Things That Matter

The Gaming Industry Isn’t Known For Diversity, The Latinx Games Festival Is Working Hard To Change That

For the past few years the gaming industry has gotten a bad, very bad reputation when it comes to gender, sexual and ethnic diversity. Even though video game fans are as diverse as society itself, women, LGBTQIA and people of color are underrepresented. This extends to how games are marketed, to diversity in professionals in the industry and to networking opportunities.

Even though gaming is as widespread as say, watching television, and we play more than ever before, some online communities formed mostly of white men believe it is their right to claim the entirety of the gaming world for themselves. Yes, really. 

So Jason Vega created the Latinx Games Festival, which just had its first and very successful run.

Credit: Instagram. @LatinxGamesFestival

Jason Vega is a famous Latino gamer who saw an opportunity in bringing together gamers and developers from both sides of the border. So professionals from the United States and Latin America, a region that has a nascent and in crescendo independent games scene, got together at the Museum of Latin Art (MOLA) in Long Beach, California. September 14, 2019, will be remembered as a watershed moment for collaboration among Latino gamers.

Networking is king!  

Credit: Instagram. @LatinxGamesFestival

The idea behind the festival was to bring people of color together to identify and fight against political, social and economic obstacles that impede their inclusion in the digital games industry. Vega hopes that this event will plant the seeds for future networks of professionals. He also advocates for a DIY culture: we got the tools and we got the creativity, so a trabajar, mijos!

And the attendees heard some pretty inspiring words!

Credit: Twitter. @latinxgamesfestival

Vega said in the inaugural address, as reported by Latino Rebels: “This story is not about me. It’s about everyone in this room, community organizers, all you here. [It’s] also about using my own money, the sleepless nights, the pain you feel in your skin when you’ve been working too hard and your eyes don’t feel the same. You don’t wake up the same. You have nightmares about things going wrong”. Preach, hermano! If something can distinguish the Latino gamer community in the future is that sense of solidarity that makes us who we are.

And there were some great speakers such as Trinidad Hermida!

Credit: Instagram. @LatinxGamesFestival

This Latina is the head of diversity and inclusion at Niantic, one of the industry’s giants (just to give you an idea, the company developed Pokemon Go!, perhaps the most successful Augmented Reality game of all time). Hermida is an amazing woman who has broken many glass ceilings in the  digital technology industry, working for companies like Dell. She has a great philosophy, “setting a standard of incorporating everyone’s genius, we can change the game.” We are right there with you! 

And Fernando Reyes Medina, a wonderboy of the industry.

Credit: Instagram. @LatinxGamesFestival

There is some great, young Latino talent in the industry. That is why Vega included Fernando Reyes Medina in the speaker program. He was born and raised in Mexico City (eso, un chilango, carajo!). He has worked in such big projects as incorporating the Microsoft Cortana personal assistant into the Xbox platform. He is changing the industry from within: he is part of Latinx in Gaming, an initiative born within Microsoft. The future is shiny for him and we are sure he inspired more than one gamer in the room. 

The event was a success and fans were quick to thank the organizers.

Credit: Twitter. @_Ben_Wu

Yes! This is what Vega was aiming for, the establishment of networks of professional collaboration and emotional support. We gotta stick together! Ben Wu, who identifies as Asian-Latino, is literally over the moon after the event

Nopales Are Now Being Used To Make High-End Vegan Leather Goods Thanks To Two Mexican Designers

Things That Matter

Nopales Are Now Being Used To Make High-End Vegan Leather Goods Thanks To Two Mexican Designers

Desserto / Facebook

If you’ve always thought nopales were the answer to the world’s problems, prepare to be validated. Two entrepreneurs from Guadalajara and Aguascalientes have just debuted a luxury, organic vegan leather entirely made from nopales. The material is made to last over ten years in your car, purse, or wallet. While creators Adrián López Velarde and Marte Cázarez have named their innovation Desserto, the people have already started calling it Cactus Leather. 

