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Although many people see Puerto Rico as being too “americanized” because of its status of Commonwealth of the United States, the people in the island continue to emphasize loyalty to the culture and folklore that heavily exists in the island. There are hundreds of traditions that define the island of Puerto Rico and one of them is the great amount of festivals that we celebrate throughout the year.
One of the most famous festivals is called the San Sebastián Festival (Fiestas de la Calle San Sebastián). San Sebastián (Saint Sebastian) was a Christian who was martyred for his faith at around the year 288. There is a street on the north side of Old San Juan named in his honor and this is where this event takes place. Considered to be one of the biggest celebrations in San Juan, it is held the third week of January. It gets stuffed with crowds, food, alcohol, live music, and arts and crafts exhibited by our local artists. It has been an annual event since 1970, and what started as a community fund-raiser has become the festival to go to. This 4-day event is attended by both locals and tourists. You can compare it with Mardi Gras minus the beads and the breasts! Just imagine, crowds walking on the street dancing, singing, drinking and enjoying this event that is part of Puerto Rico’s cultural heritage.

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(SAN SEBASTIAN FESTIVAL-FIESTAS DE LA CALLE SAN SEBASTIAN)

One of the best gifts you could give to yourself when moving to a different country is to keep your traditions and culture alive, especially if you have children that are now being raised in a different place. You add some decorations from back home, hang the flag, paintings, souvenirs you brought back with you. You play the music, cook the traditional food, go online to keep up with the news from your country, etc. There are so many ways to maintain that connection with a country you hold so close to your heart, the one you first saw when welcomed into this world. As a way to remember your hometown, you also attend local events that represent that place, its traditions and customs. One example of a cultural representation away from home is the San Sebastian Festival IN MIAMI!
I heard about this last year while I was attending the festival in Old San Juan. At first I thought it was a joke. How can you possibly try to imitate such a big event in a little street in Miami? I found out a good friend of mine, actor Julian Gil, was organizing it and being that I was in Florida at the time, this year I decided to attend with my mother.

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(My Mom, Julian Gil and myself)

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(San Sebastian Festival in Miami)

I was very proud of this representation. They managed to close a busy street in the area of Brikell and turn it into a block party dedicated to one of our dearest traditions back home in Puerto Rico. I loved seeing people from different cultural backgrounds come to the event and learn a little bit more about this tradition. There were Rum and Coquito (our version of Eggnog) tastings, Puerto Rican fritters which represent our diet and even a pig roasting.

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When talking to Julian Gil he mentioned how the plan is to add more streets to this block party in Brikell in honor of the original San Sebastian Festival in Puerto Rico. It promises to be a new cultural event in South Florida.

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(This banner placed at the event in Miami simulates what the San Sebastian Street in Old San Juan, PR, looks like during the festival.)

In Miami you get more of the Latin flavor being that it has become the new home for people coming from Venezuela, Colombia, Brazil, Cuba, Puerto Rico, etc. Many of us have left our countries for different reasons. The important thing is to be able to keep your values, your history, your roots alive. It is part of who we were, who we are and who we will be. It is what we pass to our children in the future, what we teach others who come along the way. I encourage to be open minded and learn more about other cultures. In times where there is still so much ignorance and racism, these type of events are important. You learn about others and at the end you realize there is always something you can relate to. After all… who doesn’t enjoy some good music, food and dancing!

Darlene

 

 

 

 

My Story: The Actor Behind MI PRINCESA

When people think of actors they probably think of these:  Hollywood, Glamour and Luxury.  Few are aware of the struggles most of the actors go through in order to be seen, get booked and be paid to do a job.  On the one hand, some make it all the way to the three I just mentioned.  On the other hand, some are happy just by getting paid doing something that they love.  The second is my case.  I started acting when I was in my early teens, doing local commercials and T.V. shows in Puerto Rico.  Although I wanted to work behind the scenes, life led me to the world in front of the camera and as time went by, I started considering acting as a career goal.  Little did I know that it was a decision that would involve more sacrifices than I could have ever imagined.

I moved to Los Angeles to pursue acting at a time when Latinas were still not accepted in the industry unless you were going for the maid, nanny or prostitute role.  Although some of these have not changed, Sofia Vergara has recently opened more doors for us.  When I first moved out there in 2002 I was constantly told that I had to take accent reduction classes.  Stubborn me, I refused.  Fast forward to the present and casting directors LOVE my accent as I sound like the girl from that show: Modern Family.

I never lost myself in the Hollywood field of dreams. I would be asked out by producers who thought I was going to be the “aspiring actress who would do anything for a role”.  I would walk away from these type of situations, with tears coming down my face as I faced the sad reality that can happen to young girls out there.  But nothing would make me give up.  I would wipe my tears and keep moving forward.  The sacrifice of being so far away from my family and the town that saw me grow was too hard and painful for me to get discouraged by the ignorance of some of the “powerful players” out there.

