How Rising Latino Artists Maria Isabel, Destiny Rogers, and Jay Wheeler Have Made Their Dreams Come True
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Rising Latino Artists Maria Isabel, Destiny Rogers, and Jay Wheeler

By Alvin Blanco, Genius

It’s all about talent, education, and the willingness to take risks. Music is meant to inspire, and a new wave of fresh, exciting, ridiculously talented Latino artists understands this fact.

Maria Isabel, Destiny Rogers, and Jay Wheeler are up-and-coming singer-songwriters with the talent and desire to achieve greatness. This next class of stars succeeded by tapping into education to make their dreams come true—and they’ve inspired their fans and followers in the process.

The three artists embody the spirit of the McDonald’s HACER National Scholarship, established in 1985. The goal of the scholarship is to help Latino students break barriers and make their parents and those around them proud. Over the years, McDonald’s has helped more than 17,000 Latino students—and given out more than $32 million—through the HACER program. The initiative is especially important in tough times like we’re facing now. Given the state of the world, it’s crucial for young people to keep moving forward and do more.

Isabel, Rogers, and Wheeler are certainly moving in the right direction. But they come from different places and represent the breadth of the Latino diaspora. Isabel grew up in Queens, New York, as the daughter of parents from the Dominican Republic, while Wheeler was born and raised in Salinas, Puerto Rico. Rogers, who is half Mexican on her mother’s side, held down the West Coast, growing up in Lodi, California. They all knew early on that creating music was in their future.

Dreams of rocking stages don’t always line up with the plans of parents who want more practical, and safer, careers for their children. Isabel, who dropped her debut EP, Stuck In The Sky, in October 2020, seamlessly blends her Dominican ancestry’s bachata and merengue with R&B and hip-hop and her lush vocals. She is particularly thankful that her parents had no issue supporting her aspirations.

“My parents took four-year-old me seriously when I said I was going to become a singer,” says Isabel, who attended NYU. “They never argued with that dream or told me I had to be anything different. Obviously, I had to go to school, get good grades, and all that stuff, but it was never a matter of like, pick something. I think with any first-generation kid watching your parents make sacrifices or work extra hours or whatever it may be to make it possible for you to do what you want to do, I think that was the biggest motivating force to be successful.”

While Isabel’s parents had faith in her talents, Wheeler’s classmates in school were less kind. The reggaeton crooner has spoken candidly about the bullying he faced, but he was still able to persevere and become a certified star. By posting his music on the Internet, Wheeler jump started his career. Fans dubbed him “La Voz Favorita,” and he earned praise and hands-on guidance from reggaeton legend DJ Nelson, who executive produced his two critically acclaimed albums: 2019’s Platónico and 2020’s Platónicos.

Those school bullies couldn’t knock Wheeler off his path. “I always loved music [but] I knew that it was going to be hard,” he says. “Living for something that you love is harder. I learned English in school and watching TV and movies. I knew at some point in my life I wanted to do something in the English world because [I have] a lot of respect for American music. A lot of kids [take education] for granted—I don’t know need to learn this, I don’t need to learn that—but when you get older, you realize that all the things that they gave you, you do need to educate yourself in everything, because life puts you in a different position everyday.”

Click here to read the full article on Genius.

Renowned Latina chef helps spread word about free summer meals for kids, teens
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Renowned Latina chef Lorena Garcia wearing a red chefs uniform while smiling at the camera

By Edwin Flores, NBC News

Latina chef, author and TV personality Lorena Garcia is partnering with a national nonprofit group to let families know there are free meals available for children and teenagers as more people face hunger and food insecurity amid high food prices.

“We’re really trying to raise awareness, particularly this summer, about the meals that are available — parents and caregivers can find free summer meal sites right in their neighborhood,” the Venezuelan American chef said about No Kid Hungry, a campaign by the nonprofit group Share Our Strength based in Washington, D.C., which helps feed children and teenagers across the nation.

