‘I am still in the process of production and research, recording everything and archiving for generations regarding the evolution of the skateboarding scene in the country.’
Dominican Republic Documentarian
Tell us something about the Dominican Republic that people don’t know.
I can tell you that as our slogan from the Ministry of Tourism of the Dominican Republic says “Dominican has it all”. This applies in a general sense as we have more than just warm beaches, beautiful landscapes and the best sunsets you can see on planet earth in the four points cardinals of the island. It is also a paradise for its diversity in skate spots for both skaters and filmmakers. The Dominican is also very welcoming and helpful in every sense of the word. This is something that I think the Dominican Republic has a lot to offer; its people and diversity. So many Europeans and Americans know that there is more than just just Punta Cana, Bávaro beaches and resorts.
How big is the skate community in the DR?
It is a community that over the decades (since skateboarding has been riding in the DR since the 70’s) has remained with its high and lows like in many other countries despite not being a cross-cultural sport from the Northern United States of America.
Today, it is at its best and growing as a community thanks to digital communication. There are greater opportunities at a general level with skate events and those involved in the scene such as skate foundations and skate schools, spectators, artists and skateboarding lovers which go hand in hand with fashion, rock music, punk rock and hip-hop in DR. This set of elements in the scene has created that all genders, both male and female, have greatly increased the skateboarding scene together with digital communication. So much that we have reached foreign soils with Dominican skaters in national games and professional Dominican net skaters in other countries.
What are some of the Dominican skaters that are making a name for themselves?
Professionals currently based in the Dominican Republic are Misael de los Santos, Rafael Zolano, Beethoven Andujar, among others who have been growing. Internationally and from our Dominican diaspora abroad, skaters raised purely in the DR, professionals we have: Daniel Cuervo, Carlo Carrezano, Mario Cairo and Juaquin Mendieta.
‘I was a Student Brand Manager of Red Bull and worked as distributor for 5boro Skateboard’
How did you get involved with skateboarding?
I got into skateboarding a bit late in 1996 after I got out of inline skating in 1995 and got interested in skateboarding, all during my school years. Leading me to broaden my interest, for some known skater neighbours at the time called Peter and Franklin (the Gonzalez brothers) who showed me more of the scene in DR and internationally as well. So, in my progress as a skater and still in school, I started working in a skate and surf shop in my town called ‘Real’ from a surfer and filmmaker named Ivan Herrera. I began to understand more deeply the world of the skate business, skateboarding, international brands and their distribution in the country. Many years later, being in the university to complement that knowledge from school as a student of advertising, as a skater and a photographer, I was part of Red Bull Dominicana in 2007 as an opinion leader in the brand. I was a Student Brand Manager of Red Bull and worked as distributor for 5boro Skateboard in 2009 for one year thanks to the help of my manager at Red Bull Facundo Erreguerena and the founder of 5boro Steve Rodriguez.
What were some of the local heroes you looked up to?
Starting with Peter and Franklin Gonzalez, Carlos Reyes, Ivan Maroña and Alex Ventura. They have been my great references in my teenage and university years. I practically grew up watching them and skateboarding with them in the streets, like events and skate competitions throughout the Dominican Republic.
In your opinion who is the ultimate godfather of the DR skate community?
As a skater and cinematographer with the documentary on the history of skateboarding in my country right now, I can tell you that the godfathers who have passed through our scene have been several. The best known I can tell you are: at the beginning of the flourishing of skateboarding in the DR is Mr. Jimmy Conway Grubbs “Jim Grubbs” in the 70’s and 80’s, Alejandro Ventura “Ale Vision” 90’s and 2000. In fact, Alex Ventura is not only my perceived godfather of skateboarding. Lance Mountain mentioned the same thing in 1998 when he met Alex with Tony Hawk when he came to the DR and declared it in the Transworld article in February of 98. Ivan Maroño “El Babby” from early 2000. These people for me in the historical context of the history of skateboarding are among the most recognized and to my understanding and personal experiences of the evolution of skateboarding not only in my country but also of general knowledge transmitted by them to me; I consider them godfathers of skateboarding in DR for their roots in the sport of skateboarding in the Dominican Republic.
I saw some of your skate clips on youtube and they are really good. Have you had any aspirations to make a living of skateboarding?
I have always had that desire to live from skateboarding as I have dedicated my life to it. This is why I have never stopped doing it in DR. Everything is a little easier now with digital communication. With my documentary project of the history of skateboarding in DR, I think it can be a turning point for me to realize this dream in the United States.
Let’s talk about your documentary. How much longer until you are done with it?
