Puerto Rican Women Killing It in the Independent Art Scene: Andrea Cruz

With the internet being so easy to access, it has become easier for independent artists to find an audience and let their work be known. As a result, a variety of movements, collectives and scenes have found a way towards success. The independent art scene in Puerto Rico is no different. Recently, a variety of artists from a variety of disciplines have found platforms that have made it easier for them to share their work. In addition, small businesses such as Electroshock in Santurce and Rio Piedras, bars like Off The Wall in Mayaguez, and libraries like La Casita Books and Gifts in Aguadilla, have provided up-and-coming artists a space for them to display their talents. “Puerto Rican Women Killing It in the Independent Art Scene” is a series of interviews that provides a glimpse at a few of the women who are making their way in said movement. Though the artists were asked similar questions, some were asked queries focused specifically on their work.

Andrea Melina Cruz Toledo, also known as Andrea Cruz, is a musician whose work is influenced by the folk, indie, Latin American, and alternative genres. On September 2017, she released her first album, Tejido de Laurel, where she wrote all ten songs, but co-produced alongside Rafa Rivera and Wendell Sanders while the visual component was made alongside Mónica Oyola. Other than that, she studies Agroecology thanks to Proyecto El Josco Bravo. Because she loves the earth, she considers it a unique element that helps her create music. The following interview was conducted online.


(picture of Cruz provided by the artist)

What got you into singing and music, and how did you develop your style and how has it evolved through the years?

Since I was a child, my mother had me enlisted in choirs and extracurricular activities. However, I got back to music in high school. I come from a background in instrumental music and when I went to the movies I would have a lot of fun because I wanted to listen to the soundtracks, which helped me learn and imagine. Little by little, as time passed, I found that falsetto was one of my virtues and that’s how I got into singing. As far as genres, I listen to a lot of Bon Iver, Feist, Mercedes Sosa, Julieta, Ana Gabriel, and even Sia, all of which helped me lean towards acousticity, melodies, and defining what I wanted to compose in Spanish. I am a die-hard merenguera; my family helped me appreciate the genre, so I have a little bit of everything.

I’ve seen your work is highly influenced by folk, indie and Latin music. How did this happen?

I’m still discovering how, naturally when I play the guitar and compose, I don’t think into what or how I want to make it; that comes later in the editing process. But at the moment I look at the genres that came out in the album [Tejido de Laurel]. I love baroque rock and everything from the 1980s--don’t even mention Andean music and merengue. There’s a lot of music I love, but when I create my own there’s a piece of me that leans towards folk.


(picture of Cruz)


I saw you recently performed in South By Southwest (SXSW). How was that experience?

It was an educational experience. There’s a lot going on around the world, and having the opportunity of performing in this festival showing what Puerto Rico has to offer was a great joy. The people were fascinated and open to listen, and this was another confirmation for me; people want to heal, learn, listen, and soften their lives and everything that night lined up just for that. In the middle of the jangueo, there was a space for me and that filled me up with energy to continue striving.


What do you think about the current state of the arts in Puerto Rico?

I’m sure that with the little support we receive and the constant organization, we will continue. Those of us born to do this will never stop; we don’t have other options. Art is what represents us. It’s part of legacy, so it disheartening to know that there isn’t a platform that promotes or moves us, but we will continue to do it independently until we strive. We have seen once again that Puerto Rico has a lot to offer, there’s a little of everything here, but what I’ve always believed is that there isn’t a firm industry that supports and exports our work. Making it in the island and promoting it here is all fantastic and necessary, but it’s also important to expand and move. However,  there’s a problem right there of “cómo podemos hacer para que podamos vivir del arte, aquí” (how can we make a living through art, here).


(Cruz performing in SXSW)


What do you think about the current state of the independent scene in Puerto Rico?

I honestly don’t know how it was twenty years ago. I only have three years with my project and I’ve learned a lot. There’s a lot of movement here, there are bands, and proposals, but I’ve always said that we’re in need of a catalogue that represents and moves us, an organized platform where we search and learn from our markets. We need support from other mediums, but we know what’s behind it: political corruption that has empowered everything.


Is there any other form of art you wish to pursue? If so, what field and why?

I find Agroecology to be an art form. It allows humanization, creates awareness, provides healing, gives us a home, and it helps us be independent. Thus, I wish to learn more about the land, especially flowers, with which I wish to form a cutting and potting project because, like music, the land is therapeutical. It can reveal who we are as people and a species. That’s where we come from and what will help us survive.


(another picture of Cruz’s SXSW performance)


If a young girl came up to you and said she wanted to be an artist, what would be your advice for her?

Take a lot of time to be alone...completely alone so you can think and create. Be brave and clear in your purpose, allow your path to talk to you, and fly in your own direction always with eyes on yourself looking for ways of reinvention. Be selective with your team because they can either help you grow or take you to places you never even wanted to go.


What do you seek to achieve with art?

I look to expand the music and message of environmental awareness in an international way. I have put myself against institutional education because there are a variety of ways of educating, developing, and knowing ourselves outside of it and I am a product of this. I don’t practice what I studied institutionally with a diploma. However, I believe there a variety of intelligences exist and we can develop ourselves from other aspects like rescuing our values, the ones from the original Puerto Rican jíbaro; the one who reinvents, unifies, searches, and finds. With my project I look for that, to rescue and create awareness, but above all, to continue saving myself from not falling into mediocrity while developing my passion for the land and music.


(picture of Cruz)


What is your biggest goal right now?

Educating myself in Agroecology, in flower cultivation, in order to continue incorporating it into my visuals and expand the album into Latin America. I also want to connect with other artists and/or projects, explore, and experiment with other Latin Americans with a plan and a group willing to execute them. Aside from that, have my first concert in Puerto Rico: a complete, beautiful, and profound one paying homage to  Tejido de Laurel.


Find Andrea Cruz on Spotify and Facebook


All the pictures in this article were provided by the artist.