Even before the current issues of inflation and steeper food prices, the Covid-19 pandemic fallout resulted in a loss of jobs or reduced hours for millions in the country, leading to more families struggling to put food on the table, according to an analysis by Feeding America, which focuses on equitable access to food.

In 2020, food insecurity for Latinos increased by more than 19%, with Hispanics 2.5 times more likely to experience food insecurity than their white counterparts. Latino children were more than twice as likely to live in food-insecure households than white children, according to the nonprofit group.

Additionally, census data indicates that 1 in 6 Latinos live in poverty compared to 1 in 16 non-Latino whites.

Parents and caregivers can find a free summer meal site by texting “FOOD” or “COMIDA” to 304-304 or by visiting the group website’s free meal finder. The free meals provided are for youths 18 and younger.

Summer marks the hungriest time of the year for children since school is no longer in session and there is less access to daily, reliable meals. The No Kid Hungry summer meals programs reach 16% of children nationwide.

García said some of the summer meal programs are providing up to 750,000 meals a day to feed children and teenagers throughout the summer.

“The help is there, we just need to make sure that people know that this program is out there,” Garcia, who joined actor and TV cooking personality Ayesha Curry and rapper Big Freedia as No Kid Hungry partners, told NBC News.

As families grapple with the issue of meals in the summer months, millions of students could lose access to free and reduced-price meals after Congress failed to extend the federal Child Nutrition Waivers — introduced during the pandemic — which are set to expire June 30 after two years.

Click here to read the full article on NBC News.

7 Latina-Owned Secondhand Shops That Promote Sustainability
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7 Latina-Owned Secondhand Shops That Promote Sustainability

By Tess Garcia, Refinery 29

Like many immigrants, Latines have a complicated history with secondhand shopping. Some of us grew up parsing through thrift stores out of necessity. Others were raised to avoid them at all costs, viewing shiny, new things as symbols of success. In recent years, an alternative school of thought has emerged from both ends of the spectrum: more and more, Latine shoppers of all class backgrounds are embracing pre-owned clothing for its prices as well as sustainability and style points.

“Growing up first-generation in a super white community, I couldn’t comfortably sit in one group or the other. I used clothes to express myself,” Mexican-American Isabel Robles tells Refinery29 Somos. Upon entering her teen years, this meant exploring the once-taboo worlds of thrift and consignment stores. “As I grew up, I grew more comfortable with my individuality, and shopping vintage and secondhand gave me the opportunity to pull pieces and style myself differently from everyone else.”

Others, like Moises Mendez II, shop secondhand as a way to honor their elders’ values. “My mom, who is from the Dominican Republic, is the biggest believer in ‘if you can get it for cheaper, why not?’ She also does her best to be environmentally conscious,” he explains. “Because I saw those two things growing up, they’ve been instilled in me, and I feel like I’m fulfilling them by shopping secondhand.”

No matter your motives for buying secondhand, it’s also a great way to support Latine entrepreneurs. Below, we’ve rounded up seven Latina-owned vintage and thrift stores that will change the way you shop. Keep reading to learn how each founder got their start, how they feel about sustainable shopping trends, and more.

The Plus Bus — Los Angeles, California

Co-Founded by Marcy Guevara-Prete

Image from The Plus Bus vintage store
Origin Story: “My business partner and I had so many clothes. Not only did we want those clothes to go to other happy homes, but we wanted a place to come and actually have a shopping experience in person. It’s so stressful and feels like such a disparity that the amount of options for our straight-size counterparts are just so abundant, yet there’s just nothing for plus-size shoppers. But we have money to spend, places to go, people to see.”
On Sustainability & Personal Growth: “When we started the store, sustainability was not on my radar. But it has become so important to me and such a central part of our business. Not only do we know fashion is a huge polluter of the planet, but I care about my wallet, I care about investing in brands that do care and are trying to be ethical. I really try to shop out of The Plus Bus, and I’ve been able to do that successfully for almost three years now.”

