It is important to make sure children know that the world is full of different cultures.
Zoe Saldana sat down with some pretty incredible and insightful Internet famous women to talk about growing up multicultural and raising children in a multicultural environment. YouTubers Roxy Limon and Shanna Malcolm joined the Puerto Rican-Dominican-American at the roundtable to offer their own personal experiences about thriving in a world with several different cultures. They discussed their upbringings and how the richness and sometimes even the lack of diversity had an impact on joining the “real world.” Some experienced super diverse childhoods where they heard several different languages and were exposed to different cultures while some only saw the world as black and white.
“My husband is an immigrant. I’m a first generation,” Saldana said in the video. “It is a necessity for us to raise our children with our goods so that they can communicate with their grandparents, but also so they can create come kind of empathy for human beings who do not look like them and do not sound like them and do not smell like them.”
Jesus Ruvalcaba was an artist looking for more creative freedom in his life. Even after getting a job as an art director at eBay and Hewlett-Packard in Silicon Valley, the then 36-year-old felt complacent. It was a stop at a grocery store when he went to buy his mother a birthday card that a light bulb flashed in his head.
“I looked at all these cards but couldn’t find something that resonated with my Latino culture,” Ruvalcaba said. “I felt that an entire population group was being ignored.”
That night planted the seeds of what would eventually become Paper Tacos, a greeting card business focusing on Mexican culture and traditions. From get well soon messages that read “sana sana colita de rana” ((heal, heal little frog) to birthday cards that read “sapo verde,” Ruvalcaba had tapped into a demographic that wasn’t typically represented in the greeting card business.
“I knew I wasn’t the only one who felt like this,” he said. “This was more than just about a greeting card but seeing my culture being seen.”
Ruvalcaba, the son of two Mexican immigrants, got most of his inspiration growing up in the Central Valley fields of California. He worked alongside his parents in the isolated artichoke fields where he learned to draw.
Ruvalcaba knew he wanted to be an artist at a young age and says growing up he would usually be found carrying around a sketchbook full of drawings. He didn’t grow up with much as his parents were Mexican immigrants who worked tirelessly as fieldworkers in the central California valley in cities like Castroville and later in Salinas.
“My parents didn’t really know a lick of English so my drawings did a lot of the talking for me,” he says. “We didn’t have much growing up but they would buy me art supplies and always encouraged me to keep drawing.”
Those drawings would pave the way for a career in animation as Ruvalcaba became the first in his family to graduate college obtained a degree in graphic design at California State University Monterey Bay and eventually his Master’s degree. Shortly after, he would find himself in Silicon Valley working for companies like eBay and Hewlett-Packard as an art director.
Ruvalcaba knew he could still do more with his talents. After attending a Dia de los Muertos art event in 2016, he met another artist selling Spanish prints with Mexican slogans. He was then reminded of that night at the market when he couldn’t find a Spanish greeting card for his mom.
“It hit me right there and then that if I could come up with greeting cards that have Mexican sayings like “sana sana colita de rana,” I could tap into a market that was never really acknowledged prior.” Ruvalcaba said.
After receiving encouragement from his girlfriend, Ruvalcaba put his illustration skills and graphic design experience to work as he produced his first set of 15 cards for 300 dollars. In Fall 2017, Paper Tacos became a reality.
About a year after the idea of Paper Tacos first came up, Ruvalcaba attended the same art festival from the year prior and sold his first greeting card for $5 apiece. The response to the cards was immediate and customers told Ruvalcaba about what it meant to see their culture on a product like this.
“It felt like my idea was validated in a way and seeing everyone respond so positively to Paper Tacos was just the cherry on top,” said Ruvalcaba. “From there it only got even bigger.”
In the following months of 2017, Paper Tacos made its launch and by the end of 2017, he had made $2,000 within just three months of launching his site. In 2018, he had made over $12,000 in sales and today has over 20K followers on Instagram alone. When he started the business, there were only 15 card designs which have now grown to over 100. He’s also branded outside of California and is currently selling his greeting cards at 25 stores throughout the country.
