Some people collect souvenirs when they travel; I collect tattoos. When I first arrived in Puerto Rico it was a mission of mine to get a tattoo to take home with me. After settling into the island for a few days I started to look into which tattoo artists in Puerto Rico would be best for me. I was looking for a neo-traditional artist with nice heavy blackwork to do a grim reaper tattoo on my thigh, which lead me to Caguama Tattoo.
I quickly learned that the tattoo culture in Puerto Rico – much like LA where I live – is engrained in the identity of the island. There were tattoo shops on almost every block, even off the sides of highways in rural areas were vibrant eye-catching tattoo shops, such as Delicious Tattoo right off of the #2 highway in Manati, on the north side of the island.
With the diversity in tattoo styles in PR ranging from neo-traditional to bold blackwork, I quickly discovered that one of my favorite styles was micro-realism – a style using gradual layering to achieve photographic detail that has been embraced by Zuh Cordero. So I spent the next few months poking my head into shops, participating in online forums, and just talking with the community around me to create a collection of my favorite and most unique tattoo artists in Puerto Rico.
Estela Marina Lopez Rosado (Caguama)
IG Handle: @Caguama.tattoo
Tattoo Style: Traditional/Neo-Traditional
Shop/Location: Tradiciones Tattoo
About The Artist
I started as a self-taught tattoo artist in a room of my house, like many.
In the beginning, I’d spend hours watching videos, practicing with plantains, fake skin, and eventually, with the human canvas. Little by little I started getting better gear, which translated into better lines, therefore, better tats. During this time, I had just finished my Bachelors of Arts in painting and starting a masters in Cultural Administration. Then, Hurricane Maria happened, and I decided to stop pursuing graduate school, to dedicate myself to my new passion: tattoo art.
At first, it was difficult to find an appropriate place to work, because of all of the damage from the storm, we had electricity issues all around the island- in some places, it took more than a year to restore power. Nevertheless, it’s still impressive the number of people that were willing to get tattooed during the aftermath of a natural catastrophe. Thus, I feel like events that have a deep impact on us, typically lead us to find ways to heal them or perpetuate them, in some way or another.
After a couple of months, I set up a private studio in my house, where I worked during the consequent months until I found my first opportunity in a professional tattoo shop. There I worked for a little over a year, as an apprentice, bettering my technique, learning more about my gear, hygiene, and the local tattoo industry.
In 2019, I did my first guest spot abroad, a goal I had since I started. I worked in Black & Blue in San Francisco, CA, for three months, which ended up being a great experience for me in a lot of ways, mainly getting to feel the satisfaction of practicing my art in a different part of the globe.
IG Handle: @joeycreepxide
Tattoo Style: As far as style goes, I try to dabble a bit in different styles whenever the opportunity arises. Versatility is a goal for me.
Shop/Location: Color Conspiracy Tattoo Gallery
About The Artist
Tattooing for me wasn’t in the plans or an option back in college. I really had no clear path for the future, a dear friend of mine took a chance on me and set me up for an apprenticeship; it’s been 11 years and I haven’t looked back since. As far as inspiration goes, I think uncertainty is one of them. I usually don’t have a clear idea on most works I approach, making the process interesting and unpredictable at times, going back and forth with a client exchanging ideas at high speed; it’s one of the things I enjoy most about tattooing.
IG Handle: @zuhcordero and @zcordero
Tattoo Style: Micro realism/illustration.
Shop/Location: Omphvlos Tattoo – 5C Marginal Costa De Oro Local #6, Dorado, Puerto Rico.
About The Artist
(Puerto Rico 1993) I am a multidisciplinary artist, focused on the art of tattooing, fine arts, and attracted to the exploration of body movement, as a form of social liberation.
Tattooing was always a topic of interest for me since childhood, but my practice started two years before I graduated from “Escuela de Artes Plásticas y Diseño de Puerto Rico” in 2017, where I completed my BFA in graphic designs.
Right after graduation, I formally started my tattoo apprenticeship with artist Saree Gonzalez, founder and owner of Omphvlos Tattoo Studio, where I currently work as a tattoo artist in Puerto Rico. I’ve focused my work and fine art through her love and passion for the linework designs. Inspired by Wassily Kandinsky, she considers the “line” a very important element in every representation, due to its various forms of use; for me, the line forms up everything that makes and surrounds us.
In early 2017 I started exploring with another line form; the art of pole dance. Three years have passed and I’ve continued to learn and expose myself to the public every now and then in the act of performance. In those years, I got the chance to participate in the collaborative project “FemTrap” with SoFia Maldonado, which was inspired by Latina female rappers and creative collaborations with other women artists. For me, pole dance is just another way of keeping on a path of seeking knowledge, growth, and self-fulfillment.
Zuh is tattooing almost every day, paints, and dances when she isn’t doing any of the other already mentioned skills, and will continue her search for more.
Karena (Kau) Taveras
IG Handle: @kau.tvrs
Tattoo Style: Contemporary
Shop/Location: Calle Loiza, San Juan
About The Artist
My job is to empower and normalize the nudity of women in order to stop sexualization and show the diversity of bodies. I am inspired by the nature and courage of the injustices that women have to endure in this patriarchal world. I am a Puerto Rican muralist and I have been tattooing for 2 years thanks to the demand of people who wanted to tattoo my art. Subjects that I like to tattoo are: botanicals, girls, goddesses, nymphs, witchcraft, and architecture. At the moment I am exploring the medium and growing while learning new techniques.
IG Handle: @an.echo
Tattoo Style: Blackworker
Shop/Location: 1711 Tattoo Studio
About The Artist
I started this journey almost four years ago and fell in love ever since. Growing up around multiple artists and tattooed people, always being fascinated by how people would go under pain to keep a piece of art forever on them seemed so interesting to me, as most of my personal art comes out as an outlet of my thoughts or feelings, even if they’re not all that bad. Music and literature are my base, but I think my inspiration comes more directly from conversations and discussions, somehow making them visual.
Other than tattooing, I’m really into botany and cooking (a lot). There’s a lot of me that stays throughout the years, ever-changing, always growing, willing to learn, and expressing in however language comes my way (that) makes me feel me.
When we can begin to travel safely again be sure to plan a trip and get tatted by these amazing tattoo artists in Puerto Rico, and if you are local you already know what to do!
Writer & Photographer: Gustavo Oliver