Culture

From Popup To Retail Store, These Two Business Partners Have Created A Space For Latino Brands

When Luis Octavio, 36, and Gladys Vasquez, 40, met in 2016 they thought of a crazy idea. Both were struggling vendors trying to make a name for themselves but could never find the right event to get their names out there. Octavio sold his line of embroidered hats and balloons, while Vasquez had her graphic design brand.

“When Luis asked me if there was an event solely dedicated to Latino vendors I said ‘No’ and then an idea dawned on us,” Vasquez said. “We asked ourselves, ‘Why isn’t there an event or space catered just for Latino vendors?.”

That crazy idea became a reality this month as both Octavio and Vaquez opened up Molcajete Dominguero Tienda, a retail space in Boyle Heights solely dedicated for Latino vendors to sell their products.

They wanted to create a space for Latino brands to promote and elevate themselves.

Photo by Javier Rojas

Octavio had a marketing background and Vasquez had some experience with accounting, so together they knew they could make this a reality. With
only $50 invested from each of them, Molcajete Dominguero Tienda started as a monthly pop-up event on Sundays in 2017. They would host vendors that would sell everything from Latino-inspired jewelry to concha themed pillows.

But everything didn’t start off so smoothly. Initially there was skepticism from vendors about how all this would work. Many didn’t know what to think of their idea of an all-Latino popup event and if their products would even sell.

“We reached out to probably 100 vendors and only 35 responded,” Vasquez said recalling their first popup at Self Help Graphics in Boyle Heights. “We didn’t really know what we were doing and didn’t know if a single person was gonna walk through that door.”

Those fears quickly left as they saw a forming line of about 30 people. By the end, they had well over 450 people attend their first popup event. “We couldn’t believe it and it was in that moment our hard work, in a way, felt validated,” Vasquez said.

Things only went up from there. Octavio and Vasquez began hosting monthly popups across Los Angeles and even in San Francisco. Their brand quickly grew on Instagram and realized they needed a permanent space for their business.

In just two years, they became the largest Latino popup in the country and now have a retail space dedicated to Latino brands.

Photo by Javier Rojas

The vision that Vasquez and Octavio had in 2016 has become a reality. From Selena pillows to Frida Kahlo fanny-packs, Molcajete Dominguero Tienda gives Latino vendors a space to showcase their brands. The name, Molcajete Dominguero, is a play on words from the traditional Mexican stone tool used to grind various food products. It is also a representation of the various vendors they bring together on Sundays at their popups.

Their current database has over 400 vendors from LA to San Francisco that either have their products sold at the store or at popups. Vendors typically pay $150 to have a space at a popup event and get promoted on their Instagram page.

“We feel like this is important to so many people that feel like they don’t see themselves when they go into big retailers,” Octavio said. “We want people to come in here and feel at home. Whether it’s the colorful wall murals, the fresh smell of Fabuloso or the familiar sound of Spanish music playing, we’re trying to create something special.”

Having the store in Boyle Heights is no coincidence. The largely Latino working class community has welcomed and embraced their business.

Photo by Javier Rojas

The location of the store in Boyle Heights has great meaning. Vasquez grew up in East LA and Octavio in Santa Ana, so both know the importance of having a business in a predominant Latino neighborhood. They say that many community members have welcomed them and have been getting regulars at the store already.

“This business is needed especially in a place like Boyle Heights where identity is important,” Octavio said. “These brands need a home and we feel like they found one here in East LA.”

Their grand opening this month was an indicator of their success as
well over 500 people showed up. Octavio said there was a line around the block and people waited almost two hours in the rain just to get in.

A local community artist has already left their mark at the store
with a mural of Mexican singer Maria Felix. There is already future plans to have two more artists paint murals outside the store. Octavio also hopes to host various workshops that will benefit the youth in the area as well. Earlier this year they hosted a Pinata making workshop and a Loteria night for the community.

“We need these spaces like this so we could feel apart of something. Tell me where you can find a pinata or a serape wall,” Octavio said. “People here in Boyle Heights now can go to a place where they can find Salvadorian, Puerto Rican or Mexican goods all in one.”

Having a brick and mortar store is just the first step of many to come.

Photo by Javier Rojas

The store has been a dream come true for Octavio and Vasquez that they say happened by just taking a risk on what they envisioned three years ago.

“Look we’re not the first to have a pop-up or a Latino-inspired one, however we are the first to think of this on a larger scale,” Octavio said. “The inspiration has always been to elevate our comunidad.”

