nyc's latinx community on creativity and identity

What's it like to be Latinx in New York? Follow Alex Lee's lens through the streets of NY and discover a vibrant creative community that seeks to get involved and inspire. Whether they were born in the Big Apple or moved here to pursue their passion...

by i-D Staff
26 September 2016, 3:40pm

Name: Brian Procell. Age: 33. What do you do? I am a trusted dealer of vintage clothing. I have a store in NYC where I display my most recent finds for a variety of clients that respect my taste level and sense of style. The store is called Procell after my last name, because the shop is a curation and reflection of what I think is relevant to contemporary youth culture in NYC. I'm not the creator or designer, I simply find something that I approve of and share it with my community via the store. Where were you born? Hoboken, New Jersey. What is your heritage? My mother is Colombian and my father is Ecuadorian. Describe what it means to be Latinx. It's like being part of a huge family with millions of relatives that you haven't met yet, but you still kind of have an understanding of what their life is like. Do you think being Latin American creates an impact on your work or career? I used to not think much of it until I was approached by someone else who was also Latino and younger, and said I was an inspiration to them. They viewed me as a role model. To that person I was a first generation American Latino entrepreneur who started an influential and successful business from the ground up. When they saw that same potential in themselves, it opened my eyes to the possibility of being a positive influence to a younger generation of Latinos who are busting their ass to make it in this big city. What's it like being a creative person in NY today? Social media allows us to keep track of what everyone is doing here in real time. Now more than ever, it's keeping creatives on their toes and alert of what their colleagues and industry competition is up to. It forces many of them to try to keep up and stay relevant. That's something you begin to understand right away when you work in NYC; you realize it's made up of people who flock here to make a name for themselves and be the best at what they do. Earning your peers' respect is just as challenging as keeping up with the cost of living here. Only the strong survive and those that can't cut it are forced to leave. That kind of pressure creates an extremely competitive environment that keeps everyone motivated to stay on top of their game. How is the current political climate affecting your daily life? If you can't learn to love and respect one another then you need to get the fuck out of this country. What does NYC offer you as a creative? There is no other place on earth that has a larger audience for what I do. To most of the world, my store has a very progressive concept and it most likely wouldn't work as a successful business outside of NYC. Being here allows me to push the creative boundaries and not collapse under the pressure to conform and be part of the status quo. I'm proud to be an example of innovation in my industry and that wouldn't be possible anywhere else. @procell

Name: Mellany Sanchez. Age: 25. What do you do? Brand marketing. Where were you born? Brooklyn. What is your heritage? Puerto Rican. Describe what it means to be Latinx. Being conscious and deeply prideful. Do you think being Latin American creates an impact on your work or career? I think I've inherited a lot of my style and values from my upbringing, but it was more about locality than heritage. What's it like being a creative person in NY today? I think the creative community in NY has the same pressures it's always had and is poised to do very well in whatever lane we want to run. There's so much food on the table out here and I love to see how people go about getting it. How is the current political climate is affecting your daily life? Hillary Clinton's campaign has made me really aware of my responsibility and potential voice as a young American. What does NYC offer you as a creative? Endless and inimitable resources and standards. @mellany_sanchez

Name: Juan Quiceno. Age: 28. What do you do? Fashion designer and clothing enthusiast. Where were you born? In Medellín, Colombia and raised in Miami. Since when have you lived in US? Since I was eight-years-old. Describe what it means to be Latinx. I would say it's been really great. I'd do it all over. Do you think being Latin American creates an impact on your work or career? Absolutely. A lot of my references and starting points stem from the experiences, environment, and people around me — Miami, Medellín, and New York. What's it like being a creative person in NY today? I think the young creative community is in a moment embracing and questioning the norm — what it is and what it could or should be. However, it's hard to say that that is unique to "right now" — that state is New York always. How is the current political climate is affecting your daily life? I try to be as informed and involved as I possibly can. The current political climate here has left me really wondering about what is offered and has taught me about what isn't offered. What does NYC offer you as a creative? Endless creative applications. @jjquiceno

Name: Diana Veras. Age: 20. What do you do? Model. Where were you born? In the Dominican Republic and moved to the US when I was seven years old. Do you think being Latin American creates an impact in your work or career? I feel like it definitely does. It motivates me to make a name for myself. Meeting girls in my age range who are Dominican and also trying to accomplish the things that I am is so impossible, so it's important to me to represent for Dominican women who otherwise don't believe that our dreams can come true. There is so much we can do if given the opportunities; since I'm getting such big chances, I'm taking them and running with it. What's it like being a creative person in NY today? It's the time where everyone in New York just gets to be themselves and gets appreciated for it. Everyone is kind of finding where they belong, and the industry loves it. It's so refreshing to see personalities admired instead of measurements. It's also great to see so much representation. How is the current political climate affecting your daily life? I can't say that right now it's affecting me directly or in a way where I could say it's making my daily life different. But I will say that every time I hear Donald Trump's name my stomach starts to hurt, haha. What does NYC offer you as a creative? As someone who's in a creative industry, it gives me a space to be myself and connect with people like me. Especially other young Afro-Latina women who are trying really hard to represent for the countries we come from. @mynamesdiana

Name: Pablo Tapia-Plá. Age: 26. What do you do? Fashion video. Where were you born? I was born in Michoacán but grew up in Puerto Rico. I moved to the US for college in 2008. Describe what it means to be Latinx. Blessed. Do you think being Latin American creates an impact on your work or career? Being Latin American gives me a specific perspective on the world and a palette of references that non-Latin Americans might not know about. What's it like being a creative person in NY today? I think young creatives are going through a moment of political/social awareness and evolving views on gender and sexuality. How is the current political climate affecting your daily life? Mostly, I'm just stressed and scared of Donald Trump becoming president. What does NYC offer you as a creative? A community of driven and passionate people that is constantly evolving. @pablotapiapla