The material itself is made without phthalates, toxic chemicals or PVC. Also, because nopales grow without much water, the material is far more sustainable than animal leather options, which require water to grow all the plants that feed an animal throughout his or her life, plus water for the animal themself. Desserto made its debut last month at the International Leather Fair Lineapelle in Milan. López Velarde told Fashion United that, “the enthusiasm for our Desserto sustainable materials at Lineapelle was overwhelming.”

The duo’s inspiration for innovation was seeing the density of environmental pollution their respective industries were producing.

Credit: desserto.pelle / Instagram

If you’ve ever worked in retail, you already know what they’re talking about. López Velarde and Cázarez saw a need to reduce the environmental pollution they both bore witness to. They were so dedicated to creating a sustainable option, they left their jobs and started Adriano Di Marti, the company that created Desserto. They’re not done innovating just yet. Desserto is Adriano Di Marti’s first product, and it won’t be the last. They plan to continue researching and developing new products that can revolutionize the leather industry for the better.

They chose the nopal, in part, because it’s a symbol of Mexican identity.

Credit: @desserto.pelle / Instagram

 López Velarde told Fashion United, “The idea of using this raw material was conceived because this plant does not need any water to grow, and there is plenty of it throughout the Mexican Republic. Also, symbolically, it represents all of us Mexicans and everybody knows it. Besides, to be able to incorporate this material into various industries, it is essential to count on a stable, abundant supply of raw material.” They spent two years researching and developing a product that met all the technical requirements to be used in the automotive and fashion industries.

The International Leather Fair Lineapelle created significant buzz for the brand. After sampling all the alternative leathers at the fair, a presenter announced that they felt Desserto was the “most appropriate for use in luxury brands thanks to its flexibility, softness, touch and color.”

The company is already producing handbags and is working with big brands in other industries.

Credit: desserto.pelle / Instagram

López Velarde teased some “very interesting projects” in the works with “high profile companies in neighboring countries,” according to Fashion United. Will the new Tesla boast nopal leather? Will the Birkin bag finally leave alligators alone and use the luxuries, organic, sustainable Desserto leather instead? We dream.

Companies can reduce the water consumption of their products by 20 percent when using Desserto instead.

Credit: desserto.pelle / Instagram

López Velarde cited some shocking statistics in the interview, saying the fashion industry uses as much water as it would take to fill 32 million Olympic-sized swimming pools. According to López Velarde, the fashion industry is projected to increase its solid waste by 60 percent by 2030. Their nopal vegan leather will remain durable for a minimum of 10 years, and afterward, will biodegrade. It’s made from organic materials, after all. 

López Velarde and Marte Cazáre were born the same day and year in México, because of destiny.

Credit: desserto.pelle / Instagram

In an interview with Heraldo de Mexico, the 20-somethings recalled how they met as students in Taiwan. The two were studying international business when the met. They immediately clicked and discovered that they were, not only two Mexicanos sharing culture in Taiwan, but that they also shared the same exact birthday.

Their advice to other jóvenes with “crazy” ideas: Go for it.

Credit: desserto.pelle / Instagram

People told them they were crazy. They told reporter Adriana Luna that their youth has been an asset, because they had nothing to lose when they embarked on this dream, and everything to gain. They hope to see Desserto used to create armchairs, luxury couches, car seats, and in the fashion industry. 

If you’re in the area, you can visit their brick and mortar shop to learn more about the leather, or buy a bag for yourself.

READ: A Guadalajara-Based Scientist Discovered Nopal Juice Can Create Plastic And Our Eco-Friendly Latina Moms Are About To Lose It

This Veteran Helped Bring Clean Water To Flint Residents Until His Invention Was Suspiciously Vandalized

Things That Matter

This Veteran Helped Bring Clean Water To Flint Residents Until His Invention Was Suspiciously Vandalized

AWG5000 / YouTube

A military veteran whose water filtration system provided thousands of gallons of free drinking water to Flint, Michigan residents had his machine sabotaged in August. The hooligans didn’t merely graffiti the massive “Big Green Machine” as it is nicknamed, they destroyed the battery and drained the fuel. Moses West and the Water Rescue Foundation had installed the machine less than a week before. 