The business partners say this is just the next step in what they envisioned for Molcajete Dominguero Tienda. They will soon be taking their popup to Chicago this year and hope to get some vendors hop on board from the East Coast. There has even been plans to have an online business with some vendor products but for now the store is their main focus.

Vasquez says the most humbling part about this entire journey has been building a relationship with vendors. “Getting to know about the people behind the brand and hearing their story makes this all worth it because we know how much this platform means to them as much as it does to us.”

It’s because of this sentiment that the store recently changed their tagline from “Where vendors grind together” to “Where brands grind together”. Octavio says this is more than just about one person, it’s about uplifting a community of people and seeing them all rise together.

“We’re not calling them vendors anymore. They’re brands and we’re trying to elevate them,” Octavio said. “Big box retailers we no longer need your space because we’re now creating our own.”

Molcajete Dominguero Tienda is located in 2195 Whittier Blvd. in Boyle Heights. 

READ: Patty Delgado Is Changing The World Of Latino Fashion With Her Own Store Hija De Tu Madre

This Twitter User Made $1000 On A Petty Tweet That Became A Business Venture

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This Twitter User Made $1000 On A Petty Tweet That Became A Business Venture

@isaiahgarnicia/ Instagram

Romance can be a rewarding experience if you happen to be lucky in love. Unfortunately, not all of us are so favored to journey through love without heartbreak. In a time when social media is the biggest way we communicate with the world, sites like Instagram and Twitter can provide bittersweet reminders of our romantic mishaps. Seeing happy reminders of the person who broke your heart is especially brutal. The only thing worse than stumbling on an ex’s selfie is the discovery that they have blocked you all together. 

It’s with this in mind, that one enterprising Latino Twitter user turned a tweet with a petty joke into a money-making scheme that is helping the lovelorn.

Twitter / @IsaiahGarnica

Isaiah Garnica, a Los Angeles-based songwriter, tweeted the business proposition from his personal Twitter account last week. For $5, Garnica offers to comment “yikes” under the selfies of his patrons’ exs. Within days, the tweet went viral; being retweeted 36K times and with over 186K likes.

The songwriter told Buzzfeed News that the inspiration for the tweet came from an incident at a songwriting session in West Hollywood.

“I dropped my phone from a roof and I was like, yikes. I have to replace it now. So, I’m scrolling Twitter on my laptop (yikes) and saw someone was selling feet pics. Which is honestly…not that uncommon. Millennials and Gen Z are kinky AF. I was like, well, I’m not gonna do that, but I WILL slap a yikes on your ex’s photo. For $5.”

What started more or less as a joke got lots of attention and the requests for Garnica’s service started rolling in.

Twitter / @IsaiahGarnica

According to Buzzfeed News, Garnica received so many requests that he had to set up a few guidelines for his new service. He asked for patrons to specify which selfie he should comment on. If none was chosen, he would just comment on the most recent one. For the few cases who didn’t have selfies on their account, Garnica explained that he would comment on whichever picture ” they seem too pleased with themselves.” He also offered to comment “eek” under selfies for a discount of $3.

The response was so incredible that Garnica told Buzzfeed News that he had more than 200 requests. That means that the songwriter was able to collect over $1000 on his petty venture.

Such a large response to his tweet came with tons of comments ⁠— both for and against the money making opportunity.

Twitter / @ChristineFox

With side hustles being a necessary way for Millennials and Gen Z to make money in our gig economy, many tweets had to give it up to Garnica and his ingenious grind. There are many more dangerous or illegal ways that people are forced to take part in to make money so we have to applaud his creativity. He saw a niche and he filled it and that’s the kind of capitalism we can get behind. 

Some Twitter users saw it as a waste of time to worry over someone who is an ex for obvious reasons. 

Twitter / @mo_lee_kuh

This Twitter user accused Garnica’s patrons of being “petty females” and suggested they “get over it.” For some, a break up isn’t so easy to put behind them and Garnica’s service offers some final closure for those people. It’s easy to call this behavior petty but it serves a purpose in a harmless way. Perhaps this Twitter user is just upset they didn’t think of this business plan first. We know we’re a little jealous over it. 

For those who are calling Garnica’s service “bullying,” the songwriter had a valid defense of his patrons’ requests.

Twitter / @IsaiahGarnica

A few have accused his service of being mean spirited but the Latino explained to Buzzfeed News that this was never the intention of his tweet.

“Some say it’s a bully service, but it’s really not. What I offer is closure,” Garnica added. “Especially when one is blocked. The yikes is sort of minuscule compared to the broken heart that is putting in the request when you think about it. They can delete the yikes. A broken heart — not so much.”

