This is a photo of my mother, Luz Celenia Perez-Velez in 1952. It was probably shot in a photo studio in the Bronx, New York. She was born in Utuado, Puerto Rico in 1936 so she would have been about 16 years old in this photo. My mother probably sent this photo to him in Korea while they were married and my father carried it around with him until he died in 2008.
I love this picture because her smile is brilliant and full of promise. What is amazing about this photograph is the transformation of a girl who was orphaned at age six and raised by an assortment of extended family, friends, and strangers, with very little education and in extreme poverty. She was the youngest of six kids, and once her brothers made their way to New York, they struggled to bring her there. While her trip was to New York was lonely and frightening, she was enormously grateful to them for bringing her to New York. Just two years after arriving, in her own words, she “blossomed”.
The dress probably came from a factory that her brother owned called Margie Designs. She learned English quickly, and until she died loved fashion. She had an eye for beautiful and classic designs, and looked beautiful each time she stepped outside into the world. She gave all of us our love of fashion, design, and clean lines. I miss her every day.
Submitted by Diana Velez (Brooklyn, NY)