Julio Salgado, is at heart, a multimedia visual artist inspired by his personal undocumented and queer experience. Julio was born in Mexico, but at the age of 11, a trip to California became a lifetime move when his sister developed a life-threatening kidney infection. Since then, Julio has lived in Long Beach, where he is still based today. Although Julio’s sketchbook still comes first, his artistic process is very 21st century, and he counts Photoshop and his iPad (which he says he finally “gave into” last year) among his mediums. And while creating has always been his means for self-expression, and the creation of, otherwise lacking, representation, Julio first became known for his art documenting the migrants rights movement. Inspired by five undocumented activists’ sit-in at Senator McCain’s office in 2010, Julio began his journey into the world of art as activism, also known as artivism.
Today, part of what makes Julio’s art so compelling is its fearless challenge of the good immigrant/bad immigrant binary, a narrative exploited by politicians in relation to the DREAM Act and DACA, and still prevalent today. Furthermore, for Julio, the many facets of his identity are inextricable from each other, and he makes intersectional art for BIPOC, as well as the undocumented, immigrant, and queer communities. Julio’s art is colorful, “cartoony”, and tuned into pop culture – intentionally so. Through his work, he seeks to showcase “other parts about us”, which are often underrepresented in the focus on the tragedies of racism, homophobia, and anti-immigrant discourse and policy.
Julio is also a firm believer in the power of television in diversifying narratives, and the importance of investing in screenwriters from communities underrepresented not only on the screen, but also behind it. This belief motivated him to co-found the The Disruptors Fellowship, now in its second year, to invest in undocumented, formerly undocumented, trans, non-binary and disabled emerging BIPOC screenwriters.
In our interview, Julio took us on his journey as an artist and activist, from his inspiration and artistic process, to his personal grappling with the myth of the good immigrant. We discussed his thoughts on the relationship between art and advocacy, as well as the importance of collaboration, not speaking for other communities, and artists’ responsibility. Julio also elaborated on his vision of opening up Hollywood, and how the Disruptors Fellowship, inspired by his own screenwriting ventures and the mentorship of Aurora Guerrero, fits into this process. Finally, Julio shared his advice for emerging BIPOC and queer artists, and a message of hope, rooted in the beauty of creating community.
During our interview, Julio told us that he has been a creative person since he was a little kid. Drawing has always been his “way of doing things, or expressing myself” and even his way to communicate. When he came to the US in 7th grade, and didn’t speak English, making friends proved challenging. But, he explained: “when kids found out that I could draw, they would be like “oh, my God, let’s be friends!”. And so I realized I could make friends through drawing”.
Julio emphasizes that he did not start out as an activist: “when I started doing a lot of this work, I wasn’t an organizer. I wasn’t out in the streets per se, or bringing activists together. For me, it was about documenting those processes”. Studying journalism taught Julio about the importance of documenting and telling stories, and the skills to do so. And as part of a school newspaper, he made political cartoons. He had forgotten about some of his old college newspapers, until, the day before our interview, his sister helped him archive them, and sees this as a reflection of the fact that he has been creating for as long as he can remember.
Inspiration & Resistance
Julio names being undocumented and queer as a “huge impact or influence” on his artwork. “I would write about these things, draw about it, make little stories. I think, maybe not, definitely not, consciously, it was my way of tracking my feelings”.
One of the experiences Julio created art about growing up was discovering he was undocumented. Julio was unaware of his undocumented status until the 9th grade, when his teacher asked for his Social Security for a summer job. Julio attributes this experience with teaching him, at a young age, “that it was going to be a little bit different for me than for my other friends”. When he wanted a job as a teenager, he had to find alternatives, like working at a swap meet at the age of fifteen, an experience that also inspired his art.
Julio believes artists are very egotistical, and think a lot about themselves. When he looks back at his art, he feels he was centering himself a lot. But, he reminds himself that “white artists have been doing this for a long time”. And the college community’s response, which applauded his unique self-expression through art, and encouraged him to keep it up, pushed him forward.
Julio described that, growing up, “there were my undocumented friends, and my friends who were citizens. It almost felt like, as undocumented people, you’re going to have to do those jobs that people don’t want to, and when you’re a citizen, you have more options. But I was like no, I’m going to do what I want. I’ve always been the kind of person that, if I’m told no, I ask why not, l want to figure out my own way”.
