Nelson Alburquenque

Nelson Alburquenque is a musician and multi-media artist, attending the Institute of American Indian Arts as a Creative Writing major. He is currently working on his mythic hero series, Legends of the nyí, and his futuristic play, Red Skies in the Imperial City.

When I was growing up – in fact, all the way through high school – I never thought I would be good enough to be an artist. As a teen, my biggest passion was to become a solid guitarist and songwriter, in the tradition of Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix. When I started learning guitar, I struggled to make the basic chord shapes, due to a genetic condition that stunted my growth and limited my wrist’s rotation. One night after crying, I re-tuned my instrument on a whim and entered a radical, new tuning. It would become one of many variant tunings that I would learn and employ to create my distinct sound on guitar. These tunings would later come define my songs as an emerging composer.

I recount this personal story of heartache and growth because, while I really did think I wasn’t good enough, the smallest light in me still believed, believed in my strengths. That belief has culminated in me attending IAIA.

Now in my 30’s, I see how my life in art in the world has been my music journey relived across different mediums. In my 20’s, I constantly thought I wasn’t good enough to illustrate anything beyond a stick figure. One day, I decided I was going to try – that little hope carried me through. In 2019, I began to try to illustrate scenes from my Legend of the nyí series, learning the hard way by falling on my face piece after piece. Today, I continue to illustrate and have created a plethora of colorful compositions to augment my storytelling.

All of this is to say, I know what it’s like to have doubt in the self. I know what it’s like to feel the dream can’t get done, that it’s better left to someone else. I know what it’s like to cry and to feel like the talent isn’t there. That’s why I’m writing this. To tell you, whoever and wherever you may be in your artistic life, that the talent in you is always there. Is talent magic? It certainly becomes magic. You make it magic by working to grow it every day, every year.

If I wish anything, I wish someone had told me that much sooner, that all I had to do was just believe in my strengths. Maybe someone did, even without saying it, and maybe that’s why I’m here. Because here’s the truth: You can do all those things you think you can never do. You can break those walls you think you can never break. The power is you. The power is there. The power is belief.

So, keep fighting. Keep pushing on. You might not get there tomorrow, but you will get there one day. You just gotta believe and act on that belief. I look forward to seeing you on that day when you’re smiling on the top of your mountain, stargazing, like I am today, after the storm.

Always remember, friend…believe in yourself. Believe.