Buenos Diaz, amores!
I don’t know a single Mexican who hasn’t been asked at least once in their life what they’re doing to celebrate Cinco de Mayo. As a kid, I stared blankly when I was asked this even by teachers. As far as I knew, I was going home to get this homework done and hope my ama wasn’t making broccoli for dinner. As an adult, sure – I’ve partaken in more than one instance of drunken debauchery on the fifth of May involving a stiff margarita and possibly some tacos (don’t let Cinco de Mayo land on a Tuesday, white people go NUTS). But do I give two smooth f*cks about Cinco de Mayo? Nah.
Mexican Independence Day is September 16th. Cinco de Mayo marks that one time Mexico beat the French in 1862 at the Battle of Puebla. Cool, but imagine going to another country to find everyone celebrating the Battle of Yorktown as American Independence Day and looking at you funny when your only plans that night were to do laundry and drink that bottle of wine you didn’t quite finish the night before.
Still, I am so proud of my Mexican heritage, perhaps now more than ever in Trump America where so many people seem threatened by my people’s very existence. As such, I’d like to bask in the glory that is my culture. I want to revel in its richness and relish its roots, to shout from the rooftops that my people are warm and beautiful and strong. If it means celebrating a minor holiday with a little more pizazz than normal, well ok then.
As part of that celebration, I invite you to explore these four amazing business run by Mexicanos. Whether you’re looking for a mean shade of red lipstick, a children’s book, a cup of fair-trade brew or your name on a necklace in Old English, I got you.
1. Lil Libros - www.lillibros.com, Instagram: @lil_libros
I mean, you had to know I’d start you off with something bookish, right? I present to you: Lil Libros! The idea is the brainchild of Patty Rodriguez, a badass East L.A. Mexican whose list of credentials includes being the Senior Producer for “On Air with Ryan Seacrest,” designing her own line of jewelry (more on that in a minute) and running a blog called “Manolos and Tacos” (SOLD!). She decided to explore a long-held dream of creating a bilingual line of children’s books after she lost nearly all of her worldly possessions in a house fire. She teamed up with her childhood BFF Ariana Stein to create Lil Libros, a series of 22-page first concept children’s books that aim to expose kids to Latino culture through bilingual storytelling. Their titles include works on Frida Kahlo, Emiliano Zapata, Celia Cruz and la Virgen de Guadalupe. They can be found at select Target stores or at www.lillibros.com.
2. MALA by Patty Rodriguez - http://shop.malabypattyrodriguez.com, Instagram @malabypattyrodriguez
Remember Patty, you know, from the paragraph above? Here’s that jewelry line I was talking about. MALA by Patty Rodriguez is chingona-ness defined. Her rings, pins and necklaces feature mostly Old English fonts and say everything from CaliGirl and Mija to Sin Miedo and of course, Chingona. Personally, I can’t wait to get my name and/or my custom area code necklace (619 till I die, yo) – think of the “Carrie” necklace for Latinas who embody that “little bit classy, little bit hood” vibe.
3. Reina Rebelde – www.reinerebelde.com, Instrgam @reinarebelde
Created by Regina Merson, this line of cosmetics is one I’m kicking myself for not discovering sooner. Born in Mexico and raised in the US, Regina describes her products as “equal parts wild and unpredictable, bold and impractical, feminine and luxurious, sexy and severe.” Her creations for eyes, lips and face are bold-hued, vibrant and rife with Latina sass; her lip products alone run the gamut from bold, creamy reds and chicana-chic browns to metallic sheens that harken the great Veronica Castro. She even offers a black lip liner, so you know she’s real. The names she gives her products are possibly my favorite part of her whole package: they feature monikers such as Brava, Malinche, Rosa Salvaje, Enchufada, Coqueta and Tapatia. Take aaaaalll of my money.
4. Por Vida Galería, Cultura & Café - http://porvidasd.com, Instagram @porvidabarriologan
I first discovered Por Vida when Don Miguel Ruiz, Jr held an author talk and book-signing at their gallery space – it was love at first sip and I don’t even drink coffee like that. This adorable shop is located in my hometown of San Diego in the arts district of Barrio Logan, a block away from the iconic Chicano Park. They serve up organic, local, fair-trade brew and other refreshing concoctions and – get this – fresh pan dulce. My faves include the Spicy Sandia Limonada, the Mexican Mocha, and the Canela y Brown Sugar Latte. They even have a Mazapan Latte. Say whaaaaat? Go there now.