I was born in Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico, the middle child in a family of three daughters. My parents are from Argentina. My earliest recollections of painting — I must have been five then — go back to my grandmother's house. My grandma, Elena, was from Uruguay. She baby-sat my older sister and me in the second floor apartment of an old pink house while my parents taught at the University of Puerto Rico. She would give me white sheets of paper to draw on as I lay on the floor of her bedroom. I don't remember her ever throwing away one of my pictures. She kept them all neatly piled in a corner of her closet.
I had my first formal art training when I was ten, in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where we lived for a year while my father was on sabbatical. There, one of my mother's closest friends, who was a fine artist and who gave lessons to adults, encouraged me to join her class. She was the first of several instructors who taught me to draw from real life and with whom I discovered the immense joy of being able to create.
Becoming an Illustrator
By the time I entered the Department of Fine Arts at the University of Puerto Rico, I knew I wanted a career in art. Later I was accepted at L'Ecole Superieure d'Arts Graphiques in Paris, France. It was there that I realized I wanted to become an illustrator of children's books. I dreamed of creating books inspired by the folklore I grew up with, books that celebrated the songs and dances of my people, the colorful traditions that were a part of my life on the island, and the tales and legends that were told to me and that I later retold to my own children.
I create my bilingual books out of love and the conviction that they are sorely needed, and I've seen them succeed. I've measured their success in the proud smiles of many Latino children as they join hands with their schoolmates and myself in the game song of Arroz con Leche. When these Latino children feel their classmates' enjoyment of their language and heritage, they feel acceptance. They may even glimpse the value of retaining their parents' traditions and tongue as they embrace new ones.
Combining Words and Images
Being an author-illustrator is the most challenging and rewarding work I've ever done. Striving to achieve a high standard in both text and art and being responsible for the whole project can be draining. So with each new book, I eagerly await the point where I can finally witness the accomplishment of my goal: seeing the many parts come together as a cohesive whole.
If painting the people and places of Latin America true to their own beauty fosters respect, or if sharing some of the golden tales builds bridges among children, I want to keep on doing it. Because for me, that is the true measure of success. ¡Viva nuestra herencia!