Miguel Criado was born on February 1, 1965, in Hato Rey, Puerto Rico. As an infant, Miguel’s family moved to Ponce during a time of economic turmoil. Miguel’s father, who suffered from vision issues, wished for Miguel to become an eye doctor, and Miguel had to hide his passion for art due to his father’s disapproval. Whenever Miguel got bad grades at school or was caught making art, he was often sent to his grandmother’s farm as a form of punishment. However, he secretly enjoyed being surrounded by animals and nature. In his adolescence, Miguel struggled with his religious beliefs and the realization of his attraction to people of the same sex. Growing up gay in Puerto Rico forced Miguel to live a double life, with most people assuming he was someone he wasn’t.
He attended college in San Juan at the age of 16 and after three years transferred to Massachusetts College of Art, where he discovered a love for glassblowing, but his father disapproved and threatened to bring Miguel back to Puerto Rico from Boston. Miguel also learned he may have contracted HIV from one of the many blood transfusions used during a surgery he received in Puerto Rico. At the age of 21, after a lot of alcohol and cocaine, Miguel attempted suicide by jumping from a fifth floor, but survived with severe injuries. He spent six months in the hospital, had his left leg amputated, and faced numerous challenges in completing his degree. The bones in his remaining right leg were crushed, and Miguel was in pain for the next twenty-five years.
In his late 20s and early 30s, Miguel focused on sculpture, creating clay figurines of carnival figures and souvenirs in Puerto Rico. He later worked in a museum in Boston and eventually moved to Miami. His father informed him about an opportunity to work in Serralles Castle Museum in Puerto Rico, which led him to return briefly before moving to Florida to fulfill his dream of working for Disney.
After developing meningitis in 2001, Miguel visited the doctor for tests, confirming that he had contracted HIV. He eventually moved to California, where he underwent a life-changing voluntary amputation of his remaining leg, liberating him from decades of pain.
Miguel’s love for travel has taken him all over the world, from climbing pyramids to riding through the jungle. He lived briefly in Mexico City, where he was part of the Zona Rosa Art Walk and studied Baroque statuary restoration; in Long Beach to work with inner city youth; in San Diego, where he helped create a Latino Services department at the LGBT Center; and in Joshua Tree, where he had his own multidisciplinary art studio. He eventually moved to Palm Springs because it looked so much like Puerto Rico in the sixties, and is now a a showing member of the Desert Art Center.
His experiences have shaped Miguel into a resilient individual, inspired by figures like Walt Disney and Superman. He has created numerous large-scale public artworks, from murals to installations to the interior of a church dome. Miguel takes solace in spirituality, identifying as a Buddhist. Despite the exhaustion that often accompanies navigating the world with a disability, he finds peace by taking life “one day at a time.”