"I am a firm believer that we all have angels and demons that guide us throughout our lives.
TBHP: Describe yourself in three words.
M: Dad. Brooklynite. Blessed.
TBHP: Tell me about your upbringing.
M: I'm a 70s baby, A first generation Puerto Rican born and raised in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, New York. Now everyone knows it as East Williamsburg, but back then it was one of the most densely populated Latino communities in the city. The block I grew up on Montrose Ave. Is just off the L train line between Bushwick Ave. and Bushwick Pl. The neighborhood was predominantly Puerto Rican. Back then, Williamsburg wasn't the pretty, Apple Store with-a-side-latte bar scene you have today. Brooklyn in the late 70's and early 80's was a very different place, filled with crime, gangs, violence, and drugs, so in short, a war zone. To illustrate, here's a great write up for a jump back in time: Bowery Boys
Yet, for many of us growing up on that dead-end block, and in all the housing projects that surround it, it was also a beautiful place and time. Summers were filled with family and friends out on the stoop, block parties, two hand touch football games between light poles, dominoes games with our uncles and El Capitán (every neighborhood had a Capitán or Godfather type figure), and illegal pump cool off sessions that made swimming pools meaningless. As deadly and visceral the upbringing was, it taught us all invaluable lessons we carry today. It was there that I learned to cherish life and friendships, to live passionately, and with purpose, to always sleep with one eye open, the value of hustling hard, to
love diversity, culture, and all that it brings including beef patties, cuchifritos, and chino latino.
Now although I live 2K miles away, I remain connected to that neighborhood and block, as my son's Godfather Johnny still lives there, as do many close family and friends. Johnny is my brother from another mother, and we've been friends since we were 4 years old. And yes, we met on that very block.
TBHP: Did you like school growing up?
M: I wasn't your straight A type student, and truth be told, there were many times that I despised it. There were lots of challenges, like simply surviving as I lost a fair share of friends to the streets. But there were also lots of incredible lessons, laughter and lifelong friends made along the way. A dear friend of mine Mr. Marc Strachan said it best that it's not until you can connect the dots and patterns in your history, that you can truly know where your headed, and ultimately, live your life's purpose. Being a Latino, I am a firm believer that we all have angels and demons that guide us throughout our lives. I'm eternally grateful that many of the voices I listened too in my life were the angels, and not the demons.
TBHP: What does being Latino mean to you?
M: My Latino identity is incredibly important to me, as I feel everyone's own ethnic identity should be to them. It's how we respect our ancestors, and our connection to our culture. The irony is that when you grow up in a place and time that is so heavily ethnic populated, especially by one dominate culture, you would think it would be easier to cultivate your own ethnic identity. Meaning that all the things you really need to worry about are just facing the adversity outside your own, and life is therefore simpler. That the only static you're going to confront are those that come from outside the block.
Yet, for as challenging as it was to build my own ethnic identity, I'm a Brooklynite, and as such, you never lie down. So I used all that adversity as motivation, the fuel I needed to face everything else I had to outside the block in expanding my world. I always knew my station in life at that time was not my last, and I was just getting started in building a world that would go far beyond my four block radius.
We all face challenges like this in our lives early on, it's part of our identity development. So I appreciate how the block raised me to be more than what others expect of you, forcing me to question who I was and how will I identify myself. It is what motivated me to focus more than half of my career in the multicultural space, and become a proud Latino designer entrepreneur. Enough so that I even made it my company logo (the StickyDocs frog is a coqui, the native tree frog and mascot of Puerto Rico).
TBHP: Tell me a little bit about one of the happiest moments of your life... as well as one of the most difficult moments in your life too.
M: The birth of my son without question. Being a parent is the greatest joy and responsibility in life, and the greatest thing you will ever do on the planet. It's an amazing experience to experience unconditional love at first sight. Joaquin is light of my life.
As for most difficult, the loss of my mother. It was very unexpected and fast, and although I was able to have her for most of my life, she left too early for me. Thankfully she was able to see and know first hand that her only son would defy all the odds and make it out off the block, even witnessing my growth into a bonafide creative director. My mom never quite understood just exactly what I did as a creative director. To her, I simply made CD covers. She was hilarious and humble like that. To give her a last memory that her sacrifices were all worth it is one my most treasured memories with her, and made her passing just a bit more bearable.
TBHP: Marcus, how would you like to be remembered?
M: That I was a caring, loving father, friend and partner. That I was a disruptor, innovator and a cage rattler in pursuit of uncovering new, uncharted opportunities in ways that shatter the stereotypes we live under. Someone who is unafraid to speak truth to power when needed. That I stood for what was right, honorable, and fair to not only those that I agreed with, but also those I didn't. And as someone who honored our culture, our legacy, and those who came before us while living a life filled with purpose and passion.