Interviews of the 2023 Participants

For the first time since Hispanic Heritage Month of 2012, the Voces y Caras Annual Exhibition has relocated from the Thomas G. Carpenter Library to the UNF Gallery of Art. With this move, the website for the 2023 interviews has a new look to match the new direction of the project. 


Adolfo García Portrait

Adolfo García   |   Interviewed by Gabriela Dayhoff   |   Listen


I had the pleasure of interviewing Mr. Adolfo García, a jovial Cuban-American who works for a local private Catholic school. I have worked with Mr. García for about three years and this interview gave me the chance to hear even more details about his remarkable life. Before migrating to the United States, Mr. García was a professional scuba diver, and he even shared the story of when he and his co-worker were deserted in the middle of the ocean, left to fend for themselves for over five hours. Although his previous work came with many risks, so did living in Cuba. Mr. García explains the terrible restrictions on all Cuban citizens stemming from its oppressive government. This deterioration of Cuba could be blamed as the reason for leaving, despite the emotional and physical attachments he has toward his home country. One important part of this interview is when he mentions that being an immigrant, in general, is a dismal state. This feeling of not wanting to stay, but also not wanting to go, is shared by most immigrants. He now could not be more grateful for the liberties and opportunities he has received in the U.S. In general, he is extremely proud to be a Cuban-American and was appreciative of the opportunity to share his life experiences.


Alain Torres Fajardo PortraitAlain Torres Fajardo   |   Interviewed by Natalie Pedrianes-Echevarría   |   Listen


I decided to interview my cousin who arrived in the United States with his sister in December 2022 through the southern border of the United States. This immigration route is relatively new for Cubans and his experience was a big part of my decision to interview him. My cousin helps put a face on those 300,000 Cubans who have fled oppression in the last two years. Even more impressive is that despite his difficulties, he never complained about his trip because he accomplished his goal of reaching the United States. He was a medical student in Cuba and we talked about his vocation to be a doctor, Despite knowing what doctors go through in Cuba, he still chose that career. He mentioned that his unfulfilled dream of being a doctor will always be a point of frustration, but for now, he is focusing on starting his new life here. He has faced a new culture, an unfamiliar immigration system, and having to work as hard as he can in a restaurant with the only hope of a safer future and seeing his parents here in the United States one day.


Alberto Aponte Portrait

Alberto Aponte   |   Interviewed by Nomaris Oquendo Aponte   |   Listen


I chose to interview my uncle, Alberto Aponte, one of the most interesting people I know, and I wanted his story to be heard. He moved here to Jacksonville from Puerto Rico about four years ago. I knew that he was the person that I had to interview because not only was he a police officer in the domestic violence division, but he was also living in Puerto Rico while Hurricane Maria occurred. He had a lot to say about his life in Puerto Rico and briefly spoke about the things he misses the most about the island. It was sad to hear that my uncle moved over here because the violence and insecurity on the island made his job high-risk. No Latino truly wants to leave their country yet does so to pursue a better life elsewhere. He doesn’t regret his sacrifice of leaving his house and life behind to establish himself here, where he was received by loving family members who had previously done the same.  I am very thankful for this opportunity in which I had the chance to get to know my uncle profoundly and on a more serious note. I’m glad that he also opened up about his life because the stories from the Latino community as a whole deserve to be heard as they preserve our experiences and the beautiful memories from our home countries.


Andrea Gaytan Cuesta Portrait

Andrea Gaytán Cuesta   |   Interviewed by Valentina Cordovez   |   Listen


Dr. Andrea Gaytán Cuesta is an assistant professor at the University of North Florida. She specializes in contemporary Latin American literature and cinema. In this interview, she shares her experiences studying in different places such as México, where she is originally from, Italy, and New Jersey. She studied international relations and graduated with a master’s degree from the University of Bologna, Italy. She graduated with a Ph.D. in Spanish from Rutgers University. She is an expert in Latin American cultural production, focusing, specifically on apocalyptic imaginaries, disaster studies, and Mexican cinema. Dr. Gaytán Cuesta prioritizes education because her experiences while in school changed her life. Studying abroad was also transcendental because it expanded her worldview. She reflected on her experiences and concluded that she would have never learned as much if she had stayed in Mexico. Although moving to the United States and getting used to the culture was not easy, Dr. Gaytán Cuesta would not go back to Mexico to live in the near future. She has become a very successful academic in the United States, she particularly loves living in Florida and working at UNF. She is a role model for other Latinx women who want to succeed in their careers.