Education & Opportunity
Julio graduated high school in 2001, the same year that AB-540, which allowed undocumented students, and US citizens to pay in-state tuition if they graduated from a California high school, passed. This bill made education accessible for him, and after transferring to Cal State Long Beach, he started a support group with fellow undocumented students, named after it. He credits the network of staff with knowing other undocumented students, and for putting them together. But even before his transfer from Long Beach City College and the support group, Julio was outspoken about being undocumented.
“Being undocumented really threw some hurdles my way, but I wanted to make sure people knew that, even though Undocumented and Unafraid was not a thing yet. I tried to be as outspoken as possible, even in classrooms. I would mention being undocumented in essays and stories, I would come out to professors. And they would tell me: you’re not the only one.”
Julio was in college for nine years, and considers this, and not qualifying for loans and financial aid, part of the undocumented experience. He acknowledges that there are more options and resources now, but back then, he had to take one or two classes at a time. But his biggest takeaway in this time, as he learned about people’s stories and journalism, was the need to “take over spaces like the newspaper and tell our stories”.
Good Immigrant/Bad Immigrant
Julio shared with us his personal grappling with the good immigrant/bad immigrant binary, and the way his work has evolved over time. At first, his work was for folks who are not undocumented, whom he hoped to educate.
“The narrative was very much about us being good people, immigrants that work and do the jobs that you don’t want to do. There was a lot of begging for acceptance. With the DREAM ACT, which a lot of us were fighting for, that would allow people like us a path to citizenship, a lot of us came out and gave that narrative. The narrative that it wasn’t our fault, that it was our parents’ fault for bringing us here.”
Julio learned that while it is powerful to come out in numbers, there is a responsibility on the kind of narratives you put out into the world. He says that policies like DACA created a split in the narrative, between good and bad immigrants. But seeing how politicians used undocumented immigrants like him, and their stories, and the American Public response was still filled with anti-immigrant discourse, brought him to a realization. “No matter how much I try to be a good person, and to make art that put us in this “clean” light, at the end of the day, these people don’t like us”.
Julio places the general shift away from the “I went to college, I’m a good immigrant” narrative around 2011, right after the DREAM Act almost passed. He described the logic of this shift: “that [narrative] took away from the power, the strength and the resilience of our families, and undocumented people who didn’t go to college, who made mistakes, undocumented people who are not perfect.”
Julio acknowledges that he was a part of this divisive narrative, and perceives this as part of his personal growth and evolution. In this discussion of narratives, Julio highlighted a portrait of his family, which says “My parents are courageous and responsible. That’s why I’m here.” He based it on a photograph of his family, and made it in collaboration with this friend Nancy Meza. The piece was inspired by their conversation about why they were being put on this pedestal. Julio concluded: “At the end of the day it is about policy. Those narratives have an effect on that.”
Today, Julio’s art starts with him. But while it has always been his means of therapy, and self-expression, “there’s 11 million undocumented people, that’s 11 million people that I want to create art for”. As an artist, Julio wants to make sure that people feel seen. And they do. Last year, an art student in Chicago reached out to him to share that seeing his artwork in high school made him feel this way.
“If I had a small part in this younger generation of people actually feeling seen, my work has served its purpose.”
This means a lot to Julio, who remembers a similar experience seeing Will and Grace in high school. Despite their differences (“a white gay man, very different from who I am”), “seeing a gay man on TV, using humor, but not being the joke was powerful. And the reason why that show was so powerful was because the co-creator of the show was a gay man”.
Julio elaborated his thoughts on the nuances of representation, as well as the power of social media.
“Who tells the stories is super important because it shapes how those things are being told. And it might not be right all the time, but we’ve got to try to have an opportunity to just put ourselves out there. And as artists, that can be a little bit difficult. But, we’re very lucky to be living in a time of Instagram and Facebook and social media overall. My art has gone around the world because of Instagram. I don’t know if I will ever get to go to those places, but my art can. And social media had a lot to do with that.”
As an artist, Julio describes himself as very “hand on paper”, but includes photoshop and his iPad in his artistic process. He often starts with his sketchbook, drawing images he then scans and adds color to with Photoshop. Cartoons inspire him, and the style and bright colors of his work.
“I do it purposely to be colorful, because whenever we think about art and immigration, it’s usually sad and dark. And, there’s this connection to things that are tragic, which is a reality. Immigration, a lot of the time, is very tragic. But there’s other parts about us that I really wanted to show through my art, and that color.”
