Where it all began: A trip to Puerto Rico, and when dreams come true.

Earlier this year, I was invited to the 15th Annual Image and Sound Festival at the University of Puerto Rico at Humacao (UPRH).  This festival brings together artists who have been working in the Media Arts industry so they can share their knowledge and expertise with the students. As an Alumni of the University of Puerto Rico, I was extremely honored (and even got the chills) to received the invitation, and quickly accepted. Finally the day came and I went back home to my beautiful Puerto Rico. I was super excited as I had not been to PR in a little over a year. I've made my self a promise to at least go back to PR once a year after having moved to the United States almost 4 years ago this August. So far, so good, but it was time for me to return.

Even though my parents and my sister are all located in Texas, I still have close family and friends who live in the Island. On day one, my goal was simple, grab my bags, get my rental car then do a quick stop by the beach and another stop by my old street where I grew up in. To say the least, it was truly a trip down memory lane.

Afterwards, I went to my aunt's house where I was going to stay throughout the few days I was visiting. It was really nice to see her, her husband, and also to see some (because I have quite a few) of my cousins.

The night before my talk at the UPRH, I went to the mall to grab a few things I need for the next day, one of them being a flat iron, in the hopes of controlling my sometimes rather untamable curly hair. To my surprise, I bumped into a a very dear friend of mine who is a filmmaker and simply an amazing soul. I invited him to go with me to the talk and he accepted.

The very next day, I prepped everything, woke up at 4am, got ready (super ahead of time) and then went of to pick my friend up, then drive to Humacao for my presentation. The drive was nice and we ended up laughing our heads off at the end. So, to say the least, the morning was of to a great start!

We soon got to the TV Studio where the conference was being held and pretty much began to prep things. After surpassing some small technical difficulties, we kicked of the presentation. I will admit, I was a bit nervous. Although it was not the first time I was teaching to a group of about 30 or more people, this presentation was very special to me.

Portrait and Fashion Photography work by Yesenia Bocanegra

I started my presentation with an #animoto slideshow of some of my work. The 24 hrs prior to that moment, I'd say I had seen that video for about 1,000 times. 
However, it was right at that moment during the presentation, that I realized that that was my work. I am not the best photographer in the world, but as any other artist out there, we all evolve from one point in our live's to another. That moment made me think back to when I was part of that crowd, to when I was a student at the UPR with tons of hopes and dreams and just barely starting to learn about photography. The feeling was quite surreal.

TV Studio at University of Puerto Rico - Humacao.  Photo Credit: Elijah Alicea

Afterwards, the presentation ran quite smoothly, the students had some questions, and we finished with a short lighting and posing demo. Overall,  I am very happy with how the presentation went and extremely honored and grateful for the opportunity. 

Following the presentation, we grabbed lunch and then headed back to San Juan. I officially was on vacation as of that moment! 

When I came back to my Aunt's house, I had to go over some boxes I had packed but still remained in PR. I went over them to check what I would bring back and what not. Amongst the things I saw, there were some movies, some of my vintage cameras and my very first camera. It was a #Canon Rebel G 35mm camera. The moment I saw that, I remember the day I bought it. I was so excited just to hear the sound of the shutter and could not wait to start learning about this rather cool medium.

Other things I came across, was my student ID Card from the UPR, two of my diplomas and some old photos. It was quite funny and rather nice, to relive those memories. Some of them, which started 12 years ago when I first set foot inside that huge campus at the University of Puerto Rico. I remember that on my first day, my mom offered to drop me off on Campus so I wouldn't have to worry about finding parking. I declined the offer but since, they were headed to my dad's job, and the University was on the same route, they followed me and then honked the horn as good luck, right when I took the exit to go to campus. My days at the UPR were quite amazing, and some were the best days of my life.

Paseo del Morro, Old San Juan, Puerto Rico

The very next day, which was the day before I would leave to go back to North Carolina, my goal was quite simple, go run in the morning at El Paseo del Morro, which is where I would run on weekends before I moved to the US, and then head to the beach. Rain or shine, that was my goal. I will say that they day did start of with some rather heavy rain, but that did not stop this girl here! I went for my run, then headed to the beach, grabbed a quick lunch on the way, rented a beach chair and umbrella, sat down and just relaxed while looking at the beautiful Atlantic Ocean. As a side note, I used to live just 5 minutes away from the beach, where as now, I have a 2 hr drive... The rest of the day was simply perfect! I just laid there and relaxed.

Isla Verde Beach, Carolina, PR

During the evening, my cousin, her boyfriend and I, went to grab a few drinks in Old San Juan, and walked around the beautiful old city that I so much love. I saw El Morro, felt the breeze from the Ocean, and heard loud music at Calle San Sebastián.

The next day, I woke up to get ready and head back. I did not want to leave. I felt I needed just a few more days. None the less, I already had a return ticket that I could not change. On my way back to the airport I found myself crying because I did not want to leave, and because I missed the people that I saw and even the ones I didn't get the chance to see. This short but extremely emotional trip to Puerto Rico, made me realize that all the effort and the hard work I've put into what I do, have truly paid off. It made me realize how important it is to dream and dream big, because dreams can come true. 12 years ago, I said to my mom "How cool would it be if I'm established outside the Island and the UPR invites me to do a lecture on what I do?". That's to say, don't stop dreaming and dream REALLY BIG. Work hard and you'll see how great things will unfold in your life. 

I am so grateful for the opportunity I had to teach a younger generation about what the amazing medium of photography is. I also have to mention that if it weren't for my parents incredible and never ending support, none of this would be possible. They have been there, every-single-step of the way and for that I am incredibly fortunate, blessed and grateful. And although she is not longer with us in this world, I could not be more blessed for having had the most amazing grandmother in the world. She is the reason why I am a photographer.

Remember, don't give up on your dreams even if they seem either far or hard to reach. Believe in yourself and great things will happen.

With love,

Yesenia.