The money situation is another aspect that we actors struggle with.  Oftentimes, people joke about it but it is sadly the truth.  Because of the instability of auditions and work, we will be the ones acting as your server, bartender, hostess, etc.  If you think that sending resumes and going to a couple of job interviews is hard, imagine having to do that two to three times on a daily basis, to be called back one out of the last ten interviews (auditions). Although it can get frustrating, it is a matter of keeping your self-esteem and faith at a high level.

And then comes the times when an acting job parallels the reality of your life: “Too close to home” moments.

Such was my case for the movie I want to introduce to you called MI PRINCESA (My Princess).  I was sitting on the floor of my apartment in North Hollywood packing everything into boxes as my relationship of 2 ½ years came to an end.  It was a very emotional time for me when I was crawling around life with a broken heart.  Puerto Rican Director Carlos Jimenez Flores, whom I had worked for before in two other films, called and asked me to be in his next film which would start shooting in my hometown, Puerto Rico.  Although at first I did not want to do it as I was trying to take in what had just happened in my life, between him and friend and actor Sevier Crespo (who plays my brother in Mi Princesa), I was convinced to take the offer. I flew to Puerto Rico to work on the film and soon my life turned around for the better!

Although as actors we go through a lot of downs, there are the ups that you do experience when you are part of this beautiful art.  Talk about timing.  As my relationship with a love ends, I start working on my first acting job as the LEAD actress in a DRAMA/ROMANCE. Aside from having family and friends around to cheer me up, the irony of this life event brought smiles and laughter back to my life.  I arrived July 13th of 2012 and started shooting my scenes on the 14th. I did not have much time to settle in back at my parents’ apartment.  But there I was.  You move on and you show up for work.

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As I walked to my first day on set, I took in the beautiful scenery in front of me and thanked God for the opportunity to be working at home.  I was now playing the role of Mayra, a good girl who is full of life, surrounded by family and friends. The only thing she has been missing is love and she is about to find it.  Again, very ironic as I had just lost it in real life. Nevertheless, I was ready to play this character!

(CLOWNING BEHIND THE SCENES:  HUMOR ALWAYS WORKS)

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One of the challenges you can face when working on a film is a lack of connection with fellow actors, especially when shooting a romance. Being that Mi Princesa was shot without scripted lines and we had to improv, I was a little bit scared as to how the interaction was going to go between the actor who was playing my love interest and myself. I met him less than 10 minutes before shooting our first scene.  I have to admit that it was challenging at first.  The director let us know what he wanted out of the scene and we proceeded to give it to him, but it was a little bit uncomfortable at first, for both of us. This was his first acting job and I was fighting the emotions that were so raw inside of me as a result of all the changes that I was going through.  Still, we did our scene and after seeing the final result, it could not have been better!

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(First scene with my love interest in the movie, Ricky. Played by Roberto Perez Perez)

After the ice was broken and days of shooting went by, everything just started flowing in divine order.  The Director found some amazing locations where I got to enjoy the beautiful sceneries of my island that I had been missing for so long.  We shot at beaches, mountain view locations in the country, resorts, venues with great local live music, among others. I was finding that happy place again.  I was home.  I got to work with one of my best friends, actress Millie Ruperto, a great crew and the icing on the cake, my niece Kenya. The Director offered my niece a role in the movie and she flew in from Miami to be a part of it.  I had my team!

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(MOROVIS, PUERTO RICO)

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(WAITING TO SHOOT A WEDDING SCENE WITH ACTOR ROBERTO PEREZ PEREZ AND A GREAT FRIEND AND ACTRESS, MILLIE RUPERTO)

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(ABOVE: BEHIND THE SCENES WITH MY BEAUTIFUL NIECE KENYA DE JESUS)

(BELOW: KENYA RECEIVING DIRECTIONS)

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(OLD SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO: ONE OF MY FAVORITE PLACES)

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After two weeks of shooting my heart was feeling happy! We had an amazing project in our hands.  I was able to go back and work in my beautiful Puerto Rico surrounded by love and creating new memories.  I was back to being me.

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(WITH THE PRODUCTION CREW BY THE FORTRESS-EL MORRO IN SAN JUAN)

Production finished the last week of July 2012.  As in any production, there can be obstacles that can risk a movie to be finished and/or released.  So was the case with Mi Princesa.  Some of the crew parted ways, footage was given to the editing team later than expected, while other footage was lost with really important scenes we will not get to see.  The editing went from hands of the crew in Puerto Rico to another company in Chicago, which is Director Carlos Jimenez Flores’ hometown.

Three months ago I received a phone call the day after Thanksgiving of 2013 in which I was notified of some scenes that were missing that needed to be shot.  And off to Chicago I went.  I was pretty excited.  Not only was I going to go back to portray the character of Mayra which I loved, but I was also going to do it in a completely new scenario for me, SNOW!

Yep, I had never seen snow and traveling to Chicago to shoot three more scenes for the movie allowed me to go through this experience for the first time ever!!  I was feeling like a little kid!

