Paloma Valenzuela is a storyteller.
She acts. She writes. She directs. As a native Bostonian and Dominican-American, she has voice. Valenzuela believes when we tell our stories, we can create space. Representation translates not just to connectivity, but power, too.
And making room for more diversity in Latinos on screen is part of her work. Earlier this year, she finished the third season of her comedic Web series, “The Pineapple Diaries.” And in 2019, she won best supporting actress at the Premios IRIS Dominicana Movie Awards for her role as Lolita in the film “Un 4to. de Josué” (now streaming on HBO).
The pandemic has not stopped her creative magic. She’s currently producing two new projects, working as a teaching artist, and in January, she will join the faculty at Brandeis University, teaching screenwriting in the creative writing department.
What does a beautiful resistance mean to you?
Beautiful resistance to me is being truly your authentic self (that seems cliché I’m sure but it’s more than just saying it — it’s truly recognizing it. Once you really begin to be your complete and authentic self no matter where you are you let go of so much fear — and you can truly begin to get to know yourself and being open to that and understanding who you are and loving who you are is a beautiful resistance). Beautiful resistance is also insisting on joy.
Being Brown in New England is:
Being Brown in New England is to constantly insist on being here. Insist on being seen. Insist on being heard.
In this moment, what gives you joy?
Spending time with family and knowing that they are close by. What an immense gift that is. I do not take it for granted. Joy to me is found in the simplest of things: the smell of bread turning to toast in the toaster oven, looking at my cat sitting by the window — seeing her ears perk up every time she sees a bird glide by, as if she’s never seen a bird before. We should all be just as surprised when we see birds, too, maybe. Voice note sessions and impromptu FaceTimes with some of my closest friends, seeing my little nephew growing up, staying on a Zoom a bit longer with a colleague from work to catch up and talk, seeing my friends and family creating and accomplishing amazing things this year: publishing books, putting out great music and videos and films, and being inspired by all of the creativity that has pushed through it all this year. Feeling connected to people, whether it be a quick exchange at the grocery store or a Zoom on Passover with family. That moment you forget how disconnected we’ve mostly felt this year by sharing and receiving memes that just make you go, “Yup, that’s so true!” And just laughing hard in general. Feeling inspired, working passionately, and being grateful that I enjoy the work that I am doing. All of this brings me joy. I take it all in.
How do you take up space in a society that often aims to shrink us?
I take up space by insisting on telling my own stories. I take up space by persisting and really never giving up so far on creating and writing and telling stories and being an artist. I take up space by sharing whatever it is that I know with my students to encourage them to know with the utmost certainty that their stories matter and that they have all the tools they need to tell their own stories, too. So hopefully, in the future, society will no longer shrink us but rather be us — all of us, telling our stories and finding plentiful space for all of us — all of our stories.