"Empowering Latinas and reclaiming our narrative through tees, postcards, and more."
If there is anything that could describe this brand, it is probably the quote above. This women-owned and led brand is ran by Natalie Montelongo. She is actively reclaiming the word Latina and inspiring other Latinas to do so. In today's day and age with so much political and racial tension going on, it is important to unite stronger than ever. Not only that, but we live in a country where the public education system fails teach us where we come from. Yes, it covers United States history, presidents, wars, treaties, but does not answer the question: "Where do I come from?" In a conversation with Natalie, it's evident that she felt the same. We are both from different border towns in Texas, but we both saw how we were failed by not learning about our roots sooner.
I asked Natalie to give me a little background on herself and why she chose to create this brand. She started off by saying, "I was born in Brownsville (Texas) but I grew up in Matamoros (Mexico). My family and I crossed everyday. It was my parent's dream for me to go to school in the U.S, but it was an exhausting two-hour line to cross every morning." Natalie mentioned that she was mentally exhausted by the end of each day as well. She then added that in Brownsville the majority of it's population looked like her and that she didn't catogorize herself as a Latina at a young age. Even when she went to college in San Antonio there were a lot of people like her and she still felt like she had in Brownsville. When she studied abroad in Paris, it was the first time people started asking her what she was. "Are you Mexican? American? Where do you live? Where do you consider home?" It was in Paris where she first started explaining to people who she was and where she came from.
Natalie moved to Washington D.C in 2011 and she mentioned that, "it was in D.C where I started owning it (the word Latina). With all the people I met, I started questioning my use of the word Hispanic. Californians don't use the word Hispanic they use Chicano/a. I feel like my state did me a disservice with how they taught me. I should not use the word Hispanic. I am not from Spain."
However, fast-forward to this past presidential election, Natalie worked on Hillary Clinton's campaign. When she was talking about her campaigning, she asked me if I remembered Trump's hateful speech against immigrants to which I replied "yes". Natalie told me that while campaigning and going from door to door a person answered the door wearing their Make America Great Again t-shirt and asked her if she was one of "those illegals." It was in that moment that Natalie knew she had to do something. "My best friend on the campaign and I looked for a small printshop in Denver (where she was at the time) and we printed 30 shirts that said "The Future is Latina" and we gave them out for free to the women campaigning with us. I also wrote them a little letter basically telling them they are worth it and to own the fact that they are Latina." Right after that, Natalie started getting requests from everywhere and that forced her to open an Esty shop. "I think it has developed into much more. I feel like we have built a small network of women." Natalie also mentioned that there should be no label on what makes up a "good" and a "bad" immigrant. With this brand she also hopes that women can reclaim their roots. "Fuck yeah. We are Latinas. We are also la muy muy and la sabelotodo." She wants Latinas to embrace that as well.
Natalie is definitely making a difference and her passion for this project speaks for itself. I am proud of where I come from and seeing women empowering other women is the best thing ever. You can follow The Future is Latina on Instagram as futureislatina. The link to the Esty shop is on there as well. Go check it out and show them love and support!
Daniel Martinez is February’s artist of the month. A native El Pasoan and humble individual, his art clearly portrays iconic places/things throughout El Paso. It is wonderful because it speaks for itself and it can make one nostalgic especially if one is an El Paso native living elsewhere. I believe that his art is vibrant and even though sometimes there are a lot of things being portrayed at once, it is not overwhelming at all. It is part of it. It’s amazing to see how celebrated El Paso is! He is a multi-faceted artist that does not only stick to El Paso-related art. It’s all kinds of art! From Frida Khalo to La Virgen de Guadalupe to football related art!
He was inspired by his father who he says was very creative as well. Daniel said that he "grew up very humble." Daniel also mentioned that growing up he was “average” at school, meaning school was not his forté. However, he did great when it came to painting! Daniel has been drawing since he was four years old. His elementary school would host an art competition every year and he won five years in a row! His love for art has only grew after that.