I am still in the process of production and research, recording everything and archiving for generations regarding the evolution of the skateboarding scene in the country. The interest in creating a document of the history of skateboarding in DR arises from my initial project that we created in 2009 called Wallride Expo together with the designers and creative MODAFOCA. We wanted to publicize the skateboarding scene in the Dominican Republic through art. This being an exhibition that had four exhibitions of skateboard decks illustrated and designed by famous designers and illustrators from the DR, and that over the years have even evolved along with us.
So, in 2020, we decided to no longer be an artistic producer of the expo but instead to be the artist with the analogous photographic exhibition called “Skate Faces”. This is about publishing the faces of skateboarding in my country so that they are recognized by society in general. Although it was an arduous photographic work since 2019, many faces remained which will obviously be appearing in the documentary as well. When covid pandemic arrived, we had to postpone it until this year 2023 in MODAFOCA Galeria, returning to my home and origin of Wallride Expo. We all know what happened in the world and its processes, potentiating our idea of the photographic exhibition to create a documentary of the history of skateboarding. We think the documentary would be ready around 2024 or 2025 depending on our progress in the interest of potential investors in this project. I have been doing it independently since 2020.
How close is the relationship between skaters of the different Caribbean nations?
To my knowledge, our closest relationship with the Caribbean skate community has been in previous years with the Island of Puerto Rico. Pro skaters like Orlando Ramos, Ricky Ronda and our beloved and deceased Robert Lopez the Destroyer visited us all the time. But as previously mentioned, digitalization has brought the skateboarding community closer to the international level with skaters coming from Central America, South America and other continents to visit the Dominican Republic. Sometimes they already know some local skaters, or they have met Dominican skaters living abroad.
How has the local skateboard community changed from when you first started skateboarding?
A lot with the great opportunities of digital communication. In my time, creating your own career as a skater, it was almost mandatory to leave the Dominican Republic for the United States. You had to be closer to the main skate industry. Nowadays, at a general level, not only with social networks, but also with general knowledge of skateboarding in the world and your country, it is within one millisecond in your hands. What has led my skateboarding community in DR to grow a lot in terms of awareness is that it is a sport and that it is a lifestyle that many people are part of with good jobs paying taxes and good citizens in general.
What else are you doing if not filming or skating?
I currently work in advertising and film in the Dominican Republic, so I maintain the spirit and encouragement to continue not only skateboarding but also developing as a professional in the film industry. I continuously work on my motivation and passion as always within my society. It is a little complex to understand my lifestyle though.
Earlier you mentioned the Wallride project. Can you tell us more about it?
Wallride Project, as explained previously, is a project that I created in 2009 together with the advertising, marketing and design agency called Modafoca. It deals with the relationship between art and skateboarding with the interest of publicizing the culture of skateboarding in the Republic Dominican through art. Our first exhibition was at Modafoca Galeria in 2009 with Dominican graphic designers and illustrators from the advertising area. After a long absence of 7 years for higher studies in Spain and my career as a publicist and filmmaker, I decided to hold the second exhibition in 2015 in the gallery of the Silvano Lora Workshop. Some illustrators and designers of the first exhibition came along with new talents and international artists from the USA and PR. The third exhibition was held in 2017 in conjunction with the largest fashion event in the country called ‘El Dominicana Moda’. With designers and fashion illustrators at the Casa Quien Gallery, we had the opportunity to set up a skate demo within the same gallery for the spectators. Then we held the fourth exhibition in 2018 called “Illus Illus” with the artist and skater Siloé, friend, collaborator and Filmer of many years. This year marks the fifth exhibition called “Skate Faces” in Modafoca Galeria where we return home, this time as an artist with the analogous photo portraits of the prelude to the documentary history of skateboarding in the Dominican Republic.
What are some of the challenges that people in the DR face every day?
I would say more than everything, insecurity, the cost of living and trying to be in an economic position within the trade that you do in the country to live. The Dominican is a hard worker, but like many countries in Latin America, the issue of corruption, security and the economy is present. But despite everything, DR has many good things. The new generation of Dominicans has awakened a lot with everything that involves the country’s political-economic system and well, we are doing our part for our country, with a government elected by this new generation that little by little is regularizing and improving all these previously mentioned points.
Last question: if you could interview one person, who would it be and why?
Despite the fact that I met him in person in Spain during my higher studies already, he is a personal reference for me as a filmmaker. Through my documentary project I would like to meet him again and interview the skater, filmmaker, and Oscar winner Spike Jones. Because, needless to say, my journey in my life as a passionate skater and filmmaker comes from many works that I have seen in his career and that in one way or another I reinvent them in a Dominican way in my projects.
‘The new generation of Dominicans has awakened a lot with everything that involves the country’s political-economic system’