Ultimately, Julio considers his process “simple”, and gives more importance to the message. To him, coming up with the right message is both the hardest and the most important part of his process.
In our discussion of artists’ responsibility, Julio shared with us that there have been negative reactions to his, sometimes provocative, work. Namely, to a specific image that said “illegal faggot”.
“That’s two very strong words that have been used against me, including online. And so for me, using those things as part of my artwork has been a way to kind of put up a mirror. So when xenophobes or homophobes see those things being appropriated by the people that they are trying to attack, it confuses them. And so to me, if I can confuse a homophobe and a xenophobe for one day, I like that, you know.”
He recalls an art workshop, with older queer immigrants, many of them Mexican, in which he presented similar pieces, with words that his generations are reclaiming such as “joto” and “joterías”. “Some of them got really offended, and asked me how dare I use that word when that’s a word that they’d been called, that’s why they had to migrate. And I explained, no, no, no, it’s OK, I’m proud. All of a sudden there was this generational misunderstanding.”
Julio associates a lack of space for these kinds of dialogues, and for contextualization, with social media. He says he enjoys interviews and college visits, because he gets to explain the “behind the scenes” of his pieces.
He believes in freedom of expression for artists, but emphasizes that it comes in hand with responsibility:
“I think as long as they’re not hurting anybody or offending anybody in a major way, people should be able to create what they want. But that comes with responsibility. And the responsibility is, can you defend the artwork? Did you just say something or do something to create some shock? What is the purpose? Because these are very strong words. And so being able to defend them and being able to stand behind your artwork is something that we should do.”
We also discussed the importance and nuances of collaboration with Julio, who champions sharing your platform with other artists.
“There’s a lot of us who are creating and that have been creating. When we are given any type of mic, passing it on, and moving out of the way to highlight other undocumented artists is important.”
Julio explained that there is much talent in the community, but that the limited resources create a mentality of scarcity that is not conducive to collaboration. He also emphasized that for him, collaborating with other undocumented and queer artists is about more than a end product.
“A lot of people see artists as props, as people who just create, and they reach out to us when they need a poster.. I think it’s important that artists talk to each other. So I try to be very intentional in projects that I do, like hey, how are you doing? Let’s talk, what are you thinking? What do you need? That’s a big question. What do you need? We never get asked those questions and I think for me collaborations really allow for that conversation, artist to artist.”
Julio also pointed out that artists can be irresponsible and exploitative collaborators too: “they see us as subjects, in the same way some activists, organizers, just see us as props, artists can also be exploitative and come into communities to just exploit, fill their portfolio, and move on.”
He thinks many artists view themselves as individuals, but believes that in this kind of art, which is also about other people’s lives, you have to collaborate, and be in conversation with others.
“There’s no way around it, unless you can just go and make your own stuff and exploit, which a lot of artists do. I won’t name any names.”
But Julio is hopeful, and a firm believer in the power of collaboration. ”I think more people are realizing culture is super important. We live it, we eat it, we watch it. Especially during this pandemic, art has been something that gives people hope […] At the end of the day it just has to be about collaboration and learning from our mistakes and growing. There’s never going to be a perfect collaboration.”
Art & Advocacy
In addition to discussing collaborations and the relationships amongst artists and activists, Julio shared his thoughts on the relationship between art and advocacy as a whole.
In his experience, activists and organizers are often seen as nonsensical noisemakers. And to Julio, that’s where art comes in: “I think what art can do, whether it be a filmmaker, a photographer, a writer, you know, it captures those moments.”
Julio applauded Carla Conejo’s The Undocumented Americans as an example of the power of art in advocacy. “It’s like a punk rock album, it’s raw, it’s real. It documents the way that undocumented immigrants cleaned up after 9/11, the way that we haven’t been taking care of of undocumented immigrants. When there’s when there’s a major climate catastrophe like hurricanes. Who goes and cleans that up? A lot of the time, when we see [undocumented immigrants] on TV, we see little snippets. But it takes a creative person to really be able to give it a three dimensional narrative.”
But Julio emphasizes that the relationship between art and advocacy is bidirectional: “I think what that book is doing is really making people think. But I don’t think it would have existed without the work of people on the ground. My art would not be what it is without me being influenced by, and being in community, with the people fighting back, getting arrested, doing sit ins. I always say that. So, it is well documented, but our work wouldn’t have been there if it wasn’t for their work. It’s a constant back and forth. ”
Julio traces the beginning of the relationship between his art and advocacy to 2010, after his college graduation: “I had this degree in journalism, and I was feeling sorry for myself because I had a degree, but I thought I couldn’t do anything with it because I’m undocumented. And all of a sudden I see on my Facebook feed, five undocumented activists doing a sit in in McCain’s office in Arizona. First of all, I thought, what are they doing? They’re going to get deported. But they were changing the narrative because they were like, you need to look at us and see who the undocumented people are. As an artist, I felt like I needed to make sure that that got documented”.
