic growth. Being among my culture, connecting with family, and visiting my dad's burial site and Mayan ruins was enlightening. Yet, I was reminded of being American as my Spanish differed from those around me. Despite feeling at home, I remained a foreigner to others.
As a Salvadoran American in Reno, NV, I battled a similar sense of displacement. Creating was my refuge from not fitting in, often being mistaken as Mexican, and enduring teasing and bullying as a kid. Despite these inner conflicts, my father's memory reminded me to take pride in being Salvadoran. He taught me to embrace my Salvadoran heritage, regardless of being born in the US. His cultural pride lives within me.
My journey to El Salvador was a powerful reminder of my cultural raíces, reconnecting me with who I am and where I come from. The experience was invigorating and has been fundamental to my creative practice, influencing and shaping my artistic expression.
My latest exhibition, Raíces (Roots), explores transcending cultural borders. Drawing inspiration from my 2017 experiences in El Salvador, my art becomes a medium to blend my Salvadoran American identity, bridging the dualities within me and engaging with the complexities of the Salvadoran American diaspora.