Denise soler cox©projectenye

Meet Denise Soler Cox: The Latina who gives a voice to first generation Latinos

The Puerto Rican entrepreneur is helping others navigate between being American and being Latino

HOLA! USA wants to empower the Latinx community with narratives about the contributions that Latinos have made in the U.S. across the full spectrum — music, fashion, entertainment, business, health, beauty and wellness. It is time to celebrate our Latinidad in all its glory. These are our stories; this is Latinx

Whether you’re toggling between two languages or feeling stuck between two cultural identities, Denise Soler Cox wants you to know you’re not alone. In fact, the Latina estimates that 16 million Latinos in the United States feel like they can’t identify with American culture or their family’s country of origin.

For Denise, the conflicting Puerto Rican and American sides of her identity came when she just 4 years old. Her family decided to move from a predominantly Latinx neighborhood in the Bronx to the suburbs of Westchester County and, for years, they were one of the only Latino families living in the area. Growing up, Denise felt like she was always questioning the legitimacy of her identity — never feeling “American enough" or “Latina enough."

denise soler cox©projectenye
Denise launched Proyecto Eñye to share stories of first-generation American born Latinos

It wasn’t until she got older that she realized that thousands of Latinos in the U.S. were also torn between two cultures. Inspired to show the world that she was not alone in her struggle, Denise created Being Eñye, a documentary about Enyes — first-generation American-born Latinos who don’t fully feel connected with either side of their identity.

HOLA! USA caught up with Denise who spoke about helping others overcome the shame around not feeling Latino enough and how she is giving a voice to Eñyes, one story at a time.

HOLA! USA: Why was it so important for you to tell your story?

Denise: Our award-winning film Being Eñye was inspired by an informal night of storytelling with my friends in Miami. Throughout the night, while my friends candidly and authentically shared their experiences, it hit me that I wasn’t alone. Up until this point, I’d believed that I was the only one that felt these feelings, had these nuanced experiences and was versed in an indescribable level of loneliness - the kind where you feel like no one really “gets you” type of loneliness. It was so profound that I decided that I needed to make a movie about it because I wanted everyone to feel the way that I did that night - deeply connected. I believe that a sense of connectedness based on shared experience is a gift that keeps giving.

You talk about some of the hardships you endured when you moved to the suburbs of Westchester County. Would you change anything?

Absolutely not. I believe that we all get to experience the past [twice]. The first time is when it happens, and the second time is when we talk or reflect about it with others. Since it’s already happened, and it’s in the past, all I can choose from is “door number two” or how I share about it. We have a choice about how we’re going to recount the hard parts of our narratives. This doesn’t mean that I candy coat anything. I choose to believe that had I not experienced those terrible things, I wouldn’t be the compassionate person that I am today.

denise soler cox projecto enye©projectenye
Denise reveals there are 16 million Eñyes residing in the United States

What have been some of the responses you've received since airing the film?

The most impactful responses to the film have been when someone has a personal realization and makes a decision to act on it. After three years, I still receive emails from audience members sharing stories with me about how they repaired a relationship as a result of an insight they had while watching the film.

Proyecto Eñye has helped thousands of first-generation Latinos carve out their own identity. How has it impacted you?

I’m not going to lie. I struggle with allowing myself to be fully present with the impact of my work because I’m always thinking of everything that needs to be done and I get preoccupied with the next thing I’m doing to contribute to a solution. When I do allow myself to think about the impact, it brings me to my knees, it’s overwhelming, it makes me want to grab the shoulders of my younger self and tell her: you can do this no matter how scary it feels, you can!

What's next for Proyecto Eñye?

We are currently in production with a feature-length documentary that will be released in the summer of 2020. It’s my most ambitious project yet and I feel blessed to be able to able to work on another powerful media project but this time on a much larger scale.

Watch the award-winning film here:

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