Personal vs. Group Identity
Since Julio’s identity as an undocumented and queer person is a focal point in his art, we asked about how he navigates personal and group identities in his art, and particularly when telling the stories of the overlapping immigrant, undocumented, and queer communities.
Julio sees personal identity as a starting point, and articulated that art continues to be a way for him to deal with the many things he cannot control. He also pointed out that therapy is often inaccessible to the undocumented and immigrant communities. Julio himself only recently gained this access, at the age of thirty-seven, through his organization’s insurance, and sees himself an exception to the rule in this regard.
“First I have to think about how I’m feeling, how I’m doing. How are we thinking about ourselves? And I am totally saying something opposite to what I just said, about community. But that also means that we have to take care of ourselves. Organizer burnout is real: we want to help everybody, but the reality is that these systems were not made for us, they’re made for us to break. How we are helping ourselves is really going to show in how we help other people and how we communicate with other people. It starts with us taking care of ourselves and then, coming to our community and asking, how can I help?
Julio also emphasizes the importance of acknowledging boundaries and differences between personal and group identities, and condemns speaking for other communities. He told us about a project, which was “a collaboration between me as a gay man, and the trans community”, inspired by many trans’ activists response to Caitlin Jenner’s Vanity Fair cover after coming out as trans.
Julio recalled: “A lot of trans activists said she doesn’t represent us, she’s a white woman. That at the end of the day, she’s part of the trans community, but her values do not represent the values of trans people of color.”
So Julio decided to collaborate with, and pay homage to, trans activists in a fake magazine cover project. The project, once shared on social media, gained some serious traction, as well as media attention. But Julio was frustrated by journalists’ responses.
“They were asking me questions about how I felt. And I said, I’m not trans, you need to talk to them. I literally put their names on it, I tagged them, because people need to know who they are. And they were reaching out to me. As artists of course, you want your work to get out there, but also you’re not the person to be talking about certain issues that don’t affect you. A lot of the time, artists, and the same could be said for activists, want to speak on behalf of others, or they think they know best. I can only tell you about my story and my experience. You can do whatever you want with my samples but I don’t intend to speak on others. But I also understand that the images are captivating and they want to talk to the person who created it. But I think it’s important. You can say no to things.”
The Power of Television
Julio discussed his thoughts on the power of television, and shared that US shows aimed for teenagers taught him English, as well as about American culture, and adolescence, and influenced the style and color of his art. He expressed that while television was a big tool for him, he rarely ever saw his own experiences.
He credits two shows, Will & Grace and My So-Called Life, with making him feel seen as a teenager in high school. Specifically, he saw himself reflected in the character of Rickie Vasquez in My So-Called Life, and in the balance between the characters of Will and Jack in Will & Grace.
“[Rickie] was a gay Latino in the 90s. And I was like, oh my God, if it’s on TV then it must mean that it’s okay to be gay. It was a huge moment for the younger me. If you look at Will and Grace from a 2021 angle, you can call it problematic. But, the main characters were gay; and you had a balance between Jack who was the flamboyant, IDGAF, I’m gay and in your face, and then Will, the proper, gay-men-are-not-just-a-joke, we’re-also-professionals. I loved seeing that balance and it gave me hope. There was Rosario, too, who at times was the butt of the jokes, but she would fight back. And my mom was a house cleaner, so I grew up going with her to clean houses. And I was like, you never talk to your bosses like that. But it was empowering to hear her talk.”
Although these shows made Julio feel seen in some ways, there were limits to the range of their representation, a gap which inspired Julio to tell the stories missing from television.
“But even then, the other gay Latino men that would be talked about, they were sexualized or it wasn’t a full picture. So what I got from that is like one show is not going to tell every single story. And that’s okay. I think it’s okay that Will and Grace was what it was for its time. There was no need to to bring it back again when there were so many other shows that could’ve gotten greenlit. But, for its time, Will and Grace was powerful, and it influenced me. I would always be drawing little comics. I had a comic strip when I was part of the school newspaper, and I was always writing and telling the stories of queer brown kids and keeping them to myself. I was always like where are out stories? Well if they’re not there, I’m going to write my own stories.”