In 2014, Flint, Michigan changed their source of drinking water from Lake Huron and the Detroit River to the less expensive source of the Flint River. However, by 2015, after numerous reports of sick children and complaints from the public, a cascade of smoking guns exposed a scandal at play. 

While the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality insisted the water was safe to drink, a Flint doctor discovered remarkably high blood lead levels in children. Meanwhile, an independent study by Virginia Tech researches discovered the Flint River was leaching lead from aging pipes. The lead blood levels in children were so high, a state of emergency was declared

In the five years since the crisis unfolded, many Flint residents have been left without clean water. 

The Big Green Machine is sabotaged by vandals. 

“They drained fuel to add something to the coolant lines played with electronics,” West told WNEM. “That’s not typical vandal stuff.”

West believes there is a deeper agenda to the vandalism because the perpetrators had technical knowledge about how to prevent the machine from working. 

“They broke into the machine and they destroyed the generator,” West said. “It’s very technical, I knew what they were doing. This wasn’t random vandalism, not at all. They destroyed the battery, put metal in the fuel system.” 

West installed the green machine on Saginaw Street where it provided hundreds of people with clean, free water every day. The vandals caused additional waste with over 500 gallons of water having to be removed as a safety precaution.  

“I’m making anywhere from 1,000 to 2,000 gallons a water a day and giving it away for free,” He said. “That’s a lot of money out of somebody’s pocket someplace.”

The veteran plans to get the big green machine up and running with anti-vandalism features added. 

“Nothing frustrates me. It’s only an opportunity to do better. No problems, only opportunities.” West told NBC25 News. 

West brings water to Flint, Michigan in August. 

West drove the machine to Flint this August only to have it sabotaged within a few days. The mechanism uses an advanced atmospheric water generation technology to produce water seemingly out of thin air. 

“Here I am in Flint right now supplying an entire neighborhood with water,” West told WNEM. “Right now, the humidity is so high, the unit is producing so much water, even though we’re taking water out it’s still producing water; absolutely pure clean water.”

West founded Water Rescue Foundation, a nonprofit funded by donations. West hopes to get six machines in the area to provide free, accessible water to those most vulnerable. 

“This machine is connected to the neighborhood,” he said. “They’re getting water right now. They come up, they get water. The veterans downtown started coming up and picking up water and delivering it to people who are elderly, who can’t get out, and right now you’re on a boil water notice here, and so everybody knows that so everybody comes up here and gets water.”

Five years later, the water crisis prevails in Flint, Michigan. 

While Michigan officials claim 90 people were sickened and 12 died in the 18 months water was used from the Flint River, a PBS investigation found that 119 additional deaths may have been caused by the contaminated water. 

Although authorities claim that the water now meets the same standards of other cities, with the Flint Mayor Dane Walling toasting and drinking a glass of water on television to prove it, many remain skeptical. 

Members of the medical community like Mona Hanna-Attisha, founder and director of the Pediatric Public Health Initiative, still advise Flint residents to drink bottled water or filtered tap. In the Washington Post, Hanna-Attisha wrote that until the lead pipes are entirely replaced, residents remain at risk. 

However, she also notes that in the United States, poor regulations all over the country put everyone at risk. 

“Across the United States, our regulations never intended for us to drink ‘lead-free’ water,” she wrote. “Instead, the standard sets a non-health-based action level of 15 parts per billion, which is hopelessly outdated and allows a water system to get a passing grade even when testing reveals dangerously high levels of lead in 10 percent of sampled homes. The regulatory framework is set up like Russian roulette, with the future of children at stake.”

While 15 city and state officials have been indicted, half have cut plea deals and none have gone to jail, according to NPR. Until there justice, it is up to individuals like Moses West to provide accessible water.