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So here I was in cold Chicago shooting scenes that were supposed to be in warm Puerto Rico.  Fortunately the scenes were shot inside.

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(WITH DIRECTOR CARLOS JIMENEZ FLORES)

MI PRINCESA is a beautiful film which includes culture, traditions, love, beautiful images, friendships, music, family and the art of being able to forgive.  It is amazing to me how I started shooting this film coming from a broken heart and finished it a year and a half later in love with an amazing man God was saving for me.  His name is Fabian Alicastro, a Colombian singer/songwriter/producer who happens to have a song in Mi Princesa.

Things happen for a reason! Sometimes you have to go back home, to your roots, to your self in order to move forward.  Trust in God that everything in life has a purpose and with love and faith you are going to be all right!
I want to share with you a teaser for MI PRINCESA.

This film will be premiering in Fine Arts, Hato Rey, Puerto Rico on June 17th, 2015.

If you want more information you can contact me at darlavaz@gmail.com or through my twitter page http://www.twitter.com/darlenevaz

Love,

Darlene

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© DarleneVazquetelles, [2013]. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to [DarleneVazquetelles] with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Preparing for ART BASEL, MIAMI 2013

Article I wrote for online magazine Club Fashionista on upcoming Art Basel event in Miami.

Never Give Up

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So many times in life we get discouraged by external factors. My family does not have the resources or the contacts. I am too fat. I am too skinny. I am too tall. I am too short. I am not as pretty as her. I am not as built as him. The reality is that the opportunities in life are endless and there is room for every color, shape or situation.

When I decided to pursue a career in what had been my hobby for so many years, I knew that the road would be difficult. Deciding to move to Los Angeles and pursue acting was far away from my comfort. Still, even when there were no Actors, Singers, Artists, Producers, Directors, Writers, Investors, etc… in my family, no one to help me cut the line, I knew I wanted to go and chase that urge, that passion.  I left to study acting, find an agent and start auditioning in the Actor’s Disney World… Hollywood. I was discouraged so many times by people back home. They would tell me there was going to be too much competition. Their other argument was that I should stay closer to what I already knew (my hometown of San Juan, Puerto Rico or Miami, Florida, which is where I finished college). But, my heart was pushing me to go and see what was out there for me.

I am not planning to write a book of my life…yet… so I will keep this simple. I lived in Los Angeles for ten years, back and forth because of different situations life threw at me…mostly positive. I could say that many things I was afraid of did happen. The story of the young actress that moves  to LA and then is “seduced” by that “manager” that wants to represent her is one of the many stereotypes that I did experience. But just as I did with that one, in every other situation I was able to carry myself with maturity and I never lost myself or my values. Nobody should lose themselves in the process of trying to “make it” in any business. Unfortunately, we see that too often, especially with the younger ones in Hollywood. I held my ground and to this day it is one of my proudest decisions. I could go on and on with stories.

Life threw a curve ball at me (that will be for another post) and now I sit here in Florida writing these lines. It has been a transitional year for me where I had to step back and figure out how I was going to approach that ball.  Do you ever have those moments when you feel discouraged, still unsure as to what direction you want to take? My direction will be to keep going forward. It is about maintaining the faith that God has a plan for you and that as long as you are persistent and what you do comes from a good place in your heart, then there is no reason to fear.

I want to introduce to you, in case you haven’t seen them yet, to FORTE….

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I have been supporting this group since they started participating in America’s Got Talent. Aside from the fact that I know one of the member’s brothers and that they are very talented, I believe that there had to be another reason I felt so drawn to them. Later I read a post by member Fernando Varela and it spoke to me. He wrote about the times in life when one is rejected, when you loose something right when it was so close to you, but then you just keep going and eventually that moment comes when things just start working out for you. Everything you have endured leads to that point and then you realize that the best plan in your life has been to NOT GIVE UP.

And that was it. That was when I was reminded, and God knows that I needed that,  that for us that work in this business or in ANY business, it is a matter of moving on. Take rejection, take criticism and then move on. The day will come when you will see your dreams come true. It could be to have a child, to have your own business, to travel to Greece, get a movie or a record deal. In life you have to be persistent and always do what you love.

I have struggled and struggled trying to become a respected Actress. Guess what? I was not in Spielberg’s or Almodovar’s latest movie, but I have worked, I am working and I will continue working.  And because it is about doing things that you love and make you happy, I have recently started Writing again. It has been in my heart for a long time and now I plan to dedicate more time to put into words the spirals that I have in my head.

Congratulations to FORTE for making it all the way to the finals. It is not about the outcome, but the process. They did not win the final prize but won the hearts of so many people like myself. I know that they will continue to be successful and the best is yet to come.  I am glad that Fernando never gave up!

God Bless

© DarleneVazquetelles, [2013]. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to [DarleneVazquetelles] with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Darlene Vazquetelles

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