Veronica Gonzalez

Photography by  Diana Ascarrunz

Photography by Diana Ascarrunz

Tell us about yourself. Include where you’re from, what you do, how you’re thriving, and anything else everyone should know about you.

I am from the Island of Enchantment, aka Crisis Island, of Puerto Rico, part of a mass exodus of young professionals fleeing the economic depression and the unstable political climate. I am usually behind the camera, not in front of it, but I think Puerto Ricans are a peculiar breed of Latinos that need their voices to be heard. We are U.S. citizens, but second rate citizens—in many instances we are treated differently. Did you know Puerto Ricans vote in the presidential primaries but can’t vote in the presidential elections? We pay taxes and import tariffs, and federal law is applied, but we don’t get democratic representation. Lately Lin-Manuel Miranda, John Oliver, and Bernie Sanders have spoken out about Puerto Rico’s case, but the federal government refuses to help. 45% of Puerto Ricans live under the poverty line and we all are born citizens and have a passport. I went to the DMV to get a Texas license and they are making me retake the driving test because they can not use my Puerto Rico license number. We go to banks and they ask us if we are foreign. Misinformation, a depleting paradise, and a forgotten peoplehood. I want to speak for those who got tired of trying!

How do you identify culturally?

I identify as a Carmel colored Puerto Rican Latina, the perfect blend of Indigenous (Taína), Black, and Spanish.

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What inspires you and who do you look up to?

I am inspired by hard working, happy people that always to strive to do better, to be better. People that are kind and are quick to lend a helping hand. People that are creative, passionate, and aren’t afraid to show it.

How has your Latinx background informed your decisions, successes, failures? What do you do when things go wrong?

My mom was a strong Latina who pulled herself from a poor family of eight in the countryside and studied to be a nurse at the capital. She woke up at 5am to cook breakfast, go to work at an overcrowded hospital all day, pick us up from school, study with us, cook dinner, wash up, and watch her telenovelas. She also took care of her parents and siblings. She taught me to work hard, to help others, and to live a simple but organized life. She had a fire—I believe I have that too! When things go wrong I regroup and go at it again. God, meditation, and a positive self image are essential. I keep her bible.

Your best piece of advice for anyone who’s struggling?

Hang in there—the bigger the challenge, the bigger the blessing to come. Success lies in consistency. Work on yourself, work on facing everything with a good attitude. When you feel things cannot get any worse, that’s when you have to be a blessing to someone else, and that’s when you have to declare how thankful you are. That’s when doors really start to open.

Future goals and aspirations?

I want to conquer the world, starting with Austin. I strive to leave a life of legacy, touch people, change lives: one neighbor, one friend, one stranger, one child. I want to share what I’ve learned. I want to share the happiness I feel after all the hardships and challenges.

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One thing people should know about the Latinx community?

We are resilient, we are salsa & spice, laughter and family, we are a warm day at the beach with a loud boom box. We are Santería mixed with high heels and a beat face. We are loyal, passionate, honest, and a bit feisty. We are a blend of Europe, Africa, and America. We live and breath culture, color, poetry. (I’ll stop cause I am getting homesick.)

Your favorite Latinx owned business in Austin?

DIANA ASCARRUNZ Photography, Las Cazuelas restaurant, Awe Events ATXChef Vis Catering (fellow Puerto Rican), Royal Rentals, Loma Criolla :)

Where can people find you on the internet?

www.aweeventsatx.Com

Facebook.com/aweeventsatx

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.