JULIO REY DE CASTRO, 27, artist
"Although there are a lot of Hispanics here, it's still kind of hard to be one. Sometimes people don't think I am Hispanic because I have the punk look, and they start talking about my people. I jump in to defend my culture."
Julio Rey de Castro describes himself as a poet, a philosopher and a self-taught artist. He came to the United States from Lima, Peru, when he was 11 years old and quickly formed a passion for poetry and travel. More than a decade later, in 2003, while studying mass media at the Art Institute of Washington, Rey de Castro went back to Peru for three months. He took a few road trips from Lima to Arequipa, where he visited art galleries and met several Peruvian painters.
"I realized that arts in the Hispanic culture is very important," he says. "In Peru I saw a big art community. It was more encouraging to become an artist."
Upon his return to the States, Rey de Castro finished his first painting. Now his art combines his self-described "punk personality" with his experience in Washington and memories of Peru. "When I paint I incorporate what I see and what I don't see -- usually [it] is a reflection of my culture."