Anonimo I Portrait

Anónimo I   |   Interviewed by Jimena Peralta Romero   |   Listen


Anónimo is an undocumented Mexican immigrant who has lived in the United States for about 20 years but has spent 15 years in Jacksonville, Florida. The interviewee could be described as a selfless man always ready to help due to his faith in God, as described in the interview. He also talked about his childhood, his dreams as a young boy, and his immigration journey, as well as how it has affected him, and how it has helped him be grateful for what he has. His main reason for immigrating to the U.S. was to offer his family a future without the struggles he experienced growing up. Yet, life in the United States has not always been perfect, as he has suffered discrimination. Nevertheless, he is grateful to the people who have helped him learn English and prosper in this new country. He has lived his happiest memories in the US, like the birth of his daughter, which completed his family. Though leaving his country is something he still thinks about, he expresses his desire to return to Mexico one day, hoping to not only hug his parents but complete the promises he made before leaving his home country. He misses his family, as well as his friends and “the youth” he left behind. He expresses his wishes of being able to return to Mexico to retire, grow old, and p pass away in his own homeland.


Anonimo II Portrait

Anónimo II   |   Interviewed by Paola Ramos Maysonet   |   Listen


Anónimo is an undocumented immigrant from Honduras in Central America who came to the United States after experiencing the traumatic murder of his mother one day after his birthday. Although he tried to get justice for his mother, the government did not take responsibility for her death and did nothing to resolve the case. After her death, and fearing for his safety, his dad brought him and his brother to the United States to live with him. Their journey from Honduras to the United States took about two and a half months. He went through a lot during this time, including being assaulted by a police officer and breaking his leg. Recovery from his leg injury and being able to walk took approximately six months. His stepmother took care of him during this time; she was the one who cleaned his wounds and took him to his doctor’s appointments. Although he felt welcomed at his father’s house, reconnecting with him was not easy since thirteen years had passed since he had seen him last. They both realized how much they had changed. Later, Anónimo fell in love with a young woman who helped him a lot in his recovery. He sends a message to young people: take care of your loved ones because you never know when you will see them for the last time.


Blanca Magana Portrait

Blanca Magaña   |   Interviewed by Eliseo Magaña   |   Listen


My mother, Blanca Magaña, was born in the Dominican Republic, where she spent her childhood and received higher education. She moved to the United States, where she would start her own family of six in central Maryland. She and her family would soon move to northeast Florida, where they have lived for almost 20 years. In this interview, she discusses what it means to be a Latina immigrant living in northeast Florida. She speaks of her childhood experiences with nature, education, and he decision to move to the United States. She recounts everything she left behind but never forgot: growing up in a rural environment where she would ride horses, grow produce, and raise cattle. She also discusses the difficulties of leaving the countryside to pursue higher education in the city and disregarding her Dominican law degree to pursue a future in the United States. She claims to have no regrets after all the events in her life because she was able to marry a man from El Salvador and create a beautiful family. Her story shares the themes of sacrifice, perseverance, and resilience commonly seen in those of Hispanic immigrants in the United States.


