Puerto Rico Me Encanta is narrated by the New York City‘s own Mellany Sanchez. It’s a story bound by the Latina women who raised her – namely her mother and grandmother – and in turn, both a retrospective and love song to her identity.
To provide perspective on her experience growing up, the zine contains materials – photos, personal cards, identity cards and more – collected by Sanchez donated by her mother and close kin. Pieced together they do their part in sharing a quiet yet reverent look at Latina women in New York.
In her own words:
“I love that I have had the opportunity to not be distracted with a certain immediate struggle from immigration to allow the generous journey to discover my own place with my roots.”
More than anything, what was the zine meant to inspire in its narrative?
The zine was the response to an ask to create something personal about New York. As I started collecting the materials to work with, this strong narrative about my mother and her journey in New York took the lead. Then I started to connect a lot of dots between that journey, my own and young women around me who also grew up Latina in New York.
What shared experiences unite you and others who were raised by Latina women in New York?
The indispensable place of aunts and grandmothers, the shared experience of being raised by and raising our siblings, the nuances of the family gatherings, the aesthetics of the hair, the jewelry and the nails.
Was your identity a learned one or something you long appreciated? What have you learned about your identity through the zine?
I think pride and identity are so complicated, and it’s been both a learned thing as well as one that was taught to me.
Through the zine I’ve been able to create a resource or a reference for a certain experience that turns out to be quite universal, and that gives me pride.
When you look back at the photos shared by your mother and others, what emotions do you experience?
Comfort and pride, a sense of belonging.
What do you love most about your Puerto Rican heritage?
I’ve been fortunate to grow up as a Puerto Rican in New York in the era that I did. Things were different for my parents, their parents, and will be different for the generation under me. I love that I have had the opportunity to not be distracted with a certain immediate-struggle from immigration to allow the generous journey to discover my own place with my roots.
Are there any characteristics that stand out to you between Latina women in New York versus other cities in the United States?
That is something I love to discover, and I’m learning more about every time that I travel.
Do you and your mother share a special memory about the zine’s making?
It was a pleasure to see my mother, see her photos re-contextualized in a way that is purposeful for others! She was always an open book as a parent and it’s nice to continue that lead in a new way.