Los Banilejos. November 2015. The relationship between my Colombian mother and Dominican stepfather fostered a cultural dynamic that’s had a profound influence on my work. Over several years I've traveled to Bani, Matanza, located in the Dominican Republic, the city where my stepfather is from. I still vividly remember my first time traveling to the Dominican Republic: the hot, glaring sun touching my skin, the warm breeze in the air, and the anxiety of being somewhere unfamiliar to me. Throughout my travels to Bani, my initial anxiety dissipated as I was embraced not only by my step-father’s family but by the community in Bani as well. It was by my third visit that I began to travel with my camera. I became infatuated with the culture, the colors, the landscapes, the tastes, and most importantly the people of Bani. However, I was frustrated with the lack of representation of this culture back home in the United States, and so, through my portraits, I set out to explore and share the narratives of identity, community, and memory within the context of Dominican culture. The individuals featured in my portrait series, Los Banilejos, are family members, friends, and personalities I met throughout my time in Bani. I wanted these series of images and portraits to celebrate the cultural heritage of a people and their honest truths, to tell their unique stories, and to emphasize their dignity and strength.