Current Boutique — Washington, DC

Founded by Carmen Lopez

Image from Current Boutique vintage store
Origin Story: “Growing up, my mother and I would visit la segunda for treasures every weekend. I saw an opening in the market to make consignment shopping cool, modern, and on-trend. At 28 years old, I saved enough money to launch my business, Current Boutique. My parents, especially my father, didn’t support my decision. No one in our family worked for themselves, definitely not a woman. I started with a lease on a small brick-and-mortar storefront and grew it to three. Now, it’s evolved into a national e-commerce consignment website.”
On Attention to Detail: “I was brought up to know that everything has value and I should cherish my belongings to make them last. We tell our customers to bring us natural fabric items made from cashmere, silk, linen, and cotton. Not only do they hold their value, but their new owners will get repeat uses, which is the key to circular fashion.”

Poorly Curated — New York City

Founded by Jamie Espino

Image from Poorly Curated Vintage Store.
Origin Story: “As a kid, my Tata would take me thrifting. We’d go thrifting and we’d go to lunch. After college, I started applying to jobs at bigger fashion companies, but then I realized none of these places shared my beliefs. The more I thought about how I’d be spending my time, the more I was like, ‘I should just try to do vintage full time.’ Now, it’s about to be six years. I love what I’m doing with Poorly Curated.”
On the Cost of Fast Fashion: “At the end of the day, vintage is a very sustainable way of shopping, especially compared to disposable fashion, which is mostly made by people of color who aren’t getting paid fair wages. Why would I want to contribute to people who look like me not getting paid fairly? Also, when it comes to climate change, it’s always poor communities of color that tend to be affected. Why would I do that to myself, essentially?”

Fresa Thrift — Denton, Texas

Founded by Anisa Gutierrez

Image from Fresa Thrift Vintage Store
Origin Story: “Before the Covid-19 pandemic, I opened my store, Fresa Thrift, but during the lockdown, I decided to quit my full-time job and just jump into the store full time. It was a combination of what I loved and needing to love myself.”
On Owning a Business: “I’ve always had a boss, so it’s hard for me to see myself as my own boss. As a Latina in the workplace, I was the one who said, ‘I’m going to put my head down and work.’ I wasn’t around a lot of people who looked like me, and I wasn’t going to give them a reason to look down on me. For my mother and my grandmother, starting a business was never an option or a thought. For me to do it and have them say, ‘You make it look so easy,’ it’s nice to hear. It makes me wonder: What would their small businesses have been?

Debutante Vintage Clothing — Pomona, California

Founded by Sandra Mendoza

Image from Debutante Vintage Clothing
Origin Story: “I had amassed so much vintage for myself to wear that I had to start selling some of it. In 1998, I started flipping things on eBay and realized, ‘Wow, I can make some money.’ Eventually, it grew into my business, Debutante Vintage Clothing.”
On Generational Shifts: “When I first started my business, my parents were like, ‘Eso trapos viejos, ¿vas a vender?’ It’s only been this year — and I’ve been in business since 2005 — when I showed them my shop, and they were like, ‘Oh, it’s nice here. It’s organized.’ As immigrants, they wanted everything brand new and shiny. I’m so proud that younger people are embracing secondhand and even mending and repurposing. As a business owner, inventory has become a lot harder to source [laughs]. But as a social movement, I’m so happy.”

Click here to read the full article on Refinery 29.

At 17, she was her family’s breadwinner on a McDonald’s salary. Now she’s gone into space
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At 17, she was her family's breadwinner on a McDonald's salary. Now she's gone into space

By Jackie Wattles, CNN

A rocket built by Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin carried its fifth group of passengers to the edge of space, including the first-ever Mexican-born woman to make such a journey.

The 60-foot-tall suborbital rocket took off from Blue Origin’s facilities in West Texas at 9:26am ET, vaulting a group of six people to more than 62 miles above the Earth’s surface — which is widely deemed to make the boundary of outer space — and giving them a few minutes of weightlessness before parachuting to landing.

