Reflections on Indigeneity in the Bronx reflects on the experiences of those who practice Taíno traditions of the indigenous Caribbean inhabitants. The Bronx Women’s Photo Collective exposes this complicated past, manifested through three distinct photographic styles: fantastic realism, fine art, and documentary. Each style uncovers a story spanning conquest, colonialism, and current events.
Puerto Rican Taíno descendants migrated to the United States mainland after the passage of the Jones Act in 1917 that granted them citizenship. Approximately 5.8 million Puerto Ricans live in the U.S., nearly twice the number who live on the island. These transplants, including about 300,000 Bronx residents, maintain their ancestral Taíno roots through workshops and native gatherings. Our photographic exploration of these connections weaves together elements of an unseen past, brutal history, and modern-day struggle for identity and connection.
Our work is more relevant than ever. Hurricane Maria in 2017 and the earthquakes of 2020 hastened an exodus from the island. The rate of displacement is unprecedented, as is the threat of cultural heritage erasure. Recognizing and elevating the resilience of people seeking to preserve Taíno traditions is critical to strengthening our connections to our heritage and island.
Lizzy Alejandro is a Bronx-born second generation Puerto Rican American. Her work explores themes of identity, and challenges notions of the status quo.
Alejandro’s work has been exhibited at Fordham University, Taller Boricua Gallery, Lehman College Art Gallery, Bronx Art Space, Andrew Freedman Home, Lincoln Hospital, the Bronx Latin American Art Biennial, Empty Set Gallery, Longwood Art Gallery, El Barrio’s Artspace PS109 and Riverfront Art Gallery.
She has been included in publications such as MIA Magazine, The Bronx Artist Documentary Project and in the Nueva Luz Photographic Journal 2016, Volume 20, entitled Living Latina: The Bronx Women’s Photo Collective.
Alejandro received her MFA in Digital Media from Lehman College in 2019.
Sandra Ayala is a Puerto Rican photographer from the South Bronx. As a self-taught photographer, she uses her photography to tell complex stories that weave together fantasy and imagination.
Ayala has been exhibited in Living Latina, Femme Nation and the Latin American Art Triennial at Taller Boricua. Her solo shows include Beautiful Innocence at Gallery 505 and Story Time at the Edgar Allen Poe Visitor’s Center. In 2016, her images were featured as part of the Bronx Women’s Photo Collective group issue in En Foco’s Nueva Luz.
Ayala is a member of the Bronx Women’s Photo Collective. She attended Eugenio Maria De Hostos Community College and earned a degree in nursing in 2001.
Rhynna M. Santos
Rhynna M. Santos is a Puerto Rico-born documentary photographer and teaching artist living and working in the Bronx. Ms. Santos’ art captures the beautiful, painful, funny, and endlessly complex lives and perspectives of people of color in her community.
In 2022 Ms. Santos’ work, “Reflections on Indigeneity in the Bronx,” was featured in the Photoville photography festival. Her exhibition #papielmaestro, a documentary exploration of the life of her father, jazz great, Ray Santos, was profiled by the New York Times in 2018. Later that same year, Santos was chosen as an En Foco Fellow and her work exploring the lives of Latina Muslims was exhibited at Andrew Freedman Home and featured in Nueva Luz Photographic Journal. She has also been featured in the New York Times, Race Related Instagram feed, for her project on BIPOC Star Wars fans, “Fandom, Race and the Force.” Additionally in 2018, she was recognized as a Lit List finalist by the Authority Collective. Her work has been featured in Jerome Avenue Workers Project 2015, Living Latina 2016, Photoville 2018 and Bronx Now 2018.
Santos is the founder of the Bronx Women’s Photo Collective and curator for the Instagram feed Everyday Bronx.
The Bronx Women’s Photo Collective
The Bronx Women’s Photo Collective is an organization by and for Bronx photographers. It is dedicated to both activism and creativity. The activism centers on networking and mentoring among womxn of color whose voices are too often disregarded in artistic and political circles. The creative focus involves producing individual and collective works that document the lives, experiences, and perspectives of the people of the Bronx.
Founded in 2011 in Brooklyn, NY, Photoville was built on the principles of addressing cultural equity and inclusion, which we are always striving for, by ensuring that the artists we exhibit are diverse in gender, class, and race.
In pursuit of its mission, Photoville produces an annual, city-wide open air photography festival in New York City, a wide range of free educational community initiatives, and a nationwide program of public art exhibitions.
By activating public spaces, amplifying visual storytellers, and creating unique and highly innovative exhibition and programming environments, we join the cause of nurturing a new lens of representation.
Through creative partnerships with festivals, city agencies, and other nonprofit organizations, Photoville offers visual storytellers, educators, and students financial support, mentorship, and promotional & production resources, on a range of exhibition opportunities.
For more information about Photoville visit, www.photoville.com
NYC Parks is the steward of more than 30,000 acres of land — 14 percent of New York City — including more than 5,000 individual properties ranging from Coney Island Beach and Central Park to community gardens and Greenstreets. We operate more than 800 athletic fields and nearly 1,000 playgrounds, 1,800 basketball courts, 550 tennis courts, 65 public pools, 51 recreational facilities, 15 nature centers, 14 golf courses, and 14 miles of beaches. We care for 1,200 monuments and 23 historic house museums. We look after 600,000 street trees, and two million more in parks. We are New York City’s principal providers of recreational and athletic facilities and programs. We are home to free concerts, world-class sports events, and cultural festivals.
Reflections on Indigeneity in the Bronx
Featuring: Lizzy Alejandro Sandra Ayala Rhynna M. Santos
Curated by: Rhynna M. Santos
LocationsView Location Details Van Cortland Park
Bronx, NY 10471
- Monday 6:00 am - 10:00 pm
- Tuesday 6:00 am - 10:00 pm
- Wednesday 6:00 am - 10:00 pm
- Thursday 6:00 am - 10:00 pm
- Friday 6:00 am - 10:00 pm
- Saturday 6:00 am - 10:00 pm
- Sunday 6:00 am - 10:00 pm