Culture

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

Javier Rojas

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

Robert Clemente’s Jersey Number Hasn’t Been Retired But Latino Players Don’t Wear It Out Of Respect

Entertainment

Robert Clemente’s Jersey Number Hasn’t Been Retired But Latino Players Don’t Wear It Out Of Respect

davidsantos8416 / Instagram / Bacalao con Papa

Few players have gained the respect and iconic status in baseball like Roberto Clemente have. A 15-time All-Star, 12-time Gold Glove Award winner, two-time World Series champion for the Pittsburgh Pirates and a member of the 3,000-hit club, Clemente has a resume that few can match. Unfortunately, Clemente died in a plane crash on Dec. 31, 1972, while helping with earthquake relief from his home of Puerto Rico to Nicaragua. A year later he became the first player from Latin America inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. These reasons alone have made Clemente a legend to so many Latino baseball players. It’s also why so many have refused to ever put on his No. 21 ever again out of respect to Clemente.

Jackie Robinson’s No. 42 is the only jersey number retired across baseball, but many Latino players want Clemente’s jersey to get the same honor.

As well as being great on the field, Clemente was an even better person off of it. He was a huge advocate for Latino players and fought against Jim Crow laws during his era. That advocacy is not lost on players today.

This is why the No. 21 has become, in many ways, a “sacred number” in baseball, especially to Puerto Rican players. According to Baseball Reference, out of the 235 Puerto Rico-born players who have appeared in an MLB game since Clemente’s death 47 years ago, only 16 have used the No. 21 — and none in the past five years.

While Jackie Robinson’s No. 42 is retired and celebrated every April 15th, many think the same should happen with Clemente. Coincidentally, Clemente debuted just two days after Robinson did on April 17, 1955.

“His body of work speaks volumes, so I do think that, as Jackie Robinson represents greatness in baseball and so much more, so does Roberto Clemente, particularly for Latinos all over the world,” Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo A. Rosselló said at an event last year honoring Clemente. “So I think it’s the right time to retire No. 21.”

While it’s been more 40 years since Clemente’s death, many feel now is a great time to honor him.

Latinos have become a growing force in the major leagues and now make up 30 percent of all baseball players. With this growing presence, many feel now is the right time to make Clemente’s jersey retire across baseball.

Despite multiple campaigns and calls for the retirement of the number, there has been little change on the subject. Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred has resisted the idea of retiring the number. He says the league already honors his legacy with the Roberto Clemente Award, given annually to a player who demonstrates the values that Clemente displayed in his community.

While the No. 21 may not be officially retired, Latino baseball players have in their own special way.

While the Pirates are the only team to have officially retired Clemente’s jersey number, players have chosen to honor him in a different way: by choosing not to wear it all together.

Luis Clemente, the son of Roberto Clemente, has a different idea on honoring his father. He has called for not only a number retirement but a patch on the jersey or hat to be worn by the previous year’s Clemente Award winner. While he hasn’t had official talks with MLB about the proposal, there’s no doubt it would receive support among many Latino players.

“No Puerto Ricans will use the number because of Roberto Clemente,” Houston Astros shortstop, Carlos Correa, 24, told the New York Times. “The way I see it: Roberto Clemente is a figure for Latinos just like Jackie Robinson was for African-Americans. Clemente didn’t just break barriers but inspired other Latinos to get into baseball.”

READ: Trump Put A Stop To The MLB And Cuban Baseball Federation Deal And Here’s Why It Matters

Mexico Is Becoming A Major Source Of Talent And Production For Netflix

Entertainment

Mexico Is Becoming A Major Source Of Talent And Production For Netflix

narcos / romacuaron / Instagram

Mexico has long been a source for original stories and great talent when it comes to film and television. The country has also long exported some of best minds behind the camera, five out of six of the last best director Oscars have gone to Mexican filmmakers Alfonos Cuarón, Alejando Iñárritu and Guillermo del Toro. That’s why it’s no surprise streaming giant Netflix is increasing production in Mexico with more than 50 projects in different stages of production over the next two years. With award-winning projects like “Roma” and fan favorite series like “Narcos: Mexico,” Netflix is just tapping into the emerging talent and stories that Mexico has to offer.

While there has been streaming services prior to offer Spanish content, none have the reach and audience like Netflix.

With the expansion and investment in Mexico, Netflix is ushering in a new era for filmmakers, actors and a global audience that will get to view the work. The incoming projects include five new projects, a musical inspired by the music of Pedro Infante, a series of documentaries about the U.S.-Mexico border executive produced by Gael García Bernal, American Jesus, based on a comic by Mark Millar and a anticipated series about Selena. The increase in production is noticeable. As of 2017, only seven Netflix productions were made in Mexico.

“The richness of talent in front of and behind the camera in Mexico was key in our decision to begin our local production strategy four years ago,” Netflix Chief Executive Ted Sarandos said at a publicity event in Mexico City last month.

Netlfix is planning to open a new office in Mexico City to help increase production there.

The expansion to film and produce in Mexico comes natural for Netflix. It was the place where it first started producing non-English original programming when it expanded internationally to Latin America in 2011.

The numbers also show that international expansion is the way to go for the streaming service. More than half of Netflix’s audience is now international, and international subscriptions are growing faster than domestically. In the last quarter of 2018, Netflix added 1.5 million U.S. subscribers and 7.3 million international subscribers — a record increase. Netflix executives declined to release the number of subscribers it currently has in Mexico.

It’s also benefited those living in Mexico by providing job opportunities.
Over 100,000 Mexicans have already worked on Netflix Originals and this will only increase in the coming years.

Lenard Liberman, the CEO of LBI Media, the parent company to Burbank-based, Spanish-language EstrellaTV Networks says the combination of Netflix and Mexico is good sign for consumers.

“The fact that you have a Netflix now and you have independent producers producing, it’s created more diversity and more interesting formats,”
Liberman told The Hollywood Reporter. “Where it used to just be novella novella novella, the fact that there are so many platforms now looking for great content means that there’s a lot of people being creative.

Netflix is giving Mexico a platform to tell it’s stories and give actors from the region a chance to be exposed to a huge audience.

What made productions like “Roma” and “Narcos: Mexico” so successful was the authenticity it provided viewers. Part of that authenticity comes from the on-site location filming that Mexico brings.

The focus on production in the country has also exposed millions to stories and actors who audiences might have never been to introduced to. Erik Barmack, who recently left Netflix to start his own production company after serving as the vice president for international originals, says no matter where the production is filmed or where a story comes from, audiences will always love great content.

“People from around the world are used to watching things subtitled and dubbed — they’re just looking for stories,” Barmack told the LA Times. “They’re not thinking, what’s coming from the U.S. They’re just asking, ‘How do I find the most interesting things from around the world?’”

READ: Once Again, A Study Shows Latinos Continue To Lack Representation In Hollywood

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