Name: Monica Rojas. Age: 25. What do you do? Stylist and designer. Where were you born? Los Angeles, CA. What is your heritage? Colombian. I've spent consecutive months living in Cali, Colombia. Describe what it means to be Latinx. Being a Latino embodies a huge sense of community and welfare. As a first generation American, I saw my parents have to prove themselves in a workforce filled with stereotypes that seemed to not be dissipating anytime soon. They have created a comfortable life for themselves out of the determination and discipline they were raised to have, all the while re-enforcing our surroundings for others to build on and thrive as well. I believe these to be qualities in any Latino community that hold the most power for our growth and independence. Do you think being Latin American creates an impact on your work or career? Yes. I could not suppress the cultural values that were instilled in me throughout my lifetime. They live in my subconscious and will always make themselves present, even if they're only noticeable to me. My perception and expectation of things will always be affected by the experiences I shared with my family in a Colombian household. What's it like being a creative person in NY today? The young creatives living in NY are what drive the city to progress and evolve everyday. They raise the bar for everyone and encourage everyone to be innovative — to be better. Young creatives have become a necessity in every field of work. There is simply no way to live 'inside the box' — or if you do, you need to hire someone who knows how to live outside the box for you. How is the current political climate affecting your daily life? On September 17, 2016, a Saturday night in NYC, there was a bombing in Chelsea only 1.5 miles from where I was. Luckily no one was killed and officials say it was not linked to international terrorism. However, it is becoming more evident each day that no one is safe. What does NYC offer you as a creative? I have endless opportunities every single day to collaborate with as many other creatives as I want — even just to interact and be influenced in some way. A city with 8.5 million people in it can guarantee nothing will ever be the same, you will struggle, and you will grow. NY has everything to offer a person willing to put in the work and put up with the grime. @yung_duh

Name: Nasty Nigel. Age: 26. What do you do? I rap. Where were you born? Queens, NY. What is your heritage? I'm from the Dominican Republic. Describe what it means to be Latinx. Finding a place in society outside of my neighborhood and hoping I don't get kicked out by Whole Foods. Do you think being Latin American creates an impact on your work or career? It molded who I became; to strip that away now, I would turn into someone completely different. What's it like being a creative person in NY today? We're in a place where anything goes. The youth is currently rewriting the book on how to create. How is the current political climate affecting your daily life? Being from NY, it feels like times are getting easier for a young black Latinos, but the more I travel across America the more I feel just how fucked a majority of the country is. It's something I can't stomach to see grow worse and even trickle to my neighborhood. What does NYC offer you as a creative? I look at NYC as a pot that every creative comes to contribute to. I never found myself sticking to one thing and my musical range goes from rap to salsa to jungle. There's just so much here and to turn a blind eye is depriving yourself from the rich culture right outside your window. @nastynigel.jpg

Name: Rio Uribe. Age: 30. What do you do? Designer. Where were you born? Los Angeles. What is your heritage? I'm Mexican/Native American, and I moved to NY 10 years ago, right after high school. Describe what it means to be Latinx. Being born Latino is lucky. I feel connected to a very rich culture and community of Latinos. We are vibrant and passionate people, with a long history of perseverance and diversity. How is the current political climate affecting your daily life? Trump's presidential campaign really caught me off guard. I didn't expect a man like him to have the right to speak for this country. His ignorant statements definitely brought a sense of unity back to Latinos in America. What does NYC offer you as a creative? New York City is a melting pot; here I can celebrate my heritage with friends, but also learn a lot about other cultures. New York has a big network of artists, fashion designers, actors, photographers, etc. and I think most of us just look at each other as humans, even more than "Latino" or "American." @gypsysport

Name: Maria Usbeck. Age: 31. What do you do? Musician. Where were you born? Ecuador; I moved to the US in 2003. Describe what it means to be Latinx. It's a sense of community. Being a part of a group of people that you can relate to. All of us no matter what country we are from have similarities, cultural crossovers. I think this becomes more apparent when you are far from home, like I am here in the US. Do you think being Latin American creates an impact on your work or career? It had not until recently that I decided to write an album in Spanish. I wanted to return to my roots and bring to surface all these special memories that I have growing up in South America. It's had nothing but a positive impact. To be able to share this part of me with the world has made me very happy and fulfilled. What's it like being a creative person in NY today? We're in a moment of originality vs. revival. For the last few years it's been common to see a lot of past decades come to influence fashion, music, and art in general. I think at this moment we are seeing a more creative and future-forward approach. How is the current political climate affecting your daily life? It's been rough over here to truly not be affected by our coming election and choices of candidates. It was a real disappointment to see Bernie Sanders not win the primaries, but overall, people seem to be trying to brighten up and educate themselves to make the best decision for the future. In my homeland of Ecuador, sadly, corruption prevails. I'm hoping we see a change there soon as well. What does NYC offer you as a creative? NYC has been very generous to me. I've met many other creatives here whose work inspires me and whom I can create with as well. It's a city that has so much to offer, endless inspiration. Also very important to leave and come back often, because it can also be quite overbearing. It has helped me appreciate living here more and more. @mariausbeck 


Photography Alex Lee

New York
straight up
straight ups
latin gaze