Growing up, my style was always at odd’s with my Mother’s. She would wear long skirts, long hair in braids, and always decorated with beaded jewelry. Her style reflected her indigenous heritage and artistic creativity,… More
November is Native American Heritage Month, and what a better backdrop to celebrate the entrepreneurial spirit and innovative designs of Native-Owned businesses than now.
In this country, which tells history from a colonial- settler perspective – the stories of this lands first people’s are often ignored or misrepresented. Many young people’s education even leads them to believe that Indigenous Americans are a thing of the past. That is why it is important to acknowledge not only historical, but the modern day contributions many Indigenous peoples are having in current event.
We have seen a resurgence of the Native American movement in recent years – from Standing Rock to the election of two Native American women serving in Congress, the first in this country’s history.
As we prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving with our families and prepare for Black Friday, let us use this time to honor the first people of this land and support businesses that are authentically representing Native design and ingenuity. Below I will be highlighting my top five favorite Indigenous-owned brands you should support this month.
It probably comes at no surprise that B.Yellowtail tops the list, as it’s probably one of my favorite brands of all time, and I am proud to be part of this incredible team as their current Social Media Coordinator. B.Yellowtail was founded by designer Bethany Yellowtail. After graduating from FIDM and working for several corporate fashion brands, Yellowtail realized that while many brands were profiting off of cultural appropriation of Native designs, there was almost no authentic representation of Native culture in fashion, so she decided to fill that gap.
B.Yellowtail first launched with women’s apparel, featuring beautiful designs that use traditional elements reflective of her heritage combined with modern styles and silhouettes. Recently, the brand has grown to include the B.Yellowtail Collective, which is a platform for Native American & First Nations artisans to promote economic sustainability for indigenous artists, while showcasing their work on a global platform.
Additionally, B.Yellowtail has been an active voice in politics and social justice. She has designed pieces to support Standing Rock, The Women’s March & Indigenous Women Rise, and Native American Women running for public office. She is making waves as an Indigenous designer to watch, and has been featured in Vogue, Girlboss, and Forbes. Be sure to check out the upcoming Black Friday sales to get your hands on some great items, while also supporting authentic, indigenous designs.
What B.Yellowtail is for high, feminine fashion, OXDX is for streetwear. Founder, Jared Yazzie, began OXDX as a self-taught graphic designer making art in his dorm room and selling at pow wows, art shows and various markets. His unapologetically political statement tees gained him a following and allowed him to develop a brand with a strong reputation. Best known for his “Native Americans Discovered Columbus” tee, OXDX designs blend traditional indigenous elements with a modern street art twist. He is able to take social issues – such as Indian mascots, police brutality, and climate change – and turn them into beautiful statement tees.
OXDX offers a wide variety of pieces – from graphic teas to athleisure. If you’re lucky enough to visit a pop-up, you even have the opportunity to score a one-of-a-kind repurposed piece featuring OXDX designs. His recent collection with Jamie Okuma, “Watching You Watching Us” even offers some beautiful dresses, skirts and two pieces. Yazzie’s talent and eye for design makes his brand stand out, always right on trend while being a true work of art.
Be sure to check out OXDX and snag yourself or someone you love a dope tee this holiday season.
Native jewelry is probably one of the most recognized aspects of Native art to greater society, with styles and techniques as diverse as the many tribes and peoples who create them. While many of these designs and materials have cultural significance, they are often replicated and imitated by mass-market manufacturers and retails. Not only do these companies profit off of cultural theft, the use of cheap materials and labor drives down the true value of Native jewelry and hurts many artisans who have made jewelry for generation. Turquoise Skies is actively working to combat this issue.
Turquoise Skies is an online retailer that features the art of Native American artisans throughout the country. They market their artisan partners on their website and allow them to showcase their work through photos, videos and interviews, allowing each buyer to have a personal connection to the artist. Additionally, T. Skies also educates consumers on the value of materials, different styles and techniques used for making jewelry.
Through their work, Turquoise Skies is actively working on preserving the integrity and authenticity of Native jewelry, and allowing artisans to sell their work to a larger market. They have a wonderful variety of high-end heirloom jewelry as well as a basic collection that will fit any budget.
Be sure to check out their website and use their Black Friday Code “NTVHRT20” for 20% off any purchase!
With beauty being an ever-growing market, we have seen the rise of many independently owned, unique brands making a name for themselves in the beauty space. Cheekbone Beauty is one of these brands, but it’s mission makes it so much more than just a beauty brand.
When founder, Jenn Harper, set out to launch Cheekbone Beauty, she knew that she wanted it to be something special. Not only does this brand use high-quality ingredients that are never-tested on animals, it also has a social mission – to close the education funding gap that exists between Indigenous and non-Indigenous students in Canada. In order to support this mission, Cheekbone Beauty donates a portion of it’s proceeds to the First Nations Child & Family Caring Society (FNCFCS). Cheekbone Beauty also highlights the power and beauty of Indigenous women, and all shades of their liquid lipsticks and lip-glosses are named after strong Indigenous women who have had a positive impact on their communities.
Check out her line of fabulous cosmetics, which features not only some great lippies, but also a highlighter kit and a contour kit. Perfect gifts for all those Glamorous queens in your life!
Indigenous Goddess Gang
Indigenous Goddess Gang is an online magazine that highlights the voices of Indigenous women, femmes and matriarchs. It’s mission is to create a platform that uplifts these voices, reclaims space and collectively share medicine through art – music, photography, poetry and various other mediums. In addition to their website, they also run and manage one of the best, wokest Instagram pages around (Seriously, are you not following @indigenousgoddessgang yet?) No highlight of indigenous-owned business would be complete without mentioning this collective.
On their website, you will find the “Goddess Shop” which features a variety of Goddess Gang gear, like statement tees and the Sáani Robe. They also have a section called “Sáanii’s Closet”, where you can find unique pieces that have been reclaimed from closets, flea markets and thrift stores, which allow you to shop sustainably, while taking a “stab at capitalism”.
In recognition of Native American Heritage Month, I highly recommend you check out Indigenous Goddess Gang – read some of their articles, take in some of their poetry, and allow yourself the opportunity to learn something new about the diversity and depth of Indigenous culture and peoples.