Most of the passengers paid an undisclosed sum for their seats. But Katya Echazarreta, an engineer and science communicator from Guadalajara, Mexico, was selected by a nonprofit called Space for Humanity to join this mission from a pool of thousands of applicants. The organization’s goal is to send “exceptional leaders” to space and allow them to experience the overview effect, a phenomenon frequently reported by astronauts who say that viewing the Earth from space give them a profound shift in perspective.

Echazarreta told CNN Business that she experienced that overview effect “in my own way.”

“Looking down and seeing how everyone is down there, all of our past, all of our mistakes, all of our obstacles, everything — everything is there,” she said. “And the only thing I could think of when I came back down was that I need people to see this. I need Latinas to see this. And I think that it just completely reinforced my mission to continue getting primarily women and people of color up to space and doing whatever it is they want to do.”

Echazarreta is the first Mexican-born woman to travel to space and the second Mexican after Rodolfo Neri Vela, a scientist who joined one of NASA’s Space Shuttle missions in 1985.

She moved to the United States with her family at the age of seven, and she recalls being overwhelmed in a new place where she didn’t speak the language, and a teacher warned her she might have to be held back.
“It just really fueled me and I think ever since then, ever since the third grade, I kind of just went off and have not stopped,” Echazarreta recalled in an Instagram interview.

When she was 17 and 18, Echazarreta said she was also the main breadwinner for her family on a McDonald’s salary.

“I had sometimes up to four [jobs] at the same time, just to try to get through college because it was really important for me,” she said.
These days, Echazarreta is working on her master’s degree in engineering at Johns Hopkins University. She previously worked at NASA’s famed Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California. She also boasts a following of more than 330,000 users on TikTok, hosts a science-focused YouTube series and is a presenter on the weekend CBS show “Mission Unstoppable.”

Space for Humanity — which was founded in 2017 by Dylan Taylor, a space investor who recently joined a Blue Origin flight himself — chose her for her impressive contributions. “We were looking for some like people who were leaders in their communities, who have a sphere of influence; people who are doing really great work in the world already, and people who are passionate about whatever that is,” Rachel Lyons, the nonprofit’s executive director, told CNN Business.

Click here to read the full article on CNN.

Former TV News Producer Showcases Latin Culture With New Series ‘Gordita Chronicles’
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Former TV News Producer Showcases Latin Culture With New Series ‘ Gordita Chronicles '

By Elizabeth Chavolla, NBC Los Angeles

Working in the newsroom helped her become a better series writer, said Claudia Forestieri, creator of the new comedy “Gordita Chronicles.”

“By day I was a full time journalist and by night an aspiring series writer,” Forestieri told Telemundo 52, as she recalled the years she worked as a reporter, an assignment editor, and a news produce for various Telemundo stations.

“Telemundo helped me become a TV writer. When we do news, you have to pitch stories every day, and if your story didn’t get picked, you can’t sit and cry about it, you have to keep pitching ideas, know how to meet a deadline, and able to summarize a story quickly, so news prepared me well to be a TV series writer,” said Forestieri.

I wanted to showcase the life of the immigrant that is never shown, the fun side, the happy side, the positive side, and show the wonderful things about the Latin culture and how our culture and the American culture can come together and create a beautiful community.

And even though she loved being a journalist, her heart’s desire was becoming a writer for a television series, and nine years later, after years of sacrifice, tears, sleepless nights, and being almost 3,000 miles away from her family, the Dominican immigrant created a series that has received support from HBO Max and the actresses and executive producers, Eva Longoria and Zoe Saldaña.

IT WASN’T EASY
“I started from scratch. I didn’t have any contacts; I didn’t know anyone in this industry. I sacrificed a lot, I missed many weddings, vacations, but in the end my family understood.

Forestieri, who left Miami at age 35, said arriving to the West Coast with a mission forced her to prepare for the challenge she was about to face. “I had to fall in love with the journey. I had to learn to be a better writer, take classes.”

