Carlos Rene Castro | Photo by Gerardo Estrada
By Kristina Carey
Photographer Carlos Castro’s favorite picture is of a little girl on a bicycle near Closter Park in East Salinas. It’s in black and white, and you can see the reflection of her dark hair and tiny frame in a puddle against the tall trees and the uniform houses behind her.
Castro recalls feeling unsure about taking that photo because he didn’t know her and didn’t want her parents to think he was up to something. He hesitated and walked away before coming back and taking it anyway.
Castro first found an interest in art at a young age when his father bought him a camera for Christmas. He started photographing family and scenery during vacations. He said he continues to shoot because he enjoys how each person can find their own angle in photography.
His passion for photography has opened the doors to his first local solo photography exhibition, titled “Hidden Treasures of East Salinas.” It takes place in August at the CSUMB Salinas Center for Arts and Culture. All the photos are in black and white.
He said he is “more excited than nervous” about the show. Castro has shown his work in San Francisco, Sacramento and Monterey, but this will be his first showing in Salinas.
“I feel there’s a lot of weight on my shoulders, and expectations, but it’s good pressure so I’m very excited and ready to present my work,” he says. He says he hopes the viewers will wonder about the images and find their own perspective.
Castro, 20, is a student at Monterey Peninsula College, living in East Salinas. Last year, he attended the Monterey County Youth Media Project, and since then his photos have appeared in Voices of Monterey Bay.
He’s originally from El Progreso, Yoro, Honduras, and moved to Salinas at the age of five, when he only knew Spanish. He learned English at seven and says it wasn’t hard to pick it up. His family moved to Coral Gables, Fla., before migrating back to Salinas because of financial issues.
The difference between each place is clear to him. “I can’t remember much from Honduras,” he says, “but what I do remember is living in a small town. It was just me and my mom, because my dad was here in America, trying to get a good, stable situation so we could come here and live a decent life.”
“The difference from Honduras to America is definitely opportunities,” says Castro. “There’s less opportunities out there than here, but living from Miami to Salinas, it’s a whole different vibe. Being East Coast to West Coast is totally different.”
He says Miami has a “super fast-paced” lifestyle. “There’s a lot of people from all over the world, a lot of culture, a lot of good food, and going to school in Miami was totally different. Once I came to California, I feel like I really learned the English language more. I really developed my communication skills once I came back to California when I was in the fifth grade. So (it’s) definitely just different lifestyles.”
He remembers the fear he felt while living in Salinas, knowing full well the statistics about youth violence. He recalls seeing the names of former classmates in the local newspaper, headlines stating they had been murdered. His own father survived being shot, the bullet grazing his skull. It appears he was targeted at random, and Castro says he knows his father wasn’t involved with drugs or gangs.
Castro admits he was somewhat of a troublemaker in school. “I was just super energetic. I would always be in trouble with my teachers, always talked a lot in class. I’d always be in detention, I’d always bring attention upon myself because I loved the attention. I was always the class clown, making jokes when it wasn’t appropriate…”
Now he is more likely to sit in the back of the room, poised and quiet, helping others when necessary and engaging in others’ stories. He attributes the change to surrounding himself with better friends and spending more time by himself in college. His smile is bright when talking about it, and he feels he has been able to finally “find himself.”
The opening for “Hidden Treasures of East Salinas,” by Carlos Castro, is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Aug. 3 in the CSUMB Salinas Center for Arts and Culture. For more information, see the Eventbrite page.
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