Dreams, Identity & Stories: Alejandra Evui Salmerón Ntutumu
Rootencial is delighted to introduce Alejandra Evui Salmerón Ntutumu, a telecommunications engineer born in Spain to an Equatorial-Guinean mother from Niefang and to Spanish father from Murcia. Alejandra also defines herself as a multidisciplinary engineer, or social engineer, due to her passion for social projects, charity, and empowering the community.
In this interview, Alejandra opens up about her childhood and her dreams which today have led her to create Potopoto, a project based in Murcia publishing stories rooted in African culture for children between five and nine years of age. Popoto’s stories seek to create diversity and representation in the books and stories that children read. This project also has a social impact through Afromurcia en movimiento, a non-profit association offering educational workshops on diversity.
I believe that my race and multicultural identity have made a positive mark on me because the Potopoto project was forged through that cultural heritage, multiculturalism, and racial identity. Through their curiosity, people have discovered that there is a country in Africa that has Spanish heritage.
Alejandra confesses to being a great dreamer. Beyond her passion for engineering and her dream to become an engineer, she has many other passions and dreams. Potopoto is just one of these dreams, rooted in her childhood and passion for writing and literature, and is a product of her experience growing up in Spain where children’s stories often lack representation and diversity.
Highlighting the context in which she was born and raised in Murcia in the 1980s, Alejandra explains how the lack of literary references around her helped to shape and define her desire to write different stories, based on the African stories that her mother had told her. Alejandra brings in characters from Fang fables, including “Etugu turtle” and “Nse the leopard“, evoking her African roots.
In 2015, Alejandra decided to bring these different stories to light. Potopoto brings together stories from her childhood, using images designed by the great illustrator Lydia Mba who works with Alejandra towards the same goal: “for all children to feel represented in children’s literature”. Lydia and Alejandra have joined forced to combat the lack of representation in children’s books, that was present when they were growing up and persists today.
Never stop dreaming and putting into practice the dreams you have, because that is what makes us feel alive
Alejandra emphasizes the importance of culture, noting that in many ways we are all multicultural. For this reason, culture represents the basis and common heritage of all humanity. Fables and stories serve as a cultural tool, presenting a great opportunity to use part of our cultural heritage to give value to multiculturalism. This can help to forge connections, create curiosity between cultures, give an opportunity for learning, and a means to increase the visibility of underrepresented communities.
Potopoto represents an innovative, creative, and empowering project. However, Alejandra, who has faced her own challenges, says that limited resources and funding was a major obstacle to developing Potopoto. Alejandra nevertheless firmly believes that if we follow our dreams with excitement and hope, and continue to search for opportunities, everything is possible. This obstacle of limited resources did not prevent her from reaching her goal, and, thanks to the small donations of many people, Potopoto has become an established publisher of children’s literature evoking Africa and African history. Alejandra is proud of this work, and says that she is very happy whenever parents contact her to express their gratitude for the contribution that these children’s books make to increase diversity.
Culture is the basis and common heritage of all humanity.
“Feed on your own enthusiasm” – Our smiling interviewee gives a clear message; that determination and hope can encourage us to believe that we can all create things that previously seemed impossible. Reflecting on this, Alejandra warns us that when we think our vision and dreams remain impossible to attain, we do not dedicate the time and effort required to make these dreams come true. Alejandra describes the importance of surrounding ourselves with people who transmit positive energy, and concludes with the following message: “You must keep your feet on the ground but, from time to time, you must allow yourself to fly”.