Garnica also shared with Buzzfeed News that he has had requests to comment, shame or insult these exes beyond “yikes” but he refuses these inquiries. His reasoning, “I believe in karma. This might be theirs.”

We can’t argue with that rational and have to applaud Garnica for his micro hustle. Whether you support his services or not, he explained to Buzzfeed News, “As long as the ticker on that tweet is ticking, I am making money.” We respect the hustle.  

This Comic Proves That The Great Debate On The Word ‘Latinx’ Rages On

Things That Matter

This Comic Proves That The Great Debate On The Word ‘Latinx’ Rages On

Terry Blas / Instagram

There is much debate about whether we should use Latino or Latinx. Languages tend to evolve over time, especially to account for changes in society. As the world becomes more tolerant it makes sense that we’d try to come up with a new word that includes the sprawling diversity, gender or otherwise, of Latin people. However, nothing last forever, and what was the standard one day might be yesterday’s news.

A recent comic by Mexican-American artist Terry Blas called “You Say Latinx,” has reignited the debate around Latinx vs. Latine. Blas decided to opt for using Latine, but as he notes in his comic, ultimately which word you choose to use is up to you. 

Why do some people use the word Latinx instead of Latino?

Spanish-language is gendered, with nouns ending in an “a” perceived as feminine, and nouns ending in an “o” regarded as masculine. As Raquel Reichard notes in Latina, the language is oft considered sexist with masculine nouns taking preference over feminine ones. Reichard gives the example of seven women being referred to as “Latinas” until a man shows up and suddenly it’s a group of “Latinos.” 

While some have tried to subvert the norm by using “a” instead of “o,” others noted that it simply isn’t inclusive enough. 

“But even these variations fall short, as they exclude the countless people of Latin American descent whose genders fall outside the woman-man binary—those identifying as agender (without a gender), nonbinary (beyond the traditional binary), or gender-fluid (fluctuating genders), among a spectrum of other identities,” Reichard writes.

Enter: Latinx. The term is a way of stripping away the sexism while also including all Latinxs. Added to the Meriam-Webster dictionary in 2018, it is defined as, “a gender-neutral term for Latin Americans, but it has been especially embraced by members of Latin LGBTQ communities as a word to identify themselves as people of Latin descent possessing a gender identity outside the male/female binary.”

However, there’s only one problem: how the heck do you say it? How the heck do you insert an “x” into a bunch of words in casual conversation? 

“The main issue is with flow. You have one term made gender-neutral, but the rest of Spanish’s conjugation isn’t. I try to stick to neutralizing words that refer to people but also am not personally pressed to change all of Spanish’s structure,” Jack Qu’emi Gutiérrez, a nonbinary femme author, told Latina

Illustrator Terry Blas chooses to us Latine instead of Latinx. 

In his comic “You Say Latinx,” Blas recounts how going to a drag show inspired him to start using Latine instead of Latinx. The reason was simple: it’s easier to apply, pronounce, and use. In the comic, he is disarmed by how seamlessly a drag queen on La Mas Drag used Latine and substituted an “e” anywhere an “o” or “a” would go. 

“Bienvenidos a todos,”  was changed to “bienvenides a todes.” Blas described the “e” as rolling off the tongue. 

“I find language, labels and terms interesting,” Blas told Remezcla. “Latinx is a term that I find fascinating and confusing, and I encountered people who didn’t know what it meant.”

Blas believes Latine and “e” are easier to implement into language than Latinx and the “x.”

“I would never tell anyone how to define themselves,” writes Blas in his comic. “Use whatever you like to be more inclusive. But I think I will use ‘e.’ Which means that for me Latinx just might become Latine.” 

How gendered-language hurts expectations for everyone. 

The reason many have opted to use Latinx instead of Latino, is similar to why we say postal worker instead of “mailman.” When we use gendered language it usually reveals what that culture thinks of that gender. Case in point, “mailman” implies we expect all postal workers to be men, which can make it harder for people besides men to get the job. On the flip side, we no longer call the role “stewardess” but rather that of a flight attendant, and that’s to include people besides women. 

Moreover, language doesn’t include the fact that not everyone identifies as a man or a woman, other identities exist and some of the people who have them are Latinx too.   

“When children hear a job title that has a gender mark on it, like an e-s-s ending or an m-a-n ending, and you ask them to draw pictures or talk about who’s doing that job, they will pick the one that matches the gender of the word,” Brigham Young University English professor Delys M. Snyder said. “If we’re going to be fair in opening up the world of work to men and women, and make it possible for everybody, maybe our job titles should reflect that.”

Thus, ridding away with gendered language can make society more equal for everybody involved.