I hope this post allowed you to discover some amazing Indigenous-Owned brands to support this month, and all year long. I also hope that it encouraged you to support “Inspired Natives”, rather than contributing to the cultural appropriation and theft that is “native inspired”. There are so many great Indigenous-Owned brands out there, this is barely scratching the surface. I hope that together we can discover and support more.
Con Mucho Amor:
Last month, I shared details of my incredible weeklong trip in Tulum, Mexico – (Read the full blog post here). It was an absolutely incredible trip that I will never forget. Along with the beautiful memories and photos that I was able to capture, I was also able to bring home some beautiful hand-made items I purchased from the local artisan community. In this blog, I wanted to highlight some of these beautiful buys and share them with you.
One of my favorite parts about traveling is learning about cultures through art and artisans. Every culture and region has unique elements that are expressed through design, often time used to tell stories or to show ownership. Beauty through art is something that is constant in almost every culture around the world.
In today’s climate of fast-fashion and cultural appropriation, traditional design elements are constantly stolen, without regard to the original designers. I try to combat this practice by ensuring that I am supporting local makers whenever I travel, in order to show appreciation for artisans and contribute to local economies.
The streets of Tulum are lined with several small, independent boutiques, most of which sell goods made in Mexico. Seeing the way the entire community of Tulum highlighted their culture made me fall even deeper in love with the beautiful town. I took my time to shop around, compare price, quality and stories before I settled on what I would bring back with me.
The first item I purchased was one that’s necessary on a tropical vacation – a sunhat. Prior to departing on our vacation, I was looking around for a hat from various ethically made brands here in the US, but didn’t find anything that fit my style or my budget, however I am so glad I waited to make this purchase. There was a wide variety of sunhats lining the stores in Tulum.
The sunhat I settled on was purchased at one of the local boutiques in Tulum. The attendant at the store told me that it was made by a community of artisans in the Yucatan peninsula and made from locally sourced palm leaves. It was a perfect fit for me and the exact style I was looking for. I can’t wait to wear this hat more as a staple piece of my summer wardrobe and vacation wear.
The next item I purchased hooked me as soon as I laid my eyes on it. One of the many adventures my partner and I took while on this vacation was a day trip to Chichen Itza and Coba – two Mayan ruins in the Yucatan peninsula. Our driver was very gracious and customized our trip to include all the activities we wanted. One of my top priorities was visiting an artisan communities to see if I could buy some beautiful handicrafts straight from the source.
On our way home from the ruins, we stopped in a small town just outside of Tulum, where there were many artisanal storefronts lined on the highway. I wandered into the first store, that was full of many different beautiful bags, and my eyes fell upon one that was on a shelf. This bag was beautiful, brightly colored and hand woven. I knew that I had to have it.
Weaving is an especially important form of artisanal crafts for the Mayans, and dates back centuries. Weaving, which is traditionally done by Mayan women, is a practice passed down generations, and is closely connected to cultural and religious beliefs. Many women throughout Southern Mexico and Central America continue to wear their traditional, woven Mayan attire as a symbol of their strong ties to their culture.
This bag has become one of my favorite pieces. It’s beautiful, well-made and will no doubt be a timeless staple in my closet.
The final purchase I made in Mexico was one I have been on the hunt for for quite some time – the perfect pair of Huaraches. While Huaraches – a traditional woven leather sandal found throughout Latin America – are pretty ubiquitous now days, it’s been hard for me to find a pair that I’ve been truly in love with. This style of footwear has now been commodified by big fashion brands, with stores such as Target carrying similar styles. I knew I wanted something a bit more authentic to fit my taste.
I found these huaraches on our very last day in Mexico, during a bus lay over from Tulum to the Cancun International Airport, we stoped in Playa Del Carmen and this cute little kiosk was set up right outside of the ADO terminal. The woman at the kiosk explained to me that their company, “Mar Y Agua” works with women from the Huichol ethnic group to make these beautiful sandals and earn livable wages. Learning about their social enterprise and mission made me eager to support their cause, and I was more than happy to walk away with a beautiful pair of huaraches I have been longing for.
While buying cheap, readily available souvenirs is always an easy option when traveling abroad, I encourage you to take a more intentional approach to well, all your purchases. Asking a few questions about makers and taking the time to visit artisans where they’re at can lead to some amazing buys. Not only will they be pieces you cherish for years to come, they will also contribute to the economic development of communities, ensuring that these art forms are around for generations to come.
Wishing you happy travels and better purchases.
Con Mucho Amor,
Photography: Vanessa Acosta
Location: Beverly Hills Cactus Garden
Earlier this year, my partner shared with me that he wanted to take me on a trip for my graduation. I had spent the first half of 2018 completely overworked – my full time job, a full time masters program, an internship and side hustles – all left me completely drained and totally exhausted. So the thought of a nice relaxing trip was music to my ears. When I began looking at the calendar for dates, I realized that it would be perfect to pair this trip celebrating my graduation with our anniversary (why not kill two birds with one stone, right?) And at that moment my heart lead me to my dreamland – Tulum.
The first time I visited Tulum, I was about 15 years old on a family trip throughout Yucatán with my parents and oldest brother. It was a beautiful trip all around, but Tulum stuck out to me as something magical. Back when I visited over 10 years ago, Tulum was little more than a tiny beach town. Only a few hotels were set up on the beach with no electricity and little huts set up in the jungle alongside the coast. I dreamed of one day getting married there, or maybe even a honeymoon. But at 27 with no plans of doing either in the near future, I decided that now was as good a time to go back as any.
Although the tiny beach town I remembered has changed significantly over the last decade, it has not lost its magic touch. While it has become a popular tourist destination, with many more boutique hotels lining the beach, it still has its charm. The beauty of Tulum has been well preserved, and the local environment and economy are still a main priority for the locals and foreigners alike who call this place their home.
Below, I will be highlighting the seven days my partner and I spent in this beautiful corner of the world, and all the adventures we had along the way. Briefly I should mention that while Tulum is famous for it’s white sandy beaches, we unfortunately did not spend much time at the beach due to the natural phenomena of red seaweed flooding the coast. However, this did not put any damper on our plans, as we found many other ways to enjoy Tulum and all of its beauty.
Day 1 – Travel
In order to get to Tulum, plan on flying to Cancun International Airport. My partner and I were able to fly on our favorite airlines – Southwest (by the way, I cannot be happier that they’ve started international flights), but most major airlines will offer flights to CUN.
From there, you can do the 2 hour trip straight to Tulum. There are buses (ADO) that will take you straight from the airport to Tulum for a reasonable price. Or you can take a collectivo – which are small vans that typically transport locals – from CUN to Playa Del Carmen, then transfer to one headed for Tulum.
Since we started our travel day at 7:00AM PST to get to LAX 2 hours before our 9:00AM flight, we were feeling like we wanted a break after the 5 hour flight before heading to Tulum. Therefore, we chose to spend one night in a local town – Puerto Morelos.
We took a taxi from the airport straight to our hotel in Puerto Morelos, which cost about $50 USD. (If we were to have done this again, we would’ve just taken a collectivo and saved some money) However, it was nice to take a taxi for the 40 minute drive straight to our hotel.
Puerto Morelos is a small fishing town just south of Cancun. It’s proximity to the airport makes it a great stop over if you don’t want to do the trip down to Tulum straight away and don’t want to spend a night in the chaos of Cancun. We spent the night in a cute little hotel called Hotel Arrecifes, right on the beach. It was a great first night.
Day 2 – Down to Tulum
We woke up the next morning ready to make the second half of the journey down to Tulum. This time, we would travel via the local collectivos. We took a taxi from our hotel with our luggage to the pick up area, where a van would take us from Puerto Morelos down to Playa Del Carmen – about a 40 minute drive. Our driver was friendly and let us know to take the van all the way to the final stop, where we would be able to transfer onto the next van. Sure enough, we arrived a few blocks away from the beach, where several collectivos lined up to take people in whichever direction they needed. We walked about a block to the vans heading to Tulum, and then embarked on the second leg of the journey, which was about another hour down. We got into town, then hoped in another taxi straight to our AirBnB.
Tulum has two major parts, the main city and the beach strip. There are great accommodations, food and shopping options in both parts, but I recommend staying on the beach strip. It’s peaceful and absolutely beautiful. Our AirBnb was located at the far end of the beach strip, right before the beginning of the Sian Kaan Nature Reserve. At first, I was a little nervous about staying so far away from the town, but once we got to our destination, I could not be happier with our choice.
We stayed at a super cute AirBnb called Casa Coyote, which lists itself as an eco suite. There was about 6 single rooms, each with their own bathroom. While the rooms themselves were small, it was a beautiful little space. We were comfortable in our rooms and loved the common areas. The hotel provided bikes for its guests, which made it easier to get around. Additionally, the AirBnB sat behind a restaurant “Loco Tulum” (same owner), that treated us to a free shot of Tequila upon our arrival. They also offer guests a 10% discount on meals, which was a nice little perk.
After two days of traveling in hot humid weather, we decided to take the night to just relax. We treated ourselves to our complementary shot of tequila, followed by a nice refreshing cocktail at the bar. Afterwards, we went on walk to the spot we had picked out for dinner. With full bellies, we were pleased to go to bed in paradise. Excited to officially start our adventures.
Day 3 – Exploring Tulum
On day 3, we woke up ready to explore Tulum! We began our day with a quick breakfast at “Loco Tulum”, and let me say, it was one of our favorite breakfast spots throughout the entire trip. The manager of the AirBnB, Patricia, let us know that there was a beautiful cenote just up the road. So as soon as we finished breakfast we walked up the road to Cenote Encantado.
If you are not familiar with cenotes, they are worth looking into, and part of what makes The Yucatan so unique. Cenotes are generally referred to as sinkholes and caves filled with fresh water that are linked by a system of underground rivers. Some research shows that these cenotes were formed by the heat of a meteor millions of years ago. They were seen as sacred bodies of water by the Mayan civilization that originally inhabited the peninsula, and may cities and holy sites were built around them. There are over 6,000 cenotes throughout the Yucatan peninsula – some completely underground, some with open roofs, and others completely above ground. Their variety is what makes each cenote so unique and memorable.
The first cenote we visited, Cenote Encantado, was about a 10 minute stroll from our AirBnb. We entered through a camp site, and paid $50 pesos (about $3USD) to enter. This particular cenote was open in the middle of a mangrove. It was so beautiful to walk through the dense trees and see them open up to fresh water that reflected the clear blue sky.
We spent about 2 hours at the cenote – swimming in the beautiful fresh water and jumping from decks built by the surrounding hotels. We even rented a small kayak that allowed to explore it’s grandness. Finally, after getting a bit pruney, we decided we were ready to leave and explore the small town.
We rented two bikes from our AirBnB and took off. We spent the day riding bikes and stopping along all the little boutiques that lined the road. Window shopping in Tulum was like heaven on earth for me – so many beautiful pieces, majority of which were made by Mayan artisans local to the area. After biking from one end of the strip and back, we were ready to turn in and get ready for the next day.
Day 4 – Tulum Ruins & Snorkeling
Day 4 was a Monday, and since the crowds of the weekend had died down, I decided that this would be the perfect day for us to head to the Tulum ruins. Long before it was a bustling tourist destination, Tulum was one of the most biggest port cities for the Mayan civilization. It’s accessibility by both land and sea made it a very important trade hub, and remain one of the last standing cities occupied by the Mayans.
It’s placement on a cliff overlooking the Caribbean makes it a particularly beautiful experience. These breath taking views has made it the third most visited archaeological sights in Mexico. Being in the presence of these grand temples is awe inspiring. I can only imagine the society and lifestyle that once inhabited this beautiful city.
After spending about two hours walking around the sight, taking photos, we were completely overwhelmed by the heat and humidity. We were ready to cool off in some water. We had planned on braving the red seaweed and spending the day on the beach, however on our way out, we were approached by a man offering snorkeling tours. Oscar and I had a quick debate deciding what we would do – with the amount of red seaweed on the beach, I was not sure how much we would enjoy laying out. We decided it would probably be best to take the man up on his offer to go snorkeling, and boy did it pay off.
Our snorkeling tour began with a quick 15 minute boat ride to get a picturesque view of the ruins from the water. From here, we were able to see the main structures- the Temple of the Descending God, the Castle, and the Temple of the Wind God. It was breath taking.
Once we snapped a few photos, the boat headed over the reef for snorkeling. We were told that on good days there is a chance to see sea turtles. Although it wasn’t guaranteed, I still held my breath and hoped we might be so lucky.
