Daniela Santamarina

By Daniel Rojas

University of Miami graduate Daniela Santamarina has always been curious about the world around her. Even as a kid, she would always bug those around her with questions.

“My parents would get annoyed because I always asked, ‘Why?’ They always said I was going to be a journalist,” Santamarina recalled.

Her parents proved to be correct. Santamarina graduated from the University of Miami in 2012 with a double major in visual journalism and studio art. Once she finished college, however, she wasn’t quite sure about what to do.

“I just knew I needed to find a job,” Santamarina said. “Even my cap read ‘Job Wanted’ with a little photo camera made with shiny beads.”

National Geographic may not have seen the shiny beads, but they took notice of her portfolio.

“I was very lucky,” she said.

Santamarina has worked for National Geographic for two and a half years as a junior graphics editor. She works with fellow graphic editors and cartographers to create infographics. Although hers is an entry-level job, Santamarina said she finds joy in her work.

“I absolutely love it,” Santamarina said. “It not only involves journalism, but art and visualization to try to explain to others what words or pictures can’t.”

Venezuelan-born Santamarina left her home country when she was 17 years old after her mother was offered a better job in Seattle.

“I went to high school there for senior year,” Santamarina said. “I knew very basic English. I think the hardest part of moving was breaking the language barrier.”

It was not until Santamarina took private language classes with a tutor in Seattle that her English improved. But the challenges in the classroom persisted.

“I could understand what the conversation was about,” Santamarina said. “I had a thought in my mind, think how to say it in English but, by the time I was able to speak, the conversation had moved on.”

One of her instructors just thought she was shy.

“She was very quiet,” University of Miami professor Carl Stano recalled. “It’s great to see that she opened up”.

On Sept. 30th, 2011, when Santamarina was a senior at UM, her family received life-changing news. Her brother, a promising young athlete on a golfing scholarship to Mount Olive University, had been in a car accident in North Carolina that left him unable to walk.

“It was very hard times for my family and, more than anybody, for my brother,” Santamarina recalled. “Still is.”

Oscar Santamarina, 24, now lives with Daniela in Washington, D.C. As he recovered from the accident, one of the first things he drew on a paper were the words  “strength, energy and faith,” graffiti style.

Daniela Santamarina chose those words for the title of a video she made for one of her classes. It tells the story of her brother’s determination to recover from his incapacitating injury

Nowadays, Santamarina is a professional graphics assistant by day and a caring sister to her disabled brother by night. Although her family is scattered across the globe, she dreams of having her family live all under one roof.

“Someday, we’ll be all living near each other and have Sunday lunches,” Santamarina said. “I’m just hoping for it!”