From the moment my mother handed me some scrap paper, a pencil, and a few crayons, I decided that by making pictures and writing letters I could create my own world — like magic. In the small crowded apartment I shared with my large family, 'making magic' permitted me all the space and freedom my imagination could handle.
El cuento puertorriqueno, storytelling, has always been an intrinsic part of Puerto Rican culture. When our family faced difficulties, an adult would say, 'Don't lose hope, sit back and relax, and I'll tell you a story.' Our family would gather around the storyteller, fascinated by the ancient folk tale or modern adventure. Our problems and burdens began to seem lighter, and life appeared promising.
At the age of seven, I got a library card and discovered the wonderful world of books at the public library. I was an avid reader and enjoyed reading about the adventures of young people, but I never found a book that included Puerto Ricans or, for that matter, other Latinos. My family, my friends, and all of us in my community did not exist in North American literature.
I attended New York City public schools and later went on to study fine art at the Art Students League and Pratt Center for Printmaking in New York City. Years later, my profession as a visual artist took a different path. I had been incorporating words and phrases into my art work, and a publisher who purchased my work suggested to my agent that I write about my experiences growing up. Remembering that there were no books about Puerto Rican children or our culture, I decided to take the challenge.