Amanda Alcantara is part of a team that created a space for Dominican-born Americans who want to share and explore their dual identities

Rutgers graduate Amanda Alcantara, along with two other women, created an online magazine for Dominicans living in the US.
Photo: E.Abreu Visuals

'We want to encourage dialogue, celebrate the culture, and inspire action. It’s a magazine for Dominicans by Dominicans.'
 – Amanda Alcantara

Amanda Alcantara knew she wanted to be a journalist when she was 12 years old.

Every day she would watch the all-female team on Primer Impacto, a Spanish-language news program on Univision, and get inspired.

“In a way, I saw myself,” said Alcantara, 25.

Now Alcantara, who graduated from Rutgers’ School of Arts and Sciences and School of Communication and Information in 2012, is part of a team running an organization in the form of an online magazine, called La Galería Magazine: Voices of the Dominican Diaspora. La Galería, written primarily in English, is a place where first and second-generation Dominicans can go to explore their dual identities, cultures, history and future.

“We want to encourage dialogue, celebrate the culture, and inspire action,” Alcantara said. “It’s a magazine for Dominicans by Dominicans.”

La Galería, which was launched in February 2015, is updated quarterly with a daily presence on social media. In the latest edition, there are essays on gentrification, tourism, and Dominican historical leaders and revolutionaries.

The magazine also organizes events in New York, such as open mic night.

Alcantara said she and her partners chose the name La Galería, which loosely means “front porch,” because it’s where Dominicans tend to relax and congregate at home and start conversations with their neighbors.

After graduation, Alcantara, like many of her peers who attended college during the recession, couldn’t land a full-time job.

“By the time I graduated, I had learned a third language. I had studied abroad. I did two internships and I still couldn’t get a (full-time) job,” she said.

For a couple of years, she pieced together freelance work and temporary gigs at various news organizations, including NY1 and El Diario. (She credits the Daily Targum with everything she learned about video-making and creating multi-media packages.) Even though the jobs weren’t permanent, she gained experience and interviewed a few famous people, including then-mayoral candidate Bill DeBlasio and Dominican-American and former New York Yankee Robinson Canó.

Then in 2014, Alcantara, who now lives in the Bronx, landed a full-time position at New York University as a communication manager for the McSilver Institute for Poverty Policy and Research, a non-profit housed at NYU’s Silver School of Social Work that looks into root causes of poverty and translates those findings into action.

That same year, she also visited the Dominican Republic for the first time in five years.

As it turned out, her visit was more than a vacation; it was therapy.  She realized on that trip that an unexplained sadness she’d been struggling with since her late teens had a lot to do with her dual identities of being an American with Dominican roots. There’s a saying in the Dominican culture for it: “Con un pie aquí y otro allá,” meaning one foot here and one foot there.

Alcantara was born in the U.S. but grew up in the Dominican Republic. When her older sister returned to the U.S. to attend art school, Alcantara, then 16, and her mother followed. The family settled in West New York, where there is a large Dominican community.  After Alcantara graduated from high school and was accepted to Rutgers, her mother went back to the Dominican Republic. She lived at the dorms, did well in her classes and made friends. But even with her sister still in New Jersey, Alcantara felt a sense of isolation.

She says it’s part of “the trauma of immigration.” 

“You leave and the decision isn’t yours,” she said. “And even if the decision is yours to leave, you still miss the people you leave behind. I felt very displaced.”

She hadn’t realized how isolated and displaced she had felt until that 2014 vacation – and returned with a renewed spirit.

“I felt so good,” she recalled. “I felt a reconnection to who I am and the duality of who I am.”

A friend encouraged her to use her education and experience in journalism to launch a website for young Dominicans living in the U.S.

Alcantara put out a call for writers and connected with the two women – Isabel Cristina and Ynanna Djehuty – who became her partners in the magazine.

Since launching La Galería and meeting people with whom she shares a cultural connection, Alcantara has learned that she has to invest in her community before it feels like home.

“I’ve been searching for a safe place where I don’t feel displaced, where I feel grounded, a place that understands me and I found that in New York,” she said. “I’m building my home in the Bronx.”

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