Subculture on Main: Juan Ayala Valencia

Juan Ayala Valencia described the mountains and film industry of Ecuador in Hurvis Film Center’s studio.

Subculture on Main strives to raise awareness of the diversity of people and important issues on the Lawrence University campus. Care is taken to give equal platform to unique individuals and to listen to their stories with an open mind. Interviews are reflective only of the interviewee and not of their whole group.

Sophomore computer science and film studies double major, Juan Ayala Valencia, a native of Ecuador, shared his story about his Latino identity and experience. “Here at Lawrence, I identify with the Latino community, and I have a lot of friends here who identify themselves as Latino,” he shared. “They might have different backgrounds, but we share the same culture, the same language, so it’s kind of easy to create a subculture based on that.”

Ayala Valencia spoke about his background and how going to Lawrence has been a change from living in Quito, Ecuador’s mountainous capitol: “For me, I am used to watching surrounding mountains everywhere, so it’s strange in Appleton, seeing such flat ground. You look at the horizon and you only see buildings … you’ll see all these ridiculous landscapes and it was really interesting coming to Appleton and seeing such a different [environment].”

Ayala Valencia noted how Latino culture is spread across South America, Central America, and North America. “I feel like it represents a kind of Spanish culture where it’s a mix of this Spanish colonialism mixed with indigenous roots,” he said. “There are lots of traditions that are based on European Spanish roots, but we also have a lot that come from the indigenous. I think that creates a lot of South American Latino identity.” 

Ayala Valencia described how this foundation influenced his own identity. As he explained, “I don’t necessarily identify myself as indigenous or completely European, so I feel like Latino kind of identifies me as this mixture between both.” Ayala Valencia recognizes how elements of both Incan and European backgrounds shape his culture and his ancestry, and regardless of a complicated colonial past, he says he cannot deny their impact on his identity.

Living in a new place can be stressful, but having a supportive group to rely on can make the transition easier, Ayala Valencia explained: “When I’m feeling bad or I don’t feel like I’m fitting in some places here in the U.S., I know I have a group that will understand because they have similar background to mine.” He mentioned that there are many Latino-based clubs on campus, such as VIVA and Alianza, both of which are very willing to take in members from any background. “Having those people help you come out of your cocoon.”

Being an international student not only impacts your social life, but it can also have an impact upon your academic experience. “When it comes to film, interestingly enough,” Ayala Valencia explained, “my identity does have an impact [on my study area]. The South American film industry is pretty small, and many Ecuadorian filmmakers come to the U.S. to work. As a filmmaker, I’ve always had that idea of trying to create stories based on folk tales or legends from back home.” 

Ayala Valencia expressed his hope for the growth of South American film, saying, “For me, this is related to my subculture because I do want to apply that culture of mine, those traditions and stories that I’ve been told as a kid, to my films.” For Ayala Valencia, having the interview in the Hurvis Film Center had some significance, “I think the [Hurvis Film Center) studio represents that passion of me making films. It is important for my culture. It’s making films about my own culture [that] is something I’ve always wanted to do.” 

Ayala Valencia concluded by discussing how subcultures can bring perspective to the mainstream. As he said, “The most important thing my group has to offer, I think, is what any other cultural group here at Lawrence has to offer, and that is a new perspective. When you talk to someone who belongs to a different group, they have a different way of seeing things, they have this different point of view and I think that is something important we can give to the community.”

If you would like to represent your group, contact Dani Massey at