As soon as we jumped into the beautiful Caribbean waters, I was in heaven. The water was so warm and clear. There were so many beautiful fish, and to my surprise there were about a dozen stingrays! I have always loved stingrays majestic nature, so I was very pleased to be swimming alongside them. And not long after, we were joined by about five beautiful sea turtles! I could not believe how close they came to us, within inches!
Of all the beautiful things we did, swimming with the sea turtles was without a doubt the most memorable.
Day 5 – Isla Cozumel
After snorkeling in Tulum, I knew that I wanted to go snorkeling again. We had seen some signs advertising snorkeling at Isla Cozumel, and was told that it had great snorkeling. So, we made plans to take a day trip.
In order to get to Cozumel, you have to take a ferry from Playa Del Carmen. So the first leg of the journey was taking a collectivo to the beach city. Once we got there, we found a vendor who was selling packages for ferry tickets with a snorkeling tour. We paid about $50 USD each for both, and were excited to get our adventure started.
Once we got to Cozumel, I will be honest and say I was a little disappointed in how commercial it was – Hard Rock Hotel, Señor Frogs and Margaritaville all occupied it’s shore line. It felt like a mini Cancun. I knew that once our snorkeling adventure was over, we probably wouldn’t spend much more time on the island.
We took a small boat around the island to various reefs. The water was beautiful, warm and crystal clear. Unfortunately, there were no stingrays or sea turtles on this trip, however we did see a much bigger variety of tropical fish, and a few huge parrot fish.
After our snorkeling tour, we walked around the main part of the island. It was beautiful to see some of the old colonial building, walk through the little souvenir shops. We even walked through a group of kids practicing ballet folklorico in a courtyard. As the sun began to set, we were ready to get back on the ferry and head back to Tulum. We had an early morning with lots of adventures set for the following day.
Day 6 – Chichen Itza & Cobá
When visiting the Yucatan peninsula, visiting the ancient city of Chichen Itza is a must. Now a UNESCO world heritage site, Chichen Itza was once an urban center of Mayan civilization. The amazing compound is a testament to the Mayan’s skillful architecture and impeccable astronomical calculations.
As we were planning our trip, we knew we did not want to take a big tourist bus, so we decided to instead rent a private driver. Our host at Casa Coyote recommended a driver by the name of Rudy. He offered many different day packages, and event met with us in person to customize our perfect day trip. (Reach out to Rudy on Facebook) We decided to start the day at 6am, so we can get to Chichen Itza early – ahead of the swarms of tourists – then head to some centotes and another nearby ruin, Cobá.
After an hour and a half drive, we got to Chichen Itza right around 8:45am. This was the perfect time to arrive. Although there were some tourist at the park, it was not overwhelmingly crowded, and the heavy humidity had not yet settled in.
Upon entering the park, one of the very first building you will see is the great Castillo de Kukulkan – a temple honoring the feathered serpent deity. This great castle is prime example of Mayan architectural and scientific excellence – not only does it have 365 steps, representing the days in the year, it also aligns with the stars during the summer and winter solaces to create a shadow affect of the great serpent god.
Another notable structure within the compound is the Great Ball Court. This court, used for a Mesoamerican ball game where players tried to hit a rubber ball through small stone hoops, is one of the largest and best preserved courts found throughout Mesoamerica. There is even a great structure at the end of the field where leaders and distinguished guests would sit to watch games take place.
It took us about two hours to get through the entire compound and see all of the major historical structures – El Platforma de Águilas y Jaguares (Platform of Eagles and Jaguars), El Plataforma de los Cráneos (Skull Platform), Templo de los Guerreros (Temple of the Warriors) are just some of the breathtaking sights that had withstood the test of time. Once the sun began to settle on top of us, we were ready to leave. Upon our exit we came to realize what an advantage we had starting the day as early as we did, because on our way out there were buses dropping off thousands of tourists, ready to swarm the park.
We met back up with our driver, Rudy, who then took us to our next stop – one of the most famous cenotes in Yucatan – Ik Kil. Ik Kil is an open air cenote about 85ft below the ground, with vines and plant life covering it’s walls. Being that it is so popular, it has been commercialized quite a bit, and it is now located in the middle of a compound complete with cottages to rent, showers and restaurants. We had a beautiful time swimming in this pool, and again benefited from our early schedule as we had beat the usual crowds who arrive later in the day.
We headed out of Ik Kil after only about an hour, because we were starving. Rudy asked us if we would like to try some traditional Mayan food, and of course we eagerly replied. He took us to a small roadside restaurant, where a Mayan woman was cooking alongside her family, making homemade tortillas. They offered us a traditional pork dish called Pok Chuk. Now, I don’t normally eat meat (let alone pork for that matter) but, I must say, this was one of the most delicious meals I had on the trip. It was even better knowing that the ingredients were locally sourced, made by a loving family, with ancient, traditional recipes.
After we filled our bellies, we headed to our final stop of the day. Cobá is an ancient site believed to be another stronghold of the Mayan civilization during it’s height. Today, Cobá is a popular tourist attraction, with a surrounding town inhabited my many modern day Mayas. One reason I loved this site is because we were actually able to rent bikes and ride throughout the grounds, which made it more bearable in the heat which had already exhausted us. But by far the most memorable part of this trip was our climb up the Nohoch Mul pyramid.
Unlike the great Castillo de Kukulkan in Chichen Itza, visitors are still able to climb Cobá’s great pyramid. The 137-foot climb up the steep Nohoch Mul pyramid is daunting, but beyond worthwhile. Upon getting to the top you are treated to a spectacular view of the area’s beauty – the dense, green forest and a few lagoons off to the distance. It was truly a breath taking and humbling experience.
Although hiring a private driver was a bit pricey ($200USD for the entire day) there was no other way I would’ve rather have made this trip. Our driver, Rudy, was very knowledgeable and was more than happy to tailor the trip to exactly what we wanted. It allowed us to beat the crowds and be comfortable throughout the day. I would highly recommend ensuring that your trip to the Yucatan includes a trip to these beautiful and sacred places.
Day 7- Casa Malca
Our final day in Tulum called for pure relaxation. After such an adventurous day going to two historical sites, spending the day in the hot sun, and climbing ancient pyramids, we wanted nothing more than enjoy the beauty of Tulum and the stress-free paradise returning back to the real world.
We started our day with some shopping alongside the boutiques throughout the tourist corridor. I loved that most of these boutiques featured items made in Mexico, many from local Mayan artisans. I had my eyes on a few pieces, so I was happy to make all my purchases before the end of the trip. (I will be doing an additional post highlighting the great items I bought).
Once I had all my purchases in hand, we were ready for the final part of our trip – something we had been looking forward to the entire week, a day at Casa Malca.
This luxurious boutique hotel was once a mansion owned by notorious drug lord, Pablo Escobar, and was his hidden retreat right on the Mayan Riviera. The mansion was abandoned after Escobar’s death, and then bought by art collector Lio Malca in 2012, who converted the space into a hotel.
While we were unable to enjoy a night at this beautiful space (the $500 a night price tag was a bit out of our budget), we were able to enjoy some of the amenities. Casa Malca has one of the only pools right on the beach, where we were able to enjoy some delicious cocktails while savoring the beautiful ocean breeze. The pool also featured an underground cove, which was a pretty cool feature I had never seen before. The space was beautiful, and although we were not guests of the hotel, we felt as though we got to enjoy in the opulence.
Once we had finished at the pool, we got to check out some of the amazing art and architecture that are the hotel’s claim to fame. The original mansion now serves as the hotel lobby, and we were able to climb to the rooftop and see the breathtaking view of the ocean with lush greenery as far as the eye can see. It’s not hard to imagine this place as the perfect hideaway.
Day 8 – Back to Reality
After a beautiful week in paradise, it was time to head back to the real world. We woke up a little disheartened to return back to our busy lives. After a quick breakfast we had about a free hour before we had to begin the journey back to the airport. We decided to return to Cenote Encantado to enjoy it’s beauty just a bit more. The hour flew by and it was time to get going.
To return to Cancun airport, we decided to take an ADO bus, which had a terminal in the city. This bus was cost efficient (about $10 each), and after a quick pit stop in Playa Del Carmen, took us straight to our airport terminal.
Our week in Tulum was more than I could’ve ever dreamed – it was romantic, adventurous, and relaxing. Although we did go about $500 over our estimated budget, we didn’t mind splurging a bit to enjoy our much deserved vacation.
I think one of the hardest parts about being an avid traveler is returning to a place when there are so many unknown destinations to explore. But I have no doubt that I will be returning to Tulum in the future. I am looking forward to the day that happens.
What follows below is an open letter to my partner, Oscar Salinas, in celebration of our five-year anniversary.
My Dearest Love,
This week, we celebrate our biggest milestone to date – the anniversary of our fifth year together. It’s crazy to think that so much time has passed since we first began dating, even longer since you came into my life as a friend. In many ways, I still feel like the giddy 19 year old I was when I first met you. It’s a bit strange to feel like no time has passed at all, but also so rewarding to look back at this life we’ve built together.
When I look back on the last five years, it’s filled with so many incredible moments together. From the trip to Nicaragua, that really became the foundation of our relationship, to our recent trip to Mexico City, which allowed us to dig deeper to your roots and explore your family’s history. We’ve already seen so much of this world together, and with no plans for slowing down, I cannot for the new adventures ahead of us.
I also recall the hardest parts of our relationships, all that we’ve endured. From our first year in Los Angeles, when we were broke and struggling to pay our bills, to all the hiccups and the times where I stumbled along the way. Through it all, you’ve have been my rock, my foundation, my arrow, my mirror, my light in the darkest of times.
However, when I look back on these last five years, what really sticks out to me is all that I’ve learned from you. You have challenged me in so many new ways. You have taught me what it feels like be comfortable and unapologetic in my own skin, never allowing me to feel anything but beautiful and brilliant. You have shown me what kindness looks like, as you open your heart to anyone who comes your way, always eager to help those in need. You have taught me about forgiveness and not allowing pride to take over in hard times. But most of all you have taught me about partnership.
The thing I love most about our relationship is our partnership – the balance we share between us. We are equals, we both work to match each other’s efforts. Your hustle matches my hustle. But beyond that, you have shown me how to put someone else, yourself, before I put myself. I’m still working on it, but I’m learning how to be a more compassionate and loving partner.
At this point in our relationship, I often get asked what is my favorite thing about you. I notice that I always look forward to answering this question, usually with a big smile on my face. My favorite thing about you is undoubtedly your lack of an ego. You never front, never try to act too “woke” or “deep”, you just are. And that person that you are is so genuine and kind, it’s no wonder that anyone who comes your way is enamored by you.
Throughout my life, I have felt the power of manifestation and consciously emitting energy in the universe. I have seen the way that it has played out in my life, as I have been able to achieve many of my own goals and see many of my dreams come true. But perhaps the biggest and most powerful manifestation that has come into my life so far is you.
I think about the things my mother used to tell me about choosing a partner – “Make sure he comes from a good home and a strong family. Make sure he loves you more than you love him.” These things used to sound so trivial to me, until you came along and showed me the power of those two things. As a little girl, I would look up to the wonderful men in my life and would pray I would find my own man just as wonderful. Those manifestations came true with you.
As we round out the last five years, we begin a completely new chapter in our relationship. We are now building on our foundation and planning for our future. We are manifesting new career changes, focusing on paying off our student debt, and really taking the next steps into our adult lives. My favorite part is that we are coming into our own, individual lives together. We don’t have to compromise who we are, or our goals, for the sake of our relationship. Rather, we have evolved in a way that allows us to go after our own individual goals together, with unconditional support.
I know that in you, I have a true partner, a best friend. That is what has made these last five years so incredible. We have grown together in a way that makes us both better people. I cannot wait for the future that we build together, and to see who we become as we walk through our journeys side by side.
Thank you for all the love, I hope that I’ve been able to return what you’ve given me.
Con Mucho Amor,
Location: The Row, Downtown Los Angeles
There are few “adulting” chores that I actually enjoy. Laundry, cleaning the house, and even grocery shopping are “have to’s” that I know I must do in order to keep an orderly household, they are far from “want to’s”. However, there is one adulating chore that I do enjoy – I might even say that I look forward to. That is my weekly trip to the Farmer’s Market.
If you haven’t started shopping at farmer’s markets yet, let me list a few reasons why I love them
- The availability of local, seasonal produce. While your typical grocery stores do offer a great selection of produce, many of what you see in the produce aisle is often shipped in from other countries as far away as Chile. This takes a big environmental tole on our planet, given the great distance it takes to ship.
- Supporting local farmers, and getting a great price. When you buy at a farmer’s market, you are buying directly from the people who grow the food. This not only helps each individual farmer that you are buying from, it also helps to stimulate the local economy as a whole. Additionally, since you’re buying direct, you get a better price, since you’re not paying for grocery store mark ups. I usually spend no more than $40 for a week’s worth of fresh produce, bread, eggs and other goodies.
- The chance to discover something new. Whether it’s new, seasonal produce or new vendors, there’s plenty to discover. Many small businesses will also set up shop at local farmer’s markets, giving you a great opportunity to buy and support people in your community.
- The opportunity to shop waist free. This is by far the biggest reason why I shop at farmers market. Most produce at any farmers market will come without any packaging. However, I say that it is an opportunity (and not a given) because buying waist free takes planning and intention.
In this blog, I’m going to highlight some of my must haves that I always carry with me to the farmer’s market, in order to ensure that I am making my trip as waste-free and environmentally friendly as possible.
Market Tote Bag
The first item I always carry with me is a tote bag. I’m sure you’ve seen many bloggers and brands promoting super chic, expensive farmer’s market tote bags. While these are gorgeous, and add to a great IG photo, they are totally not necessary. This “Viva La Vida” Frida bag I purchased through a fundraiser for my sorority, and it has become my favorite bag to take to the Farmer’s Market. It’s big enough to fit all of my essentials, but not so bulky that it gets in the way of my shopping.
Reusable Produce Bags
The next item I always have with me are reusable produce bags. While most produce at farmer’s market come without packaging, most attendants are there with plastic bag in hand, ready to bag your items together in order to carry them to weigh. Plastic produce bags honestly drive me crazy. Here in California, there is a $0.10 fee for plastic grocery bags, and most people have become accustomed to taking their reusable grocery bags with them, but for some reason, the plastic produce bags are still ever present.
In addition to being an environmental burden, these plastic bags are also not good for your produce! Produce will suffocate and sweat in plastic bags, causing them to rot and mold fairly fast. Instead, I use reusable produce bags. These are great because they allow your produce to breath while stored in the fridge and last a lot longer. Some great resources to buy reusable produce bags include Package Free Shop or this set from Amazon.
The final items I always carry in my burlap farmer’s market tote is a set of reusable cups. Spending a morning shopping in the hot LA summer sun calls for a nice, refreshing drink. At many farmer’s market you can find the perfect vendor to quench your thirst, be it fresh squeezed lemonade or a variety of aguas frescas. I have found that most vendors are more than happy to serve me in my reusable cups and it feels good to support a local business without creating any waste.
There are many things to love about farmer’s markets, and always something new to discover. Every farmer’s market has it’s own unique feel, with vendors who have fresh, local produce to nourish you throughout the week. I even enjoy breaking the routine and going to new markets outside of my usual neighborhood one. It allows me to discover new areas of my city and spend a day supporting my local economy.
I hope this blog inspired you to check out the local farmer’s markets in your area, and gave you some insight on how to ensure that your trip is waste free. What are some items you carry with you to ensure your trips to the market are waste free? What are some of your favorite markets in your area? I would love to hear more about your experiences!
Con Mucho Amor,
Location: Larchmont Village Farmer’s Market, Los Angeles
Photography: Salpy Talian
Now, I will admit, this statement may be a little biased – but I was blessed to be born in one of the most beautiful states in the country. While many people’s first impression of Arizona is a hot, desert wasteland (they’re not completely wrong), the natural beauties of this state are plentiful. We have some well-known landmarks, like the Grand Canyon and Sedona Red Rocks, but also a plethora of lesser known, but just as beautiful sights – Havasupai Falls, Antelope Canyon, Kartchner Caverns just to name a few. You could live in Arizona your whole life and not fully experience all the beauty it has to offer.
A few years ago, I heard about another hidden gem – The Wave, a spectacular Navajo sandstone rock formation that is a result of centuries of sand and wind erosion dating as far back as the Jurassic age! The Wave is just one of the beautiful sites within the Coyote Buttes that straddle the border of Arizona and Utah. This region is known for spectacular rock formations and natural beauty.
When I first heard of The Wave, one of the first things I learned was that it was extremely hard to get to, not only because of the rigorous 6-mile hike, but also because of the permit process. Because the sandstone is soft and easily damaged, only 20 people a day are allowed access. Given that this is an internationally known travel destination, with thousands of people seeking the opportunity to make this hike, the odds for entry are extremely low. According to Bureau of Land Management, in 2013 the chances of actually obtaining a permit were between 4%-8%, depending on the time of year.
There are two ways to obtain a permit to hike The Wave. The first is through the online lottery system – applicants must apply for a permit four months in advance, and pay a non-refundable fee of $7 (you can apply to your permit here). The second way is through a walk in lottery – hopeful applicants must visit the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument Visitor Center in Kenab, UT in person, and a drawing will be held for permits the following day.
So how did I get so lucky to obtain such an illusive permit? Well that was thanks to a very dedicated friend, Bryan Soto. Bryan is an avid outdoorsman and traveler, and had been applying for permits for over a year. Finally after trying and failing many times, luck was on his side and he was granted 4 permits for a Thursday in the beginning of June. (Read more of Bryan’s application process and experience on his blog – La Onda). With four permits in hand, Bryan and his girlfriend Marisol (AKA my Little Sis) were deciding who to bring along this adventure with them. Marisol suggested they take me and my partner, Oscar, along as a graduation gift to me. (Shout out to my Little! YOU THE BEST!)
All it took was a couple of text messages, and we were on board! Oscar and I requested the days off of work, booked our flights to Phoenix, and were ready for our adventure.
Oscar and I flew into Phoenix Wednesday night straight after work. Bryan and Marisol were there right when we landed and we embarked on the four hour drive up to Page, Arizona. We spent the night in a local motel, and woke up early in the morning ready for our hike. The trail head for The Wave was about an hour and a half drive away from Page – 40 minutes down the highway, and another 40 minutes down a dirt road. We finally arrived at our starting point at about 8:30am – and full disclaimer, this was already MUCH too late to start. We had hoped we would have started before the day got too hot, but the notorious Arizona heat had already started to settle in.
We weren’t exactly sure what to expect on our hike, but the complete lack of a trail was not one of them. When Bryan obtained the permits, he was also sent a map of how to get to The Wave. The map entailed of photos of landmarks with notes on how to navigate. We were basically on our own when it came to figuring out how to get there, it’s no wonder that some people who embark on this journey never find the final destination. The Wave is hidden, I was expecting a simple walk to into a canyon, however it was a difficult hike up and down the Coyote Buttes with The Wave located in a small mountain range.
If you are not an experienced hiker, I would NOT recommend this trail. It’s very easy to get lost, the heat is oppressive, and with only 20 people allowed each day, your chances of finding help are slim. However, if you’re up for the adventure and challenge, then the frustration of the permit process is totally worth it.
It took us about an hour and a half to hike the 3 miles to The Wave. We were immediately in awe of the beauty that surrounded us. It was as if we were on another planet! We were surrounded by walls of orange-red rock, that shone vibrantly in the mid-morning sun. The pathway opened up to the infamous Wave formation, cut out from centuries of sand and wind.
We spent about an hour and a half at The Wave – eating lunch, taking photos and just taking in this beauty that we were privileged and blessed to see in person. Once we noticed that the sun had started to settle comfortably on top of us, we decided it was time to head back.
As difficult as the hike into The Wave was, it was nothing compared to the trek back. At 1:00pm, the sun was directly overhead and there was no shade in which we could take refuge. The lack of trail meant that we were backtracking against the landmarks we had used to guide us in. At one point, we hugged too close to a butte and on the way down we completely lost sight of where we were going. We spent about 30 minutes in the hot sun trying to figure out how to get back on track. We knew we were only about a mile away from our car and did our best to keep calm. Eventually, the master navigator and my saviors, Oscar, had found the way and we were back on track.
The Wave was by far one of the most difficult hikes I’ve been on. Although the terrain was fairly easy to climb and scale, the lack of a trail and the overwhelming heat made it extremely challenging. But despite the difficulties, this was one of my most memorable hikes. If this hike is on your bucket list, I highly recommend applying for a permit, getting your gear together, and waiting for your lucky day. I will always cherish this experience, knowing that I am one of the few people in the world who has gotten to witness this beauty first hand, I am forever grateful.
Con Mucho Amor,
Location: The Wave – Northern Coyote Buttes, Arizona/Utah Border
Dress: B.Yellowtail (Previous Collection)
A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog post called Deeply Rooted and shared my story about my identity. Although I was raised with a deep and thorough understanding of my ancestors, our cultures and traditions, I had a tough time navigating society’s perception of who I am and what my cultural background means. After writing and sharing this particular post, I had a lot of people reach out to me, sharing their stories and similar experience. It was really great for me to see that my personal experience is so relatable with others, many of whom I did not know personally before. But it also showed me how our historical narratives are often confined to be very narrow and limited.
Shortly after writing that piece, I had a conversation with my dear friend Bethany Yellowtail. We were speaking, as we often do, about women of color empowerment, future plans and the continued struggle to dismantle systems of colonization that have oppressed indigenous people all over the world. It was at this moment that Bethany said something to me that shed some new light on my own identity and struggle:
“Indigenous people of the Southwest and California have had a particularly brutal past that has contributed to the loss of their languages and customs – they were colonized three times. Not only by the Spanish, but also by the Mexican and United States governments.”
It was as if all of a sudden, my identity made a bit more sense to me. Now, don’t get me wrong, I had always been aware of the history of colonization my people endured – especially my Juaneño (Acjachemen) ancestors who suffered tremendously at the hands of the Spanish and are considered part of the brutal history of Mission Indians – a system of forced indentured servitude where indigenous peoples were taken by the Catholic missionaries to build churches and forcibly convert to Catholicism. But I had never really considered my Mexican identity as part of my colonized history. To me, my Mexican heritage was a source of pride, a testimony to the longevity of my familiar ties to my homeland, and also the often misunderstood history of the border.
However, it is an important aspect to understand. After the Spanish had forced my ancestors, and many others, into indentured servitude, and forced the loss of language and culture teachings, they were once again colonized by the Mexican government, which continued acts of genocide and an oppressive regime of denying indigenous communities their way of life. When the US annexed much of the southwest through the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, much of their way of life was already lost.
Throughout my life, it has been hard for me to really own and claim my indigenous ancestry, and this is primarily due to two institutional practices put in place by the US government. The first is reservations and tribal recognition. Although the Juaneño ban of California Mission Indians is recognized by the state of California, they are in fact not recognized the the Federal Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). Many individuals often do not realize that while their are currently 573 tribes recognized by the federal government – meaning they have formal status and agreements with the United States Government – there are hundreds of others who do not.
The lack of my people’s (Ajachamen/Juaneño) recognition by the federal government is a direct result of their brutal history of colonization – their population and history was already decimated by the Spanish and Mexican governments. When their homelands within Orange County, CA became part of the United States, their numbers were so small and there was difficulty organizing.
This is an immediate barrier when explaining my indigeneity and roots to individuals. For many people there is an assumption that is a tribe is not federally recognized, then that tribe must not exist. The legitimacy of tribal claim is so closely tied to federal recognition, and this is again a direct result of a history of colonization and genocide.
The other issue for me is my lack of a Certificate of Indian Blood (CIB). For those of you who are unaware of what a CIB is, it is a document issued by the BIA to establish legitimacy to claims of Indian Heritage and monitor the population. Realistically, it is a blood quorum document, meant to document what the federal government hoped would be the eventual erasure and extinction of indigenous Americans.
Given that a CIB is based on a blood quorum, an individual has to meet specific requirements based off of enrollment within a federally recognized tribe. Although my father is an enrolled member of the Juaneño band of California Mission Indians, as I mentioned early, the lack of federal recognition means that we do not qualify. Additionally, while my mother is also of indigenous decent – Kambiwa in Brazil – the United States and the BIA fail to recognized indigenous people in other parts of the America’s.
When I was growing up, all of these issues presented obstacles when explaining my ancestry and identity, especially considering that many text books fail to accurately inform the reader on how colonization affected indigenous people throughout the Americas; even the fact that indigenous Americans still exist is a surprise to some people. As a child it was simply easer to say Mexican-American, or Latina, because it better fits with people’s understanding of historical narratives.