Daniel still continues to paint and express his creative side as much as he can. He said that he is mostly a landscape artist, but lately his work features iconic El Paso places and people like the beautiful El Paso sunsets and Eddie Guerrero. He loves the warm orange-gold tones of the sunset, which he said he loves to emphasize in his paintings. Daniel is always inspired by his surroundings and he hopes people can appreciate his art. It’s amazing to see artists celebrate their hometown through art and Daniel certainly archives that.
It is highly recommended that everyone goes and checks out his art at Chuco Relic all month long!! Go follow @chucorelic on Instagram for updates!
Ever since he can remember, Arturo Gardea has been fascinated with painting. Particularly, painting with the purest intentions. Arturo can recall that he has loved painting ever since he was a little kid. He says that drawing has been a sort of therapy for as long as he can remember. "I wasn't born an artist, life made me an artist." He also mentioned that even as a child he has always felt like he didn't belong which is why he said that "the canvas are my children. I can have a dialogue with them." He described it to me as always feeling like an outsider and that art was his outlet. He was telling me that since a young age we are told what to do and it's learning to step away from that which is hard, but that is exactly what he did.
Arturo studied at the University of Texas at El Paso, where he switched major several times until he found something he was happy with. "No one sees art as something serious. When I was in high school, it was decided that I was good at math. My dad told me to be an engineer and I was honestly good at it. I even began studying electric engineering at UTEP." Arturo added that even at that point in his life he felt alone and when it came to group work, he would always end up alone as well. He didn't fit in with any of his classmates or their discussions so he began to ditch some of his classes. He would go sit-in for some art classes that were painting live.
An art professor approached him one day and asked why he wasn't in any art classes. In an instant, Arturo decided to change his life path. "That is when I decided to change my major to graphic design. My dad got pissed, but my mom was cool with it. I was quick to notice that there were a lot of restrictions in the graphic design major and I became unhappy with it as well. That is when I knew that art chose me. I changed my major once again and this time to painting." That was when Arturo began his now profound journey into art and would be the start into his path towards creating his Happy Creatures.
Arturo then began talking about how he has always admired Jean-Michel Basquiat. He looked up at the fact that Basquiat was already known at the age of 22, which is every artists dream: to gain recognition from such an early stage. "His style is very free." He added, "children's art is free and pure. Children paint what they want, the way they want. With no background on technique and what materials to use. Picasso thought the same about children. I liked that concept and I love simplicity, which is why I began doing characters (referring to his Happy Creatures)". He wanted to go against the usual aesthetics. When Arturo started Happy Creatures, it was clear that the name was ironic. There was mostly pain being portrayed smiling creatures at the center of that "chaos". There is a re-ocurring black figure/mask he paints like in the picture below, which he says is based on the Aztecs. "It's a figure that's described as being able to transform and even consume children. The name Happy Creatures was very ironic and now it's going back there again." He mentions it's going back there again because for about a year they have actually been the Happy Creatures.
As one can see with the Frida and Alien Happy Creatures, the name is no longer an ironic They are actually happy and colorful! A complete opposite! "Color came out. I went back to using primary colors and making them very nice looking. I wanted to make something that my nieces would be proud of. However, I recently came back to the masks and "mutilated" figures which are more representative of my chaotic relationships with women and life. Also, I have been experimenting with lots of abstract. That is something hard for me. I even began to paint the face of my first girlfriend again (in slideshow below). I began talking to her again. She is also very talented at art and she inspires me. It's hard for someone to inspire me. I hope that people can see my work for what it is."
A big thank you to Arturo for not only sharing his art, but his thoughts as well! Go follow his art on Instagram: hapycreature
Facebook: arturo: artist happy creatures
It's that open and optimistic mindset above that Taylor has, which ultimately lead her to start her own magazine. A South Carolina native and visionary, Taylor Czerwinski, created a music and art magazine called 9 to 5 Magazine, which covers bands in and around the Charleston, South Carolina area. Charleston's music scene is rapidly growing and Taylor saw it as an opportunity to write about the talent in the area.