Julio’s desire to create the representation missing in television led him to the creation of Dreamers Adrift in 2010. “It was four friends who had all just graduated from college. We were kind of tired of the sad narrative of the immigrant. So we started making funny videos, like Undocumented and Awkward. None of us were professional actors, but we wanted to tell our story in different ways. We had a lot of a lot of our friends who are undocumented, and other organizers be a part of the creation or actually be in front of the camera. And people would tell us it looked so real, and that’s because it came from our real experiences.”
This in turn, inspired Julio and his best friend, Jesús Iñiguez, to write called Osito, after moving to the Bay Area together in 2012. “Osito means little little bear. And it’s about a gay man (you know, me) who’s undocumented, and part of the bear community, who lives with his best friend, a straight guy. I never see that story. There’s always, especially amongst brown men, there’s sort of that homophobia. But I really wanted to write a show that paid homage to male friendships from the perspectives of a gay undocumented man and a straight undocumented man.”
Aurora Guerrero, director of Mosquita y Mari, and one the filmmakers that was taken under Ava DuVernay’s wing, became their mentor for this process. And as Julio found himself wishing for a program for serious aspiring TV writers, the seeds of The Disruptors Fellowship were planted.
The Disruptors Fellowship
At the time, Julio already worked for The Center for Cultural Power, founded by Favianna Rodriguez, an artist based in Oakland, and shared his idea of creating a program to put people in the industry with BIPOC emerging TV writers with her. They partnered up with 5050 by 2020, which was started by Joey Soloway, director of Transparent and an outspoken voice for the #MeToo movement, and queer and trans representation in Hollywood. Together, they created a fellowship specifically for BIPOC identified folks who are either undocumented or formerly undocumented, who identify as trans, non binary, or who are disabled.
“I think it’s really important that we focus on those communities because a lot of these communities get written about by people who are not part of them. I’ve sat in writers rooms where I come in, and it’s like share your immigrant experience with us, and then somebody else gets to write it, and do the fun part, which is getting creative. We shouldn’t be seen as subjects, but rather collaborators, and actual people who write and create those stories.”
Back in 2018, Julio shared infiltrating Hollywood as a future goal, and Disruptors is undoubtedly his step in this direction. But Julio also believes that opening up is Hollywood’s responsibility, and is critical of their shallow approach to diversity.
“Disruptors is only a fellowship for ten people. I wish we could have capacity for more, but the reality is that I’m the one managing, and I’m one person. But it shouldn’t just be one organization. It should be Hollywood itself. Hollywood is going through this “we want diversity, we want to do this” moment. But really, how are they investing in writers of color? It’s not until they’re at an Issa Rae level, when they’re like look, let’s applaud it! But a lot of people trusted Issa Rae’s vision, people invested in her time. There were people that came before her. Hollywood has diversity fellowships, but I’ve looked at the applications. Some of them require you to be a citizen or they don’t pay you. So yeah you get to sit with these people, but the bills still have to get paid. It’s still very much a boys club, that’s how they made it – from the lighting to the directing to the person holding the camera.”
Julio sees Disruptors as a place for aspiring TV writers to be invested in, and this vision is reflected in the very intentional design of the program, from the application to the stipend.
“We started designing the program in 2019. It was myself, and my colleague, Kat Evasco. And we were figuring out, how do we want the application to be? What are we going to ask? What are the things that are limiting resources? What scares people from applying for this type of fellowships? And so we don’t ask for your social, we don’t ask that you be a citizen. We just ask you to show us what you’ve done. And I wanted to make sure that we paid people on this fellowship because there’s a lot of fellowships or internships that you don’t get paid for. And unfortunately, a lot of the time, the people who take advantage of these fellowships are the few who have resources.”
Julio shared that the unexpected transition to a virtual fellowship in adaptation to the pandemic was a challenge. But the fellowship’s first year was a resounding success, receiving 116 applications, and boasting master classes and mentorship from leaders in the industry. The first year fellows counted Josh Siegal, an Emmy award-winning producer and screenwriter known for The Good Place, 30 Rock, and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, and the creators of Genteified, Linda Yvette Chávez and Marvin Lemus, amongst their mentors. Julio emphasized that the creators of Genteified themselves were doing these types of fellowships not long ago, before pitching their show to, and getting greenlit by, Netflix. This year, the fellowship will have a mix of returning mentors, such as Joey Solloway, and new ones, like Nancy Mejia , writer for The L Word: Generation Q. Julio highlighted Nancy Meija’s story, and their shared experiences as children of domestic workers.
