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If You Remember The Homies Toys, Their Story Is Even Better

In the late ’90s, Homies toys became a hit seemingly out of nowhere. Kids went from collecting fake jewelry and those little green soldier toys to collecting figurines inspired by Los Angeles lowrider culture. What began as the creator’s teenage passion art project turned into a major company that brought attention (and criticism) to a culture that was often overlooked.

Remember these vending machines? They were often stocked with gumballs, fake jewelry, temporary tattoos and sometimes, Homies figurines.

Credit: Homies / Facebook

If Homies sound familar, you might recognize these little dudes.

Credit: tuesdaymoon94553 / Twenty20

These little homies toys made their debut in the late 1990s and they definitely left their mark on Chicano culture. You may have pulled out a quarter (or begged your parents for one) to get a figurine from the vending machine.


They were created by artist David Gonzales. His inspiration for Homies? His homies.

Credit: Homies / Facebook

Homies were born out of Gonzales’ own love of creating art. At 16, Gonzales started to capture the people of his neighborhood of Richmond, CA where, as Gonzales recalls, every kid in the neighborhood wanted a lowrider for their first car. His first drawings were inspired by his own homies and his first goal was just to have fun with his friends.

“[I] wanted to make my own homies laugh,” Gonzales told mitĂș. “When they saw the sketch I did of them… it was instant laughter.”


But it was more than just his friends that inspired his art. Gonzales fell in love with lowrider culture as a teen and he says that that too impacted his art.

Credit: Homies / Facebook

While at a dance as a teen, he witnessed the power and love of lowrider culture.

“I saw a ’75 creme-colored Caprice Classic cruising in front of the hall with only its parking lights on. The whole crowd of homies hanging out front stopped to stare and whistle at it,” Gonzales recalls. “It was slammed to the ground and was one of the prettiest things I had ever seen. I fell in love with lowriders and lowriding culture that night.”


Gonzales was only 16 when he created the seed of Homies figurines: the Chicano comic strip “Mr. Hollywood.”

Credit: Homies / Facebook

The comic strip was the start of the homies toys franchise. At the beginning, Gonzales said he never based his characters off just one person. What he did was he took personalities, styles and names from his homies and mixed and matched to create his characters. Still, the comics were more about just having fun and expressing his culture than reaching for a specific goal.

“No goals except to make my homies laugh and to finish a strip,” Gonzales told mitĂș about his initial purpose of creating Homies at 16 years old. “I was really slow drawing and spent much of my free time partying. I had no idea what I was creating would be my life’s legacy.”


As Gonzales grew older, he found a full-time job utilizing his art skills…for the U.S. Postal Service.

Credit: Homies / Facebook

“Only full-time job I had before I began drawing Homies for a living was I was a U.S. Postal Service employee,” Gonzales recalled. “I started as a clerk there and eventually became a full-time illustrator before leaving to start my first T-shirt company with Homies as my anchor brand.”


Before the figurines, Homies was focused on art and t-shirts.

Credit: Homies / Facebook

Though this was the way Homies first entered the world, it wasn’t long until the business stalled and needed a transformation.

Credit: Homies / Facebook

“When the run with the Homies T-shirt line ended, before we began selling toys, and I was very close to having my company fall into bankruptcy,” Gonzales told mitĂș. “We overcame it by perseverance, hard work and good fortune.”


Even though Gonzales almost lost the Homies company to bankruptcy, he kept fighting to keep it afloat.

Credit: Erick Parra

^^ Words to live by.


Gonzales eventually hooked up with a vending machine company which tried out Homies toys as a “gimmick.” The gimmick? Homies were originally sold as parachute men in vending machines.

Credit: Homies / Facebook

That’s right. Instead of green plastic soldiers, they used Homies toys. And people loved ’em. “The marketplace went nuts as they bought the parachute toys to collect the figurines attached,” Gonzales told mitĂș.


However, while most people were hyped about the release of Homies toys, others criticized the toy line.

Credit: Homies / Facebook

“It hurt, and I probably took it too seriously,” Gonzales told mitĂș about the criticism and backlash he received from releasing the toy line. Gonzales felt like his toys were unfairly criticized for perpetuating stereotypes. He says he was only trying to reflect the culture he grew up with: “I felt we were misunderstood as a culture. Not Mexican, not American, not Texan, not anything but California Chicanos into lowriding. Yes, gangs were part of the barrios we came from, but we were not all gangbangers. Our dress was our lifestyle, and our cars were also.”


MitĂș asked Gonzales how he has seen the perception of his brand change over time and this is what he had to say:

Credit: Erick Parra

Yet, despite the previous criticism, Homies will be relaunching in the near future. Gonzales knows that his brand is more recognized by an older generation, but that’s okay.

Credit: Homies / Facebook

“I feel confident that the older kids… from 15 to 60, will gravitate to the relaunched Homies toys as it will take them back to a happy place in their lives,” Gonzales told mitĂș about his hopes for the relaunch. “Where they collected the Homies toys from vending machines.”


READ: This Janitor Started From The Bottom
 And Then, He Invented Hot Cheetos

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Latinos Are Running More Businesses Than Ever, But They’re Still More Likely to Be Denied Funding By Big Banks

Things That Matter

Latinos Are Running More Businesses Than Ever, But They’re Still More Likely to Be Denied Funding By Big Banks

Photo via Getty Images

The United States Latino population is steadily growing and with that, the demographics are shifting. More and more Latinos are becoming the first ones in their family to go to college, enter the white collar workforce, and increasingly, open up their own businesses.