The name of the magazine is pretty much inspired by the "typical" American 9 to 5 job schedule. Taylor was not happy with her own 9 to 5 job, so she decided to follow her heart and start this magazine and instead focus on something she likes. Desert of my Eye is also like 9 to 5 in the sense that we like to portray the rapidly growing music scene in our city with the hope of spreading the message elsewhere and one day being able to travel to places to discover new bands. I hope everyone enjoys the project that is 9 to 5 Music and Art Magazine and realizes how important it is to support things like this. Supporting independent magazines like this is basically supporting the local bands featured on it as well. You never know when you will find something you like.
The first issue of the magazine is available for pre-order and will be sent out and physically be available in January. 9 to 5 also has a website that includes a more detailed description of the magazine, it's purpose and it's future endeavors. Pictured above is the cover of the first issue of 9 to 5 Music and Art and Magazine, which futures a picture of the band Heyrocco. Heyrocco also happens to be one of the bands that inspired Taylor for this project to begin with.
Taylor hopes that everyone enjoys the magazine as much as she and the 9 to 5 team has enjoyed making it. It's full of great content and beautifully taken pictures. The 9 to 5 Magazine website also has it's own blog and I encourage people to go and read and see what's up in Charleston, South Carolina. Below are a few pictures of the bands that will be featured on issue number 1.
Sara Dungo is a girl from South Carolina who is currently "seeking grace". In doing so, she has created some very rad things whether it is her temporary tattoo business called Transient Collective or her new home on wheels as pictured below. Sara is currently living in a 90's Ford airport shuttle, which she is continually modifying it until it is fully livable. She calls the van Eva, named after the girl robot from WallŸ E. In explaining her projects, Sara mentioned that Eva is "a nomadic studio, a spaceship for my travels both terrestrial and astral, as well as my tiny home on wheels. Generally my projects revolve around creation. Photography, drawing, exploring, connecting with others to name a few. Out of all of this was born Transient Collective, my hand drawn temporary tattoos and jewelry. The tattoos are a symbol of life’s impermanent beauty. The need to incorporate a connection to earth within my business was a necessity, which is why every tattoo sold helps fund planting one tree through reforestation efforts."
I believe people take trees, life, tattoos (to name a few) for granted and it's people with a project like this that have an impact. Sara said that a lot of events in her life have lead her to make these decisions like living in van, striving for a better world, and staying true to herself. Deep down, she always knew she would end up doing something like this. Sara said that she had been in the house-cleaning business for a long time. She cleaned houses for people who were never home and just slaved away at work all day. She couldn't help but notice everything wrong with that. "Throughout college I had always been on the go and semi living out of a jeep, but always gawking over school bus conversions, airstreams and the likes. A few years later, life presented me with a choice; choose to settle down and accept a marriage proposal with a destructive relationship, or... run. So I ran. All the way across the country from the east coast to the Hawaiian Islands…. Hawaii completely changed my life. It exposed my senses to the beauty that still exists on our planet and the importance of protecting it. Living on Maui was extremely healing."
I really admire what Sara is doing. Her story and choices really resonate with me. Not everyone has the cojones to put their life savings in a van and fulfill their dreams. She admitted that she initially regretted buying the van, but once she bought it she fell in love with it. She admits that even the struggles she faces with it will help her learn, move on and keep on pushing. She hopes that she can achieve a life that aligns with her "values and notions."
To anyone doubting whether they should go chase their dreams, she has this to say: "If there is something someone is trying to chase their dreams but they are unsure, I would ask that person: "Will this endeavor affirm impact for your life and therefore spread positivity outwards?" If the answer is yes; then don’t hesitate. Be persistent and knowledgeable in taking steps today to begin the personal journey of following what feels right. And most importantly, be patient with yourself."
A huge thank you to Sara Dungo for taking the time to tell me about her project and for sharing her light with the world. Follow her projects on Instagram: