CITIES: Born/Raised in Forth Worth & Currently in Denton
ETHNICITY/RACE: "I'm a brown Xicano.
For those who don’t know what Xicano mean, you may know it originally as “Chicano” which means “Mexican-American”. The “X” in place of the “Ch” is a way to shouts out our indigenous blood and mother tongue (rather than Spanish). I could go on but you can google it later if you really wanna know.
I also wrote “brown” because LatinX people come in all colors."
EDUCATION: The University of North Texas
FAVORITE IG ACCOUNT: "@chivexp is a Mexican cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki (“The Revenant”, “Birdman”) who is without a doubt one of the best cinematographers to ever do it. Unlike a lot of veteran cinematographers, Chivo embraces IG to show off new images he’s constantly capturing. I’m constantly being inspired by the images he capturing and it makes me a better cinematographer and photographer because of it."
FAVORITE SONG: "Hijos del Canaveral by Residente has been on repeat since the “Residente” album dropped on March 31. Even though, the song is about Puerto Rico, it reminds me of my parents and their home in Mexico. It’s a very calm yet celebratory song that makes me feel proud to be Latinx. It talks about the struggle of being financially poor, lacking education yet being rich in pride and culture."
WHAT'S YOUR STORY?
"I was born in 1994 on the Southeast side of Fort Worth, Texas. I am one of five siblings (all male) to immigrant parents from San Luis Potosí, México. My Pa earned his ferria working outside all day building fences and my Ma would juggle my brothers and I at home.
I grew up right after the Crips and Bloods formed the 1994 Gang Truce for “Murda Worth”, a nickname given to the city between the 1980s and the early 2000s for its gang violence. I went to school and lived around a lot of gang affiliated people but most of the OGs were inactive, locked up in jail or had passed. At this time, gangsta rap was at its peak in mainstream media. It was a music and culture that both reflected and influenced they way of life for many young people in the hood.
I bring the above up because as a teenage Xicano, I struggled with my identity. All teenagers do, but as a Xicano, “we gotta be more Mexican than the Mexicans and more American than the Americans”. I was being raised by Mexican culture at home but having to assimilate into the American culture present in my community. Which meant I was going to be influenced by gang culture in a community of disenfranchised African-Americans and other Chicanx searching for their own identities. In my schools, it was considered cool to get bad grades, the most popular kids were gang related and machismo fueled fights daily.
With that said, it was so easy for any young brown or black person in my hood to become a stereotype and get swallowed up by the system at play. Thankfully, I had perspective early on and I actually went through my first existential crisis when I was like 13. I was aware that my parents grew up with far less resources and far more struggles than I did. They come from a small ranch in which they had to fetch their water out of a well and lacked parental guidance due to passing or other complications. They immigrated here in search of a better financial and resourceful life to raise a healthy family. With this in mind, instead of giving into some of the common influences in my community, I kept my grades up and managed to maintain great relationships with my peers without backlash. Then when I was 14, I came across two very important things that would change the rest of my life - skateboarding and filmmaking.
In short, skateboarding was very niche in our hood when me and a few friends started. That made me excited to be apart of something that wasn’t gang related nor popular and therefore my friends and I could make it our own. But the awesome thing about skateboarding is that you can only progress according to the amount of work you put in. And at it’s core (unlike traditional sports) it’s a self pursuit - you don’t have teams, coaches or captains. Therefore this was the first time I was doing something in my life that kept me focused, taught me to work towards my goals, to get up after every fall, kept me away from gang related peers and former friends who were just up to no good.
After learning a few skateboarding tricks, I was curious to see what I looked like while doing them. That’s when I began filming myself with a camera I borrowed from one of my older brothers. From there I learned the basics of framing myself in the shot, recording, transferring footage to a computer and basic editing. Before I knew it, I was making a 10 minute video of my friends and I skateboarding every 2 weeks. It became something just as fun and fulfilling as skateboarding itself. When it was time for me to go to high school, it was filmmaking that helped me make the decision to apply and attend a high school that offered a video production program and inspired my decision to continue studying filmmaking at a University after being granted scholarships to do so.
Nowadays, I’m a University of North Texas alumni with a BA in Media Arts, a full time filmmaker of my own company, “Orange Video Productions”, a freelance cinematographer, photographer and I currently have a start up skateboard company called, Tabla."
WHAT'S YOUR PURPOSE?
“Be the person you needed when you were younger.
That’s my purpose - to be that person I needed when I was younger. I want to help marginalized people realize their worth and support them in their aspirations. I am currently facilitating skateboarding and mentoring young skateboarders in the hood. And through my filmmaking and photography expertise, I strive to capture and tell the stories of people and communities who are often ignored or portrayed as stereotypes in the mainstream.
That quote pretty much helped me narrow down my purpose."
WHAT'S THE BIGGEST HARDSHIP YOU'VE FACED?
"I faced lots of hardships as a young kid but to pinpoint one instance in particular, it may be when my cousin Ivan passed away. This took place on February of 2012 in a car collision that also took the life of his passenger and injured 4 people in the other car. If that wasn’t difficult enough, a mutual friend of ours took his own life after helplessly blaming himself for the cause of the accident.
I’ve had friends and family pass away before then, but my relationship with Ivan was a bit different. We were the same age, went to the same schools, had most of the same classes and had a similar reputation of being mischievous children growing up. The older we got, the more our social circle of friends began to separate as he continued on with the same lifestyle and I focused on school and my passions. But nonetheless, we always had each others back in school, in the hood or wherever we might have seen one another. I’d seen him go through previous episodes in which alcohol or negligence under some other drug had put him in bad situations physically, socially and with the law. But I never set out to help nor talk to him about it. Which is a strange phenomenon about being a teenager - feeling powerless yet invincible.
Those next couple of days after his passing were times of grieving and reflection. I thought about how his actions and addictions lead him to this path and how easy it is for anyone to go through the same. I thought about how easy it could have been for me or another one of my close friends or family members to have been with him or been victims of suicide because of it. I grew up learning from the mistakes of others and this instance made me less of a fan of alcohol, negligent driving and most importantly; I learned to speak up when I see another person going through it. I am grateful everyday for what I have but I’m constantly thinking about how I can help other people.
Days after he passed, a classmate of ours publicized a photojournalism project she had done on Ivan a couple weeks earlier. It turns out Ivan wanted to change, but he never learned to ask or accept help..."
“One of the biggest things that has ever happened to me was the car accident I was involved in. That changed the way I was before, it made me realize that I needed to change my ways of life. I look in no direction when I'm looking for help, I look after and only me. I ride solo.”
SHARE ONE OF YOUR HAPPIEST MOMENTS THUS FAR.
"As a student at UNT, I had the opportunity to study abroad in Oaxaca, Mexico. While in Oaxaca, I got to visit, Monte Albán, which was the first time I ever got to visit the ruins of a MesoAmerican site.
As I stood on top of one of one of the pyramids, I looked out into the lands thinking about how amazing it was to visit the former home of my ancestors. I thought about how grand the opportunity was for me to be studying in Oaxaca, learning and exploring my ancestral heritage. As the son of Mexican parents who never attended college, much less got high school education, I felt so privileged and thankful.
That exact moment was one of my happiest and it’s something I will never take for granted."
WHAT'S YOUR CONSTANT MOTIVATION & WHERE DOES IT ROOT FROM?
"I am constantly motivated by other people who share a similar identity as me because it reminds me that I’m not alone in the pursuit of my goals. For instance, when another Chicanx is doing something great in their field, it motivates me to continue pushing forward for the raza. When I see another skateboarder from the hood (any hood) it reminds me of myself and therefore I try to find a way to support that skater in one way or another. When I see another filmmaker or photographers work and I say to myself “I wish I made that”, then I get motivated to create better work."
WHAT'S SOMETHING THAT SOMEONE WOULDN'T KNOW ABOUT YOU?
"I own a Corgi named “Ollie” and he’s super cool."
IF YOU COULD MEET ANYONE DEAD OR ALIVE WHO WOULD IT BE?
"This is a difficult one, mainly because there are a ton of people who I love but there is no one that I idolize. Actually, it would be awesome to meet my Ma’s parents. They passed away before she was old enough to remember what they were like. So it would be awesome if I could meet them and then tell my Ma about them."
IF YOU COULD PHOTOGRAPH/VIDEO DOC ANYONE, WHO WOULD IT BE?
"I’d love to shoot a music documentary for someone such as Immortal Technique, Residente, J. Cole, Kendrick Lamar or anyone else with a very socially conscious approach to their music."