However, as I’ve grown older I have developed a deeper understanding of how history, colonization and shifting borders have shaped my own identity. To me, reclaiming my indigeneity is a direct testimony to my ancestors and their survival in the face of genocide. Although so many forces tried to eliminate my people – our culture, language and traditional ways of life – I stand here, surviving and thriving in my ancestral homeland.
I no longer try to explain my way around my identity, rather I proudly proclaim it – I am many things: Indigena, Xicana, Mexica, Mestiza, Brasiliera, Americana – all of which are a testimony to survival and resilience. I wear and say my history proudly.
Con Mucho Amor,
Location: Vasquez Rocks, California
Earrings: Carmen Creations
This week officially marks the end of my academic career, the end of a very long chapter in my life, and one of my biggest accomplishments. As I am getting ready to start all of the graduation ceremonies that are coming my way, I wanted to share the story of my academic journey – the ups and down, highs and lows. The path I took to get to this point was not easy, and what’s ahead of me is not necessarily clear, but I learned a lot about myself in the process and I cannot wait to apply what I’ve learned.
For me, it’s only right to start this story at the very beginning – as a young Brown girl, growing up in Mesa, Arizona. Ever since I can remember, education was important to me and I knew I wanted to go to college. I was fortunate to come from a family of highly educated women, on both sides of my family. My mother immigrated to the United States from Brazil when she was 16 years old to complete high school. She moved back to Brazil after graduation and began pursuing her Bachelor’s at the Universidade de Pernambuco in her hometown of Recife. This was a time of extreme political unrest in Brazil and many students were organizing against the military dictatorship. My mother eventually moved back to the United States to complete her degree at Oberlin College in Ohio. Afterwards she pursued her Masters at the University of California, Berkeley.
My mother wasn’t the only highly educated women in my family. My father’s sisters all went to college – Arizona State, UC Berkley and Stanford. When I was growing up, I saw my favorite cousin complete her Bachelor’s at UCLA and went on to earn her Master’s at Harvard University. While I didn’t have many resources in high school to help me navigate the college admissions process, I had the example of all of these amazing women to show me that it was possible and that I was capable. These women were the backbone and the foundation for my own academic journey.
Although I had my heart set on attending Stanford University for my undergrad, I ended up going to Arizona State University with a merit scholarship that paid for the entirety of my tuition. While I was disappointed I didn’t go to my dream school, I could not have been happier with my experience. I was able to switch my major a few times until I found the right fit for me, I joined an amazing Latina-founded Sorority and made life-long friends, and I got to spend a semester abroad in São Paulo, Brazil learning more about my roots, my culture and myself. The best part was graduating DEBT FREE from a four year university with my Bachelor’s in Justice Studies, minor in Political Science and a certificate in Human Rights. But the toughest questions I had to answer was “What’s next?”
I knew upon graduating that I was not ready to pursue my masters right away. I needed a break – college was an exciting time in my life, but I was burnt out. For four years, I lived and breathed college – I worked there, had class there and socialized there. I would often have 12-16 hour days on campus and knew that I needed to take a step back. I needed to take a step back to really figure out what I wanted to do with my life. Furthermore, I knew that I wasn’t going to be as fortunate to graduate with my Master’s debt free, so the decision had to be the right one.
But despite my accomplishments and my plan to do what was right for me, I still had countless people tell me I would never go back to get my Master’s if I didn’t start right away. I love proving people wrong about what I’m capable of.
Over the three years before applying to USC, I researched several options. I looked at a number of different programs, but nothing caught my attention and when I would look at cost of attendance it would almost send me into cardiac arrest. I had honestly never thought about attending the University of Southern California, but I had two sorority sisters graduate with their masters who enjoyed their experience. At the time, I was working for my friend and entrepreneur, Bethany Yellowtail, and became inspired to look into a business program. A quick search online lead me to discover the Masters of Science in Social Entrepreneurship program, and I just knew it was the place for me.
A social enterprise is an organization that generates earned revenue while being mission focused, with the hopes of balancing financial and social returns. The program focused on teaching business skills and strategies, while inspiring students to create innovative solutions to some of the worlds most pressing issues – hunger, homelessness, education, poverty. This program attracted me because I would be able to get the business acumen I was looking for, while continuing to work on issues I was passionate about. So with a heart full of dreams I applied, interviewed and was accepted.
I had never struggled with school before, it was always something that came easy for me. Balancing school and work, doing homework, studying for exam – all of that was cake. I was not prepared for the struggles I would have in my graduate program. While I loved my program and was in the classroom full of diverse students (about 70% of my cohort were women, and about 50% people of color) I was weighed down by the overwhelming privilege that comes with attending a PWI (predominately white institution). For the first time in my academic career, I felt as though I was somewhere I did not belong.
My struggles were further exacerbated by the stress of having to take out student loans. Although I was comfortable with the cost of attendance when I applied, the reality of taking out those loans hit me extremely hard. There were nights where I would lay in bed with my partner, in tears due to the stress of having to take out loans each semester, questioning if this investment would actually pay off.
I was constantly conflicted about whether my timing was right – what was the point of pursing my degree when my professional resume was not up to par? How would future employers see me when my academic achievements outweighed my career experience – Over-educated and under-qualified? What jobs could I actually get when I was done? Would I even be able to get a job that provided me with sufficient enough salary to pay these damn loans off?
As hard as it was, I could not deny the fact that I loved what I was learning. I was gaining business skills and acumen that I had lacked before, and I was accomplishing one of my life’s biggest goals. I pushed myself beyond my limits, I stayed in it when all I wanted to do was drop out, I invested and believed in myself more than I ever had before.
To know that I am now one of the 4% of Latinos in the United States that have a master’s degree makes me incredibly proud. I overcame all the barriers and obstacles that were placed before me, and I will be walking across a stage to receive my degree from an institution that historically tried to exclude people from my background. I achieved something so many people told me was impossible.
But this accomplishment is not mine alone. It is a testimony to my Mother, and all the women in my family who inspired me and encouraged me. It was made possible by all the educators and leaders I worked with who showed me I could make it happen. And I achieved it with the love and support of my partner, who supported me every step of the way.
I cannot wait to see what the future has in store. Just wait to see what I do next.
Con Mucho Amor,
Location – University of Southern California