Juliet Velazquez

My grand entrance onto this earth happened on a warm summer morning June 21, 1989 in Miami, FL (I remember, I was there). It was something short of a miracle (more on that later). Born to a Peruvian mother and Bolivian father, I, naturally, identified myself as Bolivian (from the womb).  I grew up surrounded by many cousins, whom from this point I shall refer to as the Barrientos Tribe. Initially  the Barrientos tribe was a small family of 5 brothers and 1 sister, until everyone began to have babies. In total 11 babies were created from this humble bunch. I like to brag about the fact that my family is “Bolivian Royalty” because our great uncle, Rene Barrientos was president of that wonderful country (don’t believe me? Look it up.) On the other side of my family (my mom’s side) we had even MORE relatives, most of whom still currently reside in a quaint little town called Paijan, in Trujillo, Peru.

Sorry, I was side tracked…

Anyway, I grew up the middle child of three siblings: Jess (the oldest) and Tobi aka Carlos (the youngest). We were a delightful bunch. Actually, that’s not true, we were pretty destructive…but if you ask my mom she’ll deny it 100%. Everyone thinks their child is an angel, my mother is no exception. My sister , who is an undisclosed amount of years older than I am moved out when Tobi and I were still pretty young, so I got to be the older bossy sister 110% of the time. My sister is one of the people I look up to the most in the whole world. Yeah, she is just that awesome. My brother on the other hand just has one of those faces you can’t say no to. I am proud to say that I have mastered the art of saying no to him. We got along well for most of our lives. We didn’t have that weird, borderline creepy relationship where I tell him all my deepest darkest secrets and we were definitely not inseparable. What  I can tell you is that we did have that relationship where my dad always forced me to drag him along with me in order to chaperon my “dates” and I had no choice but to go along with it. I love both my brother and sister equally. We’ve always had each others’ backs no matter what.

After many years of going to “inner city” schools, I finally became an adult and went to college.  I attended Florida International University, and began to pursue my degree in Communications. Most of my life I thought I would study Psychology, but when I discovered Public Relations, a whole new world opened up to me. My family would say that I was specifically created for this job, but it didn’t really hit me how naturally it came to me until my advisor suggested I “deeply consider it.” So I did. It turned out to be exactly what I needed. I graduated from FIU in May 2011 and what a GLORIOUS moment that was. Don’t get me wrong, I loved college. I made some of the greatest friends I have during that time, but still I just wanted out so that I could explore the WORLD. I wasn’t asking for much.

So I finished college. It was awesome. Meanwhile, I decided I needed a job in my field of study. I applied to an entire spectrum of places: Bloomingdale’s, Express (again), Google (I’m a dreamer, I know), many different PR agencies, and the list goes on. Then one day Ben and I went to go see a movie. It was the greatest movie ever, and it will forever be the reason why I felt called to work for my first non-profit organization. This little movie was called “Despicable Me.” I know you may be thinking, wait that’s a child’s movie. That is precisely the point. Something about preserving the innocence of children called out to my own inner child. I truly felt that God put it in my heart to serve this way. So I did. I began to work for His House Children’s Home in the late summer of 2010 and have been here ever since. It has been an incredible journey full of mountains and valleys, perhaps more valleys, but nonetheless there is no greater satisfaction than following God’s will.

On that note, let’s rewind to 2002. A couple of days ago I was looking through old boxes as I attempted to clean out my room. As many of you may know, I do that a lot. I clean my room at least twice a week. You could argue that I am disorganized, but I stand by the fact that I am blessed and highly favored and thus my “blessings” have crowded the very minimal space I call a bedroom. I digress. As I was perusing these old boxes I came across an old “journal” of mine that was dated back to November 2002. It read…

“Yesterday my sister Jess and her boyfriend Alex took me to a church party. It was really cool. I saw this guy who is SOOOOOO CUTE. He has perfect hair, gorgeous eyes and he is just so fine! [yeah...13 year old me, went there] I don’t know his name YET, but my sister insists that I don’t have a chance cause he is the son of the pastor. I hope she was kidding. I’m going to try my best though, maybe he’ll be that elusive ‘one I’ve always dreamed for.’ Wish me luck!   -JB”

Three things: 1. My sister Jess is today happily married to my dear bro-in-law Alex and have three awesome boys, whom I love dearly. 2. Yeah, I clearly had issues for talking to myself in my “journal” but that’s beside the point. I have believed in self evaluation and introspection since a ripe young age, and I firmly believe that it is a healthy coping method. Being a little ghetto is healthy for no one — that I have no explanation for.

3. This was the first time I met Ben.

I didn’t know it at the time but this one moment would define the rest of my life. There was something about Ben that attracted me from the instant I saw him. More on that later. Also, did I mention that we’re getting married?