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VA Caribbean Healthcare System


A Creative Journey for Wellness

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11 women Veterans received certificates for their outstanding contributions in the Women's Clinic Art Exposition 2018. They were recognized for their artistic talents that demonstrated a creative imagination of healing through art.

By Marizol Ruiz, Public Affairs Specialist
Tuesday, September 18, 2018

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- Women Veteran artistic talents were showcased in an art exposition, when the VA Caribbean Healthcare System (VACHS) Women’s Health Clinic celebrated its 10th year anniversary on Aug 17, 2018.

The exposition, displaying an array of arts and crafts created by 11 women Veterans from Puerto Rico, demonstrated an expression of healing through art.

The initiative brought by both active and retired women Veterans, proved that art can be used as an encouraging medium for therapeutic practice.

The purpose was to bring women Veterans to be recognized not only for their creative talents, but bring awareness of the internal and external struggles they continiously cope with as veterans, just like their male  peers are known for.

Channeling their physical and emotional injuries from military service, empowers them to use their skills and imagination to create art.

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Army Veteran Doraliza Velez, exhibited colorful acrylic paintings on canvas, which expressed the colors of the tropical countryside of her hometown in Utuado. Her theme is a peaceful and happy state, captured within the warm simple harmonies of a family life, amongst the serenity of the mountains and rivers.

“We have seen here, that a lot of women use art as an instrument to help with their conditions,” said Agnus Santiago-Cotto, Women Veteran’s Program Manager, VACHS. “Veterans who are diagnosed with depression, cancer or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), do art and crafts to help them in their recovery process towards wellness.”

Bringing their military experience into a therapeutic practice of transforming their senses, body, and mind, helps to expose those extraordinary artistic talents.

“Their art is based on their own experiences because they all have different meanings with their creativity,” said Santiago. “In the paintings and sculptures, you can see the conditions that they are coping with and you can see the positive aspects reflected in their art of where they want to be. In the imagery you can also feel and interpret how they see themselves as beings within the civilian culture.”

The process of being able to engage with other women Veterans facing the same adversities and challenges, brings a bonding of wellness that in due course, enhances the quality of their lives.

Nancy Aviles Tirado, who served in the US Army from 1986 to 1994 says that her sculpture, painting and mosaic art is healing her from PTSD and other physical conditions.


Nancy Aviles Tirado, who served in the US Army from 1986 to 1994 displays an array of sculptures, painting and mosaic art. Her theme is recognized as “Healing through Art”.

She has participated in other art projects within the hospital and continuously advocates to other women Veterans, how she is truly blessed to be a recipient of that therapeutic approach of healing through art.

“It is a great opportunity for woman Veterans to share a space and have something to be a part of together, where we can express our pain, fear, and hope,” said Aviles. “It gives us the freedom to express to male Veterans that we are here too, and that we are healing.

The Women’s Clinic has given the opportunity for women Veterans to have a place and a voice. It has given them the chance to bring to the table their pain and difficulties, because even though they are a minority within the Veteran population, they deserve the same as men.

The VA is continuously increasing awareness of women as Veterans and is exposing male Veterans to the unique needs of their women peers.

It is helping women to come out, and express openly that they have deep wounds too, and that they can overcome their fears through the practice of artistic expression.

Ultimately, it makes them completely welcomed as a Veteran in the VA population, and it truly mirrors that female and male Veterans are unique, but similar in many ways when it comes to experiences that were etched into their lives by serving in the military for their country.


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