Ernesto Rodriguez Portrait

Ernesto Rodríguez   |   Interviewed by Edward Rodríguez   |   Listen


My father came to Jacksonville from Cuba in 2000. Most of the questions I asked him pertain to his motivations for coming to the United States, mainly because he is incredibly fond of his country and the family he left behind. The reasons he detailed came from a desire to create a better life for himself and his family. It is evident through this interview that my father did not come here for selfish reasons but rather to ensure that his family could have a prosperous life. For example, my father said that there was a time when he regretted his decision because he missed his family and those he had to leave behind. However, he later expresses that this was only a brief lapse of judgment, and the results of his decision have guaranteed that the people he loves will live with things that he could only have imagined. This brief example of my interview perfectly encapsulates the motivations of my father; it was to secure a comfortable future for his family and those he loves because staying in Cuba wouldn’t guarantee a good life. My father articulates that Cuba is deteriorating, along with the liberties of citizens, and that by coming, he was able to ensure that his family wouldn’t be affected by this deterioration. The desire to provide the prosperity of one’s family by abandoning their whole lives is part of a more global issue, and this interview helps add humanity to the rising immigration rates because each statistic is a person with a unique story, like my father.


Isabel Marcos Portrait

Isabel Marcos   |   Interviewed by Gabriela Dayhoff   |   Listen


Isabel Marcos is a kind-hearted Cuban-American who works with her husband at a private Catholic school in Jacksonville. Ms. Marcos describes her time in Cuba as memorable because she had many opportunities there, such as graduating with a degree in computing, working in her field, and starting a family together with her husband Adolfo García. Although the memories she shared were endearing, Ms. Marcos knew that better opportunities awaited her and her family beyond Cuba’s borders. She states that after her son and daughter graduated from high school, they began the immigration process. Ms. Marcos explains in detail their reasons for moving to Jacksonville and the struggles of being an immigrant. Moving away from everything she knew and loved was an endeavor. Their long journey took them from Cuba to Spain and from there to Miami. The life of an immigrant is challenging; one has to separate not only from one's family but also change one’s preferred professions and adapt to new cultures and territories without much support. Although she misses her life and having a job in her field, she knows that the United States has provided her with a sense of security she could have never imagined in Cuba. For her, being able to tell her story was an incredible opportunity, for which she is grateful.


Jessica Schaefer Portrait

Jessica Schaefer   |   Interviewed by Chris Schaefer   |   Listen

My mom, Jessica Schaefer, immigrated to the United States from Manta, Ecuador, after meeting my father. I focused on learning about experiences moving to a new country, marrying a Naval officer, and becoming part of a military family. My mother lived in Ecuador for most of her youth and never considered moving to the United States until she met my dad. By serendipity, his ship stopped in her city to refuel. He had some free time to go out and explore, and that’s when he met my mom at a local mall. In less than two days, they fell in love and kept in touch for over a year until my mom decided to move, for love, to the United States. She left her entire family and the only world she knew. Though she faced many struggles coming here and adjusting, military life helped her acclimate faster than most people might. In her interview, she describes her experience being in a Navy family and expresses gratitude for all the benefits she has received, some of which she most likely wouldn’t have received in Ecuador. Though she faced many struggles coming here and adjusting, it is easy to tell that she wouldn’t have had it any other way and that she feels she made the right choice moving to the United States.


Julio Solares Portrait

Julio Solares   |   Interviewed by Alondra Solares   |   Listen


My father, Julio Solares, was born in Mayagüez, Puerto Rico, but lived most of his life in Añasco, in a neighborhood called Tres Hermanos. Since childhood, he loved math and baseball above all things. He moved to the United States on August 8, 2016, to work on the Main Street bridge, where he worked for about two years as an electrician. Of all his stories, one has always made me curious: when he got lost at sea because his boat ran out of gas. We spoke at length about this episode that happened seventeen years ago. My dad and four other passengers went to an island called Desecheo. On their way back, the driver went in the wrong direction, and by the time they realized it, they did not have enough gas to return. They turned off the motor to save energy. They hoped that someone would rescue them soon, but it did not happen that way. My dad was at sea for many hours until he saw a helicopter and asked for help. A couple of hours later, the Coast Guard came to rescue them. What they least imagined, however, was that when they arrived in Añasco, many people from the town and even the press were waiting for them. After many hours, my dad returned home safe and sound.


