New York photographer Juan Veloz reflects on his heritage in a new series, taking powerful portraits of the tensions between Haitians and Dominicans.

New York photographer Juan Veloz reflects on his heritage in a new series, taking powerful portraits of the tensions between Haitians and Dominicans.

We always think of the Dominican Republic as a place of paradise and fun. We have to start stripping down the beauty and see the truth that is already in front of us. There is nothing worse than experiencing racism in a place you always thought was pure and peaceful.

Growing up in Brooklyn, New York, I experienced a lot of racism, and many heads turned when I spoke Spanish. People were confused because people of colour don’t tend to be associated with Latinx culture. The saddest part was, much of these feelings were coming from my own people. Being Afro-Latino was mind-boggling to them, and they couldn’t understand the fact that I was a Black man that spoke Spanish.

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This photo project was born when I was watching the Dominican news one night with my family. The country’s government passed a law which would see the Haitian residents get deported back to Haiti. This news fueled something in me – I needed to go there, and do something to start a conversation.

While shooting this project, I captured my family members who I hadn’t seen in years, as well as the beautiful landscapes. But I also had to show the truth about my country. I saw a lot of racism and colourism first hand during the trip, and was able to capture the separation of Dominicans and Haitians within the country. (On one occasion, for example, I was photographing a beautiful pregnant Haitian women, and three Dominican men began calling her ‘ugly’ and yelled for me to stop).

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On a positive note, I was able to see and spend time with my family, reconnect with my Afro-Latino roots, and capture those beautiful moments. I took a lot of things for granted before coming on this trip. The key to life is happiness and making memories, so I thank my family for letting me capture everyone in their natural space with love and acceptance.

My main point with this project was to show that we’re all one. Ignorance and injustice is real – even in Paradise. Let’s keep this conversation alive.

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See more of Juan Veloz’s work on his official website or follow him on Instagram.

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