THE SERIES “GORDITA CHRONICLES”
After having been accepted into several writing programs, in 2018 Forestieri did her first screenwriting job, and in 2019 she collaborated on the Netflix series Selena.

Then in 2021, Right during the pandemic, HBO Max announced they had chosen the series “Gordita Chronicles”, and that Zoe Saldaña and Eva Longoria would become the executive producers of this project.

Inspired by the life of Forestieri, the protagonist of “Gordita Chronicles”, Carlota, “Cucú” Castilli (Olivia Goncalvez), is a 12-year-old girl who, along with her parents and older sister, left the Dominican Republic to pursue the American Dream in 1985 after her father, an airline marketing executive, got transferred to Miami.

The series shows how young Cucú faces the challenges of being an immigrant in a new world, showing her courage, humor, mischief, as well as the importance of her culture and family.

“I wanted to write a script that was personal. I was an immigrant girl, I wanted a better life, I had to learn a new language, a new lifestyle in a new country, and make new friends,” said Forestieri.

“I wanted to reflect the life of the immigrant that is never shown, the fun side, the happy side, the positive side, and show the wonderful things about the Latin culture and how our culture and the American culture can come together and create a beautiful community,” she added.

The writer added that most immigrants who arrive to a new country “want a better life, they want the country to be better” and that is precisely what the series will show.

Click here to read the full article on NBC Los Angeles.

FAA Launches ‘Be ATC’ Campaign to Recruit Next Diverse Generation of Air Traffic Controllers
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Air Traffic Controller

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is launching “Be ATC,” a recruiting campaign to hire the next generation of air traffic controllers. The application window will be open nationwide from June 24-27 for all eligible U.S. citizens.

Air traffic controllers are part of the FAA’s fast-paced, active team of 14,000 professionals in radar facilities and in air traffic control towers who keep the skies safe across the nation. Controllers have a tremendous responsibility, handling an average of 45,000 flights a day and more than 5,000 aircraft traversing the skies at once during peak times.

Anyone interested in becoming an air traffic controller can view more about eligibility requirements and application instructions at faa.gov/be-atc. Applicants can begin building a profile and learn how to apply.

Building on last year’s successful campaign to receive more applications from women and other underrepresented groups, the FAA will again work with diverse organizations, host Instagram Live conversations, and work with social media influencers and others. The FAA has created a digital toolkit to get the word out.

“We know that different perspectives add value to any organization, so it is important that we attract people with a wide range of backgrounds to help enhance our safety mission,” said Virginia Boyle, Vice President for System Operations Services in the FAA’s Air Traffic Organization.

“It’s a challenging job, but it’s also rewarding. At the end of the day when you get home and look up at the sky, you know that what you’ve done makes a difference,” said Jeffrey Vincent, Vice President for Air Traffic Services in the FAA’s Air Traffic Organization.

Applicants must be U.S. citizens, speak English clearly and be no older than 30 (with limited exceptions). They must have either three years of general work experience or four years of education leading to a bachelor’s degree, or a combination of both. Applicants must also pass the Air Traffic Skills Assessment (ATSA). Individuals who are selected are also required to pass all pre-employment requirements, including a medical examination, security investigation, and drug test.

Selected candidates will train at the FAA Academy in Oklahoma City, Okla. After successful completion of training, they will be placed in a radar facility or air traffic tower. Staffing needs will determine facility assignment, and applicants must be willing to work anywhere in the United States.

“As aerospace technology continues to grow, we need people to join the FAA to ensure our airspace continues to be the safest in the world,” said FAA Deputy Administrator A. Bradley Mims. “We are looking for a diverse pool of candidates who are ready to rise to the challenge and become air traffic controllers.”

The FAA’s controller workforce reached about 14,000 in fiscal year 2021. The FAA hired 509 new controllers in fiscal year 2021, and the FAA plans to hire more than 4,800 controllers over the next five years.