But Julio emphasized that Disruptors does not impose the expectation of taking off in the industry on its fellows. “One person got picked up by an agency, CAA, one of the biggest agencies in the industry. But there’s no expectation, not that we shouldn’t have expectations of ourselves. We just want to provide a space for you to work on that project that you’ve been trying to work for for a long time. And we might not see them have a show or be part of a writers room next year, or in two years. It’s a long process.”
Julio also reminded us that he is treading unfamiliar ground with Disruptors, and expressed gratitude for those in the industry who not only answer his questions, but also go out of their way to help. He shared that many of the folks in Hollywood who have heard about the Disruptors and offered their assistance are women of color, and that he sees black women as the leaders in opening up Hollywood today.
Advice for BIPOC and Queer Artists
We asked Julio about his advice for BIPOC and queer artist who feel that there isn’t a place for them in the industry or in society. Before sharing his advice, Julio emphasized that the mere act of creating art under a system designed against you, is a powerful way of creating a space for yourself in the face of systemic oppression.
His advice starts with art: “work on your gift, whatever that is, whether it’s writing, drawing, acting… From being an undocumented students working at a swap meet because I couldn’t get a regular job, to recently being part of an exhibit at the Smithsonisan, throughout all those steps, I’ve always carried a sketchbook. Just don’t stop creating.”
But Julio also believes it is necessary to put yourself out there, and encourages being unashamed: “Art matters, it matters that you can draw a piece, that you can write a story, but you have to show it. I used to not want to talk about myself or my art. I’d think, I’m not a professor, how do I talk about myself? But I have to do it because a lot of times it’s not until we’re dead that people recognize our work. Let’s not wait until we’re dead A lot of the time, because we don’t have the time or don’t have the resources didn’t go to art school, we’re afraid that nobody’s going to take us seriously. I’ve been in that place. I didn’t study art.. There’s a lot of things I don’t understand, but growing up undocumented with little resources, shame goes out the window. So I think where we’re at a point, where if you have a question, you have to ask. Why give a f***?”
Last, but not least, Julio advises artists to create, and lean on, community.
“You’ll be surprised how many people will reply to your emails or a message. I’m not saying go and stalk people, but don’t be afraid to ask. And if your email or your message doesn’t get answered, there’s somebody else. I think there’s a beauty about creating community. There’s a lot of people who want to help. There’s a lot of people who don’t. But there’s a lot of people who do want to help, and I lean on those folks. And those people will connect you to other people that want to help.“
To those – like you now – familiar with Julio’s story, his advice rings true. The one constant in his eventful journey is that he never stopped creating. And reaching out to fellow creatives has created community and opened doors for him, doors which he now hopes to open for others.
If you would like to learn more about Julio and his work, you can check out his and more at www.juliosalgadoart.com.
He is also active on social media, where you can follow him on Instagram @juliosalgado83 , and on Twitter @julio1983.
For further information about the Disruptors Fellowship, head to https://www.artistdisruptors.org. The 2021 Application is live and open through March 19th.
Laura is a senior at the University of California, Los Angeles, pursuing a major in Spanish and Portuguese. Her passion for Latina America first stemmed from her personal connection to Brazil. Although she was born and raised in Europe, her mother is Brazilian, and she is a native Portuguese speaker who grew up frequently visiting Brazil, and considering it home. As a high schooler, Laura developed a keen interest in social problems, and specifically the role of NGOs in working towards their solution. She had the opportunity to volunteer at an educational NGO in Paraísopolis, a favela in São Paulo, over two summers, an experience which highlighted the discrepancy between the reality of favelas and their sensationalized depictions in the media, as well as the underreported work of individuals within the community to create educational opportunities despite their socio-political marginalization. Laura’s study of Spanish throughout middle and high school piqued her curiosity about Latin America beyond Brazil, and once in college, she embraced the opportunity to further connect with her Brazilian heritage, while diving into the greater region academically, studying its history, cultures, literature, art, and social problems. As a Latin American Correspondent, Laura hopes to bring stories about the intersection of art, resistance, and social change to the forefront, as well as to highlight non-profit organizations, entrepreneurs and community leaders working to solve social problems in the region.