For Ruvalcaba, Paper Tacos hasn’t been just any business move or a little extra income revenue. It’s a tribute to his Mexican background and a reflection of his culture that he feels is being celebrated every time one of his cards is given.
When asked about where his inspiration for his greeting cards come from, Ruvalcaba says his parents. Those long days working along with them in the artichoke fields and holidays where all they had was each other.
“Every card is a reflection of me growing up in a Mexican household and other people have connected with that,” said Ruvalcaba. “When I brainstorm ideas I just look back to my childhood.”
That connection is something special he says. While Ruvalcaba still has a full-time job as a designer in Santa Clara, if things keep going the way they are, Paper Tacos will become his main focus.
Through Instagram, Ruvalcaba has begun working with more freelancers to keep growing Paper Tacos and get more artists opportunities. His business plan is to expand to other Latino backgrounds to work and reach out to Salvadoran and Nicaraguan artists so that they too can see representation.
“This business has shown me how powerful this product can be and every time someone tells me the impact that these cards have had on a family member or a friend, it sticks with me,” Ruvalcaba says. “It’s a special thing to know a simple greeting card can do this.”
Now that Christmas is over, most of the world is getting ready to put the Christmas tree away and pack it up until next December arrives; not Hispanic people though. A lot of Latinos still keep the party going, and it doesn’t end until Jan. 6, when Día de Reyes, or the Epiphany, arrives bearing more gifts.
What is ‘Día de Reyes’?
On January 6, most Hispanic cultures celebrate El Dia De Reyes, or the Epiphany, in remembrance of the day when the Three Wise Men following the star to Bethlehem, arrived bearing their treasured gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh for Baby Jesus.
The three kings of orient
Guided by a shining star, the three Kings of the Orient, riding a camel, a horse and an elephant, rode off into the desert to find baby Jesus. They came from different parts of the world, one was from Africa, another was European, the last was Arabic. The gifts they gave Jesus were gold: for a king, myrrh: for a man, and incense: for a god. This story represents the first time that gentiles turned to Christianity.
The tradition in Latin America
The celebration of Jan. 6 is a tradition that dates back to the evangelization of the New World in the time of the Conquistadors, and has carried on to actuality. In Mexico and other countries, it’s the Reyes Magos who deliver the toys, not Santa Claus.
Just a few days earlier, the children write their letters to the Wise Men, or to their favorite Rey Mago: Melchor, Gaspar, or Baltasar, asking for the presents they would like to receive. They tie their letter to a balloon and let the balloon float into the sky. On the eve of January 6, they’re supposed to leave their shoes by a window, with a little bit of hay for the Kings’ animals to snack on. The next morning the hay is gone, and the shoes are stuffed and surrounded with toys.
Another traditional aspect of Día de Reyes is eating Rosca with cafecito or atole. The host usually invites family and friends over to ‘cut the rosca’. Inside the bread, there are several miniature baby Jesus dolls, and the person or people who find a baby Jesus in their slice of bread, must make tamales and atole for everyone on February 2, ‘Día de la Candelaria.’
As opposed to Mexico, where children write their letters and send them to the Reyes Magos via a floating balloon, in Argentina, the little ones leave their letters inside their shoes on the eve of Jan. 6.
A different tradition in Bolivia
In this South American country, the tradition is not so much around gifts and toys. It’s more of a family affair. In Bolivia, it’s traditional for families to take their ‘pesebre’ figurines to church, and have them blessed by the priest. At the end of mass, several families gather around the church to exchange figurines or ornaments and sometimes they give gifts to families in need.
In Puerto Rico
This Caribbean country has another way of celebrating too. In Puerto Rico, it’s traditional to see children running to parks to rip off patches of grass. At the end of the day on the eve of Epiphany day, they stash the grass in a shoe box that they put under the bed for the Kings to find. The grass is meant to feed the camel, horse, and elephant and the Kings take it in exchange for presents for the kids.