Jennifer Lopez Wants to Give Latina Entrepreneurs the Capital Boost They Need
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Jennifer Lopez Wants to Give Latina Entrepreneurs the Capital Boost They Need

By  Yamily Habib, Be Latina

We have often talked about the economic strength of the Latino community — especially Latinas. We are not only one of the fastest-growing ethnic groups but also the ones who have jump-started the nation’s economy before and after the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, one of the biggest obstacles for entrepreneurs and business owners is access to resources and start-up capital.

This reality is so evident that big names like Jennifer Lopez have stepped up to the plate to address it.

The singer announced that she has joined forces with microfinance organization Grameen America to give Latina entrepreneurs the capital boost they need, adding up to $14 billion in capital.

As reported by Forbes, Jennifer Lopez announced Thursday that, as a national ambassador for Grameen, she will help mentor the organization’s network of more than 150,000 women-led small businesses in Latino communities across the country.

Together with Grameen, a nonprofit that provides access to capital, credit building, and financial education, Lopez will reinvigorate her philanthropic project, Limitless Labs, to provide 600,000 Latina entrepreneurs with $14 billion in loan capital and 6 million hours of financial education by 2030.

By joining Grameen’s microloan program, Jennifer Lopez will “motivate, promote, and inspire” Latina business owners and educate them on credit and asset-building to help them “understand the pathway to financial independence and literacy,” according to Grameen.

The partnership will build “pathways to employment and leadership opportunities” to harness the “strength” of the Latinx community, Lopez said in a statement.

“Being Latino in this country has always been a matter of pride for me. I am humbled and beyond grateful to partner with Grameen America. We’re building pathways to employment and leadership opportunities. There’s so much strength in this community, and we’re harnessing that. This partnership will create equality, inclusivity, and opportunity for Latina women in business,” she added.

She also told Inc. that her mother did not go to college because she did not have that access, but through this new partnership, Jennifer Lopez hopes to create a more equitable and inclusive landscape.

Click here to read the full article on Be Latina.

Young L.A. Latina wins prestigious environmental prize
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Nalleli Cobo holds the ouroboros environmental prize

By Edwin Flores, NBC News

At age 9, Nalleli Cobo was experiencing asthma, body spasms, heart palpitations and nosebleeds so severe she needed to sleep in a chair to prevent herself from choking on her own blood.

Across the street from her family’s apartment in University Park in South Central Los Angeles was an oil extraction site owned by Allenco Energy that was spewing fumes into the air and the community around her.

After speaking with neighbors facing similar symptoms, she and her family began to mobilize with their community, suspecting that was making them sick. They created the People Not Pozos (People Not Oil Wells) campaign. At 9 years old, Cobo was designated the campaign’s spokesperson, marking the start of her activism and organizing career.

In March 2020, Cobo, the co-founder of the South Central Youth Leadership Coalition, helped lead the group to permanently shut down the Allenco Energy oil drilling site that she and others in the community said caused serious health issues for them. She also helped convince the Los Angeles City Council and Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors to unanimously vote to ban new oil exploration and phase out existing sites in Los Angeles.

After pressure from the community and scrutiny from elected officials, Allenco Energy agreed to suspend operations in 2013. The site was permanently shut down in 2020, and the company was charged in connection with state and local environmental health and safety regulations. There are ongoing issues around cleaning and plugging up the oil wells.

Cobo co-founded the South Central Youth Leadership Coalition in 2015 to bolster efforts against oil sites and work toward phasing them out across the city.

That year, the youth group sued the city of Los Angeles, alleging violations of the California Environmental Quality Act and environmental racism. The suit was settled after the city implemented new drilling application requirements.

Cobo, now 21, was recognized Wednesday for the environmental justice work that has spanned more than half her life. She received the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize, which is awarded annually to individuals from six regions: Europe, Asia, Africa, Islands and Island Nations, North America, and South and Central America.

“I did not want to answer the phone because it was an unknown number,” Cobo, who was getting bubble tea when she received the call about the prize, told NBC News in a Zoom interview Wednesday. “I didn’t even know I was nominated. I started crying.”

During the 1920s, Los Angeles was one of the world’s largest urban oil-exporting regions. More than 20,000 active, idle, or abandoned oil wells still reside in the county, and about one-third of residents live less than a mile from an active oil site.

Studies have shown that living near oil and gas wells increases exposure to air pollution, with nearby communities facing environmental and health risks including preterm birth, asthma and heart disease.

Click here to read the full article on NBC News.

Who Is Johnny Depp’s Latina Lawyer, Camille Vasquez?
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Camille Vasquez wearing all white in a courtroom

By Yamily Habib, Be Latina

Forget Amber Heard or the trial circus that the legal battle between the actress and movie icon Johnny Depp has become. The real star is Camille Vasquez, Depp’s lawyer who has gone viral on social media, inspiring thousands of Latinas around the world.

As USA Today explained, Vasquez, 37, is one of Depp’s nine lawyers in his $100 million defamation lawsuit against his ex-wife Heard. Today, she is almost as big a social media phenomenon as the two protagonists in one of the most widely followed lawsuits in recent years.

Born in San Francisco to Cuban and Colombian parents, Camille Vasquez graduated in 2006 from the University of Southern California and in 2010 from Southwestern Law School in Los Angeles, the BBC explained.

For the past four years, she has been an associate at Brown Rudnick, the high-profile law firm hired by Johnny Depp to represent him in his $50 million defamation case against Heard. Vasquez is one of nine lawyers at the firm involved in the trial.

She specializes in litigation and arbitration, focusing on representing plaintiffs in defamation cases, and in 2021, she was named one of Best Lawyer magazine’s “One to Watch” lawyers.

She previously assisted Depp in claims against his former lawyer Jake Bloom and his former business manager Joel Mandel.

Today, the hashtag #camillevasquez has more than 980 million impressions on TikTok. A video of her quick objections to Heard’s lead attorney Elaine Bredehoft had nearly 30 million views.

The two-minute TikTok video of her courtroom interruptions with the caption “where did this woman get her degree?” coincided with a 1,820% increase in Google searches for Southwestern Law School, Vasquez’s alma mater, research from the higher education website Erudera shows.

Similarly, thousands of Latina law students have been inspired by Camille Vasquez to continue fighting for their dreams.

“Had to meet Camille Vasquez and tell her what an inspiration she is to so many Latinas!” gushed Carol Dagny (@caritodagny) on TikTok. To which Andrea (@b.andrea111) replied: “As a Latina entering my final year of law school, no one has gotten me as excited to join the field like she has!”

Click here to read the full article on Be Latina.

Abuela’s Counter: How Two Latinas Are Helping People Connect Through Cooking
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cooking co founders of Abuela's Counter

By Be Latina

For many families, the ultimate form of connection happens in the kitchen — the foods, flavors, smells, and traditions that take place around a kitchen counter, are what bring loved ones together across borders and across generations.

That is especially true for immigrants, who often leave everything behind in search of a better life, bringing only their memories, their rituals, and their recipes with them.

The co-founders of Abuela’s Counter feel this deep in their souls.

Abuela’s Counter is the brand-new, foodie-focused website and Instagram account you need in your life. The Cuban-American entrepreneurs behind the operation are building a community of food-lovers who, like them, learned important life lessons at their Abuelas’ counters.

Bringing Cuban Food and Cuban Connections to Life for a New Generation
Ani Mezerhane and Cristina Bustamante – two Miami-based Latinas who come from Cuban families – came up with the concept of Abuela’s Counter when bonding over their shared love of food and their deep obsession with all things delicious, especially the traditional Cuban dishes they grew up with. But, to them, food is about more than just what sustains you physically; it’s equally about what fills your soul. It’s what connects them to their roots, their ancestors, and to where they came from.

They realized that they can’t be the only Cuban Americans who spent the bulk of their childhood absorbing crucial nuggets of wisdom – the importance of family, never forget where you came from, and always include raisins in picadillo (we know this is an ongoing debate for