Javier Uriega Jr
Please tell us about yourself. Include where you’re from, what you do, how your thriving, and anything else everyone should know about you.
I always struggle when I tell people where I am from. I was born in Brownsville, Texas, located in the Rio Grande Valley in South Texas, but I lived the first ten years of my life in Matamoros, Mexico, a border town next to Brownsville. The next eight years of my life I lived in Rio Hondo, Texas again, in the RGV. However, I never quite fit in any of those places, so it’s hard to call any of them home. I am currently a student at the University of Texas at Austin studying Textiles and Apparel and I hope to one day become a fashion designer. I have to say that art has always driven my life. It is through music, painting, and clothing design that I express myself, and show who I really am as a person—an individual with a complicated background.
How do you identify culturally?
I consider myself a Mexican-American. Mexican because my roots and my blood say so, but American because I share so many of the American values.
How does your cultural background inform your thinking and sense of being in the world? How has it informed past decisions, successes, failures?
Before I came to Austin and entered the University of Texas, I never thought that I could be a fashion designer, let alone be successful at this university. I was the only person in my high school, which is 98% Hispanic, who went to a big university, so I felt a pressure and fear of having to be successful in life. I felt this fear because when I arrived I saw that the most successful students were either Asian or white, so in a way I felt that this journey would be a lot harder for me. However, at the end of my first semester in college I began to read a lot about the civil rights movement and figures such as Malcolm X, Assata Shakur, and Robert F. Williams who fought and gave everything they had in order to gain a better life for themselves and their people. I began to feel inspired by their stories and I put aside the fear I had. I became involved in many projects and so many other things because in my mind I am opening a door other Latino students who want to go through to the same path I am following, and I want them to feel secure that it is possible.
What inspires you and who do you look up to?
Creation. I am constantly inspired to create something new, something beautiful, something that people will enjoy. As for what gives me the motivation to do it, I think it’s the fact that I like to know what I am capable of. I want to keep on going forward until I hit a wall, and then see if I can break the wall and do more.
I look up to Kanye West. I know it sounds cheesy or cliché, but I think he embodies the true character of an artist. An egotistical artistic narcissist who takes risks, who is political, controversial, and only cares about two things: his family and his art.
What is your best piece of advice to anyone who may be struggling?
Everything is temporary. Life has many obstacles, but one thing is for sure—you will eventually learn to overcome them one way or another. I like to think that we have full control of our lives, but we are given the steering wheel only at the right moments, and it is the decision that we make at that moment that makes us who we are. It is okay to be scared, it’s a natural human reaction, but never let that fear dictate your life.
What are your future goals and aspirations?
I hope to one day run my own fashion house, or work at a couture house. I want to be able to freely express myself through clothing, and give people a new perspective in their lives. I also hope that through a non-profit organization I will be able to provide more resources to kids in the Rio Grande Valley. The RGV is mostly populated by Latinos of Mexican descendance, and I have seen how graduation rates are not at their best, and how for most kids going to college seems like a distant dream. However, I want to let them know that it is possible to go to college, that there are individuals who look just like them that are successful people and have done great things in life. I want to plant a seed in their minds that will hopefully one day flourish, and turn them into amazing human beings.
Share one thing people should know about the Latinx community?
The Latino community is a united one, which like any other community always strives for a better life. For the most of us the story of our lives, the story of our family lives, is one of hardships and complications but always with the hope and faith that one day we will find a happy place in this planet.
What is your favorite Latinx driven project and why is it your favorite?
I am very pleased with the work the Hispanic Scholarship Fund (HSF) is doing with kids across America. To me education is very important, and I believe that it can open doors for anyone that wants a better life for themselves or others. I appreciate how HSF is enabling kids to gain a higher education and motivating them through their many educational programs and scholarship opportunities.
Where can people find you on the internet?
Latinx Voices is an online photo and interview series spotlighting Latinx peoples in our communities. We want to amplify those voices–reminding people that we are not only surviving, but thriving.