Soraya Marquez is a fighter. Growing up in a single-mother led household in Far Rockaway Queens after arriving from Puerto Rico at the age of 2, Marquez was raised with the cards stacked against her, but that didn’t stop her from letting her daily commute in the rich and vibrant city of New York inspire her to strive for more.
“I didn’t have art in my house, but when I went to the street it was like graffiti everywhere. It was like a moving museum,” Marquez says in the above video. “We would always take the A Train all the way to Washington Heights. Seeing all the graffiti in the tunnels, I was able to connect the dots, like ‘this is art too.’ I wanted to be a part of that, I wanted to be somebody.”
With tons of passion but little means, Marquez was able to carve a space for herself in the New York art scene, throwing graffiti on the walls under the name Indie184, a pseudonym Marquez views as a superhero-like alter ego who isn’t fazed by life’s challenges. Given the boy’s club nature of the NYC graffiti scene, this was no easy task.
“At that time there were very few women in New York City doing graffiti, and I was one of them. Being new in any culture, you’re going to be questioned. If you didn’t do a certain task… then you’re going to be criticized.” Seeing the challenge to be accepted in the graffiti scene ahead of her, Indie184 didn’t let the hurdles of being an outsider stop her from realizing her dreams,
“I had to prove myself, I had to prove my lettering skills, my can control, so I did that my way. I taught myself graphic design, photography. So I mixed all these styles [and] and all these mediums. I’m making my own lane, I’m not following this patriarchal format of being an artist in graffiti, you’ve just got to blaze your own trail.”
Indie184 credits that boldness with the fighting spirit of her mother,
“I center women in my murals because I grew up with a single mom. I absolutely admire that, women are constantly inspiring me to own my power… Creating these colorful murals in all these neighborhoods I grew up in, it’s a visual diary. I get to put a piece of myself out there to share with the world. The role of the muralist in the community is to beautify and empower its people.”
Watch the video above to learn more about Indie184’s story, how she got her name, and how she’s continued to carve a space out for herself in the NYC graffiti scene over the last 20 years. Be sure to keep an eye out for additional episodes from our Salud to Summer series, created in partnership with Modelo.