The conversation about uplifting the Latinx community has been a constant in recent years. Since we are inching closer to being the largest marginalized group in the United States, it’s no surprise that people are focused on this community so much. However, despite being swarmed with support, or at least the intention of it, it often feels that we are still overlooked.
Though there are plenty of people trying to guide us or serving as an influence, one can’t help to wonder whether it’s genuine or not. Yet, our community requires work and development, which is why we should search for people who care about our success.
Denise Soler Cox is one of these people.
“I think that we don’t realize the power that we have. Not only as individuals but as a collective as well,” Cox told BELatina during an interview.
Cox is a Latina filmmaker, artist, speaker, podcaster, and coach. Activism is something she’s also been exposing to her recently.
Her accomplishments are plentiful, but Project Eñye is probably one of her greatest ones.
Project Eñye is a multimedia documentary project that focuses on first-generation people from the Latinx community born in the United States. Cox uses its unique cultural experiences to uncover generational guilt and shame while helping the community embrace their Latinidad.
Her vision has strengthened to the point where a mini nation of over 16 million has formed: The Eñye Nation.
Project Eñye gives Latinx people a sense of belonging — something that is often amiss in the United States, especially since a myriad of factors challenges many people’s identity.
The potential of the Latinx community is waiting to be released. However, many of us sell ourselves short. This is why Cox has made it her mission to shake up the community, in a good way.
“I wanted people to feel like they belonged for the first time,” Cox said.
According to the multi-hyphenated Latina, she had struggled in silence all her life when it came to her identity. She couldn’t seem to feel like she belonged and faced many difficulties when she tried to embrace her biculturalism.
Cox recalls times where she was told she was more of a gringa because she was born in New York and not in Puerto Rico. In other words, part of her identity was being erased because of a geographical component that holds no true weight.
“Looking back, I know they weren’t trying to hurt my feelings, but those comments felt like that saying: the death of a thousand paper cuts.”
Like her, other Latinx people experience these types of comments. We are taught that we aren’t “ni de aquí, ni de allá.” How the hell does the world think we can function properly when we don’t even know what identity we can claim? Even though these comments can be frustrating to hear, most of us can’t pinpoint why our identity’s questioning can be so uncomfortable.
However, Cox was able to provide some insight into it.
“It is not the single comment; it is the collective and the compound effect of those comments.”
She understood this later in life and knew she wanted to share it with others in the community.
Her journey to inspire started in Miami.
During a regular trip to the bar in Miami with her friends, she realized that she wasn’t alone. They, too, were conflicted by similar experiences.
She knew she had to do something, and that’s when the idea came up that she had to create a documentary.
“That night out with my friends, I had an ‘aha’ moment where I am not alone. It was so profound for me.”
It was obvious to her that the documentary would be the best route, even if she had no formal training in making a film.
Regardless of the bumps she knew she’d encounter, she ran with it.
The original Eñye dived into the project without following any guidelines or rules other independent filmmakers usually adhere to. Her compass was based on her passion and heart, which sufficed to bring her vision to fruition.
Cox has been on tour with her documentary for the past three years (she’s been stalled this year due to the pandemic). She’s traveled countless times and has had the opportunity to absorb her audience members’ reactions.
“I noticed a middle schooler and a middle-aged person are upset about the same things. There’s a lot of pain and frustration and feelings of misunderstanding,” she said. “And there’s an expectation out there that this is something that can make sense outside of ourselves.”
Marginalized communities, such as the Latinx community, have a habit of Othering themselves, even if it’s subconsciously. Without realizing it, we may find ourselves trying to fit into spaces we perceive as too narrow, so we detach ourselves further away from these situations. The disconnect sometimes becomes a masked alternative to a makeshift comfort zone. The reality is that our imposter syndrome has been holding us back from taking up space in places that would value our presence.
“I think everybody is afraid. We are human beings, so we experience fear, and I feel Latinos, especially in this country, are taught to live in the shadows.”
These concerns have been continuously brought up to Cox. She knows this is something people struggle with and has been enlightening others on how to combat it.
“The work is internal. The work is composed of understanding your worth in order to stop believing these lies. If someone is to put in the work, they will be prompted to stop blaming the outside world, which is riddled with systemic and institutional racism.”
It is important to note that she understands there are places not designed for us to thrive in. However, she believes that being stagnant is not the way to be. Putting the work for the sake of success and survival is pivotal for our personal acceptance. Yet, she feels many are still not taking the necessary steps to overcome their fears.
Nonetheless, she believes that this is the time for communities of color to make as many “tables” as they can right now and won’t stop until she sees it happen.
“Media and content creators need to create, entrepreneurs need to start businesses, artists need to paint, authors need to write, musicians need to play, etc. When we do this, we pave the way for others that need to see themselves in these spaces to see that it’s possible for them. This needs to happen in all the spaces,” she told BELatina.
“There’s no more time to waste, waiting to be invited. I’m so done waiting to get a seat at someone else’s table. It’s time to make our own. Imposter syndrome needs to go. We are qualified, we are talented, we have what it takes. It is an act of resistance to unapologetically embrace all our talents and gifts and make something from them. This is how things change when we all collectively lean into our genius and bring the community with us on the journey.”
Project Eñye’s journey led Cox to want to continue to deconstruct the composition of the Latinx community. It’s the best way to confront what may fuel any of our incomprehensible fears.
She’s actually now working on her second film, where she exposes the culture’s destructive impulse to encourage their families to keep their trapos sucios to themselves even if these so-called trapos sucios or dirty laundry are keeping sexual abuse and domestic violence a secret.
So, she’s set to tackle generational trauma, the effects of the secret culture, and how it needs to stop in her next film. This project will release at the end of next year.
If you want to learn more about Cox’s tactics, you can. She’s created a program, the Eñye Dream Accelerator, where she provides people with support, strategies, and the proper mindset needed to get what anyone wants.
As you can tell, Denise Soler Cox is bulldozing into the walls cemented with lies, unrealistic expectations, and panic many of us have encountered. And she’s forcing us to pulverize these walls one way or the other.