And while all this change feels like progress, it also comes with its own set of hurdles.

A new study showed that Latino-owned business are significantly less likely to be approved for loans, despite surpassing the national revenue growth average.

Latino-owned businesses are skyrocketing, but banks still don’t want to finance them. “Latino [business] revenue growth should be a key metric in helping them gain capital, but they continue to fall short,” said Stanford research analyst Marlene Orozco to NBC.

The study, conducted by the Stanford Latino Entrepreneurship Initiative, found that 50% of white business-owners who applied for a loan of $100,000 over the last five years were approved. In contrast, only 20% of Latino business-owners were approved.

Unfortunately, this phenomenon extended to federal COVID-19 relief, like the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). PPP was meant to help small businesses who were negatively impacted by the pandemic.

The thing is, the federal government ultimately relied on traditional, large banks to approve or deny applicants.

Latinos and Black people were denied COVID-19 Paycheck Protection Program loans at significantly higher rates than their white peers.

Even when successful entrepreneurs like Los Angeles-based restaurateur David Favela applied for a PPP loan, he was denied on the basis of not being “bankable”. Favela is the owner of three successful restaurants and breweries in California as well as being a 2020 James Beard Award finalist.

He was denied a PPP loan because he hadn’t funded his businesses with “traditional” capital (i.e. a loan from a big bank). When he started his business in 2013, he relied on his own savings as well as funds from family members.

But this type of financing is common among people of color. POC often rely on family members and/or crowdsourcing to kickstart their businesses. Unfortunately, big banks look down on that sort of non-traditional funding.

Traditional banks are more likely to approve applicants they have preexisting relationships with.

And people of color are less likely to have established relationships with large banks because, well, they don’t trust them. And arguably, for good reason. So, the plight of small business-owners of color becomes a vicious and endless cycle.

“Latinos are making strides in starting businesses and growing,” said Orozco. “Despite these trends, securing financing remains a challenge.”

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These Terrariums And Fairy Gardens Are A Lil’ Homies Dream Come True

Culture

These Terrariums And Fairy Gardens Are A Lil’ Homies Dream Come True

Lil’ Homies are one toy that we all remember. They little figurines were so much more to us than little toys that we got from toy vending machines. Adrian Ortiz is using them to create something magical and giving people a non-Eurocentric take on terrariums.

Adrian Ortiz is giving Lil’ Homies their own terrariums in which to flourish.

Ortiz understands the cultural importance of Lil’ Homies because it was one of the first times he saw himself represented, like so many of us. The toys were a welcomed moment of representation for Ortiz after spending so many years seeing so many white narratives in the media and toys.

“I started making terrariums with Lil’ Homies in them as the figures because I noticed how traditional fairy gardens were always representing white/European figures,” Ortiz told mitĂș. “I thought about how perfect they were in size. I wanted to dedicate my art page to the idea of people of color existing and participating in nature.”

Ortiz feels supported from his followers as well as his boyfriend. His art has been a welcomed breath of culturally relevant plant art in people’s social media feeds.

The ongoing pandemic gave Ortiz a chance to dive deeper into a hobby he already had: plants.

“I have always been into plants and nature since I was a kid and I began making terrariums and fairy gardens in the past year to deal with the pandemic like so many others,” Ortiz says. “There is something super special about making miniature tiny living worlds. I wanted to make fairy gardens but I ended up with something halfway between terrariums and fairy gardens but with cholos. So I created the ‘Brown People Indoor Miniature Gardening TikTok’ series on my tik tok account.”

Ortiz’s TikTok account, aptly named @botanical_homie, has more than 7,000 followers showing that people are really into the idea of Lil’ Homies living their fairy garden dreams.

The terrariums are another chance for people of color to be represented in the world.

Ortiz was in an arts school for middle and high school. In that time, the school fostered an understanding of racial injustices and introduced Ortiz to the concept of artivism, art as activism. It was, according to Ortiz, a moment when he realized that he wanted to dedicate his art to BIPOC.

“I grew up and live in Colorado and have seen the lack of access BIPOC have to outdoor activities like hiking and mountain climbing,” Ortiz explains. “These are white-dominated sports and activities that some POC never get to experience. I want to create a world where we can be anything and do everything, even if it’s miniature. A utopia for us to take back what is also ours.”

Ortiz is making the terrariums for everyone, even people who struggle to take care of plants.

Covid quarantining has forced so many people to think they make perfect plant parents. Yet, taking care of plants is something that doesn’t com naturally. Ortiz had to spend time trying to figure out what plants are the best for everyone.

“Part of my challenge in creating these terrariums has been figuring out what kind of plants people can keep alive. They all have different requirements so getting plants should always depend on your space and lighting,” Ortiz says. “I come from the generation of YouTube so I always say do research, it’s part of the fun. The biggest thing about having plants that people don’t realize is that you just have to pay attention to them, often. But again it depends, some plants are indestructible.”

Ortiz is happy to be able to create this art and hopes to make them more accessible.

“If you want to support me and my art work you can contact me via Instagram about commissions,” Ortiz says. “Shipping these pieces is not easy or ideal so I appreciate everyone’s patience as I learn and evolve. My goal is to work on larger installations and I’ll be putting out DIY kits in the near future.”

READ: If You Call Yourself A Frida Kahlo Fan Then You Should Be Following These Five Artists

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