Maria Detman Portrait

María Detman   |   Interviewed by Andre Detman   |   Listen


My mother, María Alejandra Detman, was born in México City where she grew up with her parents and four siblings. She obtained her degree in Elementary Education and migrated to the United States to marry my father. They met in Mexico City, at the wedding of his best friend with her best friend. She was previously engaged to someone else. He was studying for his doctorate in Spain and she was going to marry him and go live in Spain, but her destiny changed and, after a year of a long-distance relationship with my dad, she came to visit him and his family in Texas. He proposed and she moved to the U.S. Although she misses her extended family, she has met friends here in the U.S. that she considers family. They share many special moments and all their children have grown together making that chosen family strong. She visits Mexico in the summer and on Christmas. For her, it is important that I learn about Mexican culture, and experience the family ties and the love for grandparents that is common in Latin American culture, and the Spanish language, of course.


Marizol Jaquez Portrait

Marizol Jáquez   |   Interviewed by Sheyla Mallolina   |   Listen


I interviewed Marizol Jáquez, an immigrant from the Dominican Republic. Marizol immigrated to the United States to fulfill not only her American dream but also to secure her children’s future. Although she migrated to the United States legally, she had to separate from her two daughters who remained in the Dominican Republic. It took Marizol ten years to bring her two daughters to the U.S. where they finally reunited with their youngest siblings. One of the hardest moments she had to face was her husband’s deportation back to the Dominican Republic because she was left alone to take care of her children. As a single mother, she worked and provided everything for her children. Marizol recounts that when she first moved to the U.S. she faced a lot of discrimination at her job. Since she was new, she was not capable of performing her duties as fast as others who had worked there longer, and her coworkers would call her lazy. But she kept working hard, and after a decade since migrating to this country, she felt she had accomplished many of her dreams: becoming an American citizen, owning a store and a Mexican restaurant, buying a house, and many other things immigrants dreamed of. Her greatest desire is that her kids fulfill all their dreams by working hard just like she has.


Nilsa Bonilla Portrait

Nilsa Bonilla   |   Interviewed by Karina Ocasio Irizarry   |   Listen


In the aftermath of Hurricane María, thousands of Puerto Ricans fled from the island due to the decaying infrastructure, education, and health. My grandmother, Nilsa Bonilla, was one of these people. In this interview with my grandma, we talked about her life on the island after this hurricane and how leaving for the United States has affected her forever. My grandmother spent her early years in the countryside of Puerto Rico on her family’s land. Now, she looks back fondly at these moments with her grandparents and mother. She returned to her quiet and scenic town when her children had moved out. She faced many struggles and paid for her dream house in the town she grew up in, with years of working long and arduous hours in factories. The main reason for her move was that she was told that she had months to live and meanwhile, PR had no electricity or water. Luckily, with extensive health care and the care of her family, she is still here today. Now, she shares her stories with her grandchildren and hopes they can learn from her life. She shares that she draws her strength from her love for her family. Nilsa’s interview displays a unique perspective on immigration since she had to learn a new culture during her later years. When asked what she wants to remember the most from home, she said, “The sunrise in Puerto Rico because no other compares with its beauty.” My grandmother’s biggest wish with this interview is that we understand the profound sacrifices people make for a better life.


Ramon Martinez Portrait

Ramón Martínez   |   Interviewed by Ryan Martínez   |   Listen


I interviewed my father, Ramón, a husband and father of three. In 2006, he moved to Jacksonville from the Dominican Republic with his three kids, leaving his wife back home. He worked many jobs to make sure that he made enough money to provide for us while also caring for our physical and emotional well-being. He obtained his citizenship in 2011 and utilized his new legal status to create a pathway for my mother to obtain a visa, and ultimately reunite the family. My dad would eventually become an electrician, starting his own company and securing a stable future for his family. I chose to interview my dad because I wanted to know more about his life as an immigrant in Jacksonville, and the hardships he faced while living here. His story of second chances is a story that should be recognized in the community. This experience has given me a new appreciation for immigrants since there is always a story to how they got there. I learned that you must take advantage of opportunities since the story of my father and my family would have been profoundly different if it were not for the opportunity he took to move to the U.S.


Raquel Morcillo-Gallego Portrait

Raquel Morcillo-Gallego   |   Interviewed by Johanna Asencio-Morcillo   |   Listen


For the project Voces y Caras, I interviewed my mother, Raquel Morcillo-Gallego. She is from San Juan de Aznalfarache, Seville, Spain, and immigrated to the United States 24 years ago for love. My mother fell in love with my father, Irving Asencio, who is of Puerto Rican descent and was in the military at the time. They met in a club in Rota, Spain. Since he spoke Spanish, he was translating for a friend who wanted to dance with my mother, but she wanted to be with my father instead. After two years of dating, my father proposed and she agreed to marry him and come to live in the United States. This interview discusses her love story and the challenges she had to overcome while in the United States. She talks about the culture shock of coming to this country and the struggle of not knowing the language and not having family nearby. Furthermore, she experienced loneliness while my father was on deployment and other military duties, which made things harder for her to get accustomed to the military lifestyle. She persevered through those struggles, however, and is grateful that she had the opportunity to come to the United States.


Rene Francisco Pontevin Portrait

René Francisco Potevín   |   Interviewed by Gloribelle M. Díaz Cruz   |   Listen


Dr. René Francisco Poitevin is the director of the Intercultural Center at UNF. He has a Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of California and is a researcher and community leader. Like many Puerto Ricans, he moved to the United States at a young age searching for a better life. Before moving to Jacksonville, he lived in California, New York, and Miami. During his time in New York City, he worked as a professor of Latin American Studies at NYU, where he helped create a new department of Latino Studies. In this interview, he expresses pride in working at the intersection of academic work and community-based organizations, including human rights organizations and NGOs. Dr. Poitevin moved to Jacksonville in 2022 and loves his job at UNF because he gets to work with students, not as a professor, but as a guide to encourage them. In his interview, he laments that Hispanics, as a collective, are going through a difficult time due to the horror of the politics of immigration. He dreams of the day racism no longer exists. He believes that even if we feel discriminated against, we should be proud of our roots and be aware that we are not alone.


Soraya Sánchez   |   Interviewed by Natalia Sánchez   |   Listen


For the project Voces y Caras, I interviewed my mother, Soraya Sánchez. She is the daughter of a Cuban father and a Spaniard mom but was raised in Puerto Rico. She is a highly motivated person with high standards for herself. She was the first to graduate from college in her family. She has been an American citizen for over 20 years and her children have grown up in this country, yet she felt lonely raising her little family away from her extended family. Nevertheless, she pushed her family to succeed in a new country with only her husband as her support which taught her self-dependence and perseverance. Sánchez outlined the importance of being a mother and how motherhood has shaped her to be the way she is today. Although she considers motherhood a lifelong commitment, now that her daughters have grown up, she has begun to shift her energy towards the community. She hopes to mentor students with special needs in making their academic decisions. My mother wants to be known in this world as an educated woman who helped others as much as possible in her professional and personal life but at the same time valued quality time with the people she cared most about.


Zully Delbrey   |   Interviewed by Gigi Novaton   |   Listen


I interviewed my best friend, Zully Delbrey, a twenty-year-old woman who lives in Jacksonville, Florida. Before living in Jacksonville, she was born and raised in Puerto Rico. Throughout her life, she has moved back and forth between Puerto Rico and the United States, creating a shift in perspectives and experiences, and learning to become accustomed to both cultures while finding balance within her bicultural identity. Throughout the interview, Zully expresses how, despite finding a balance between the two cultures, one will always be connected to one’s heritage, culture, historical roots, and traditions, since it gets passed through generations upon generations. Aside from cultural identity, Zully has been through many events in her life that have changed her perspective on the world. One of the biggest events in her life was when she became a mother at a young age. For Zully, preserving her Puerto Rican culture to pass down to her child is both challenging and inspiring, as she has had to raise her as a single parent due to a tragic event. Throughout the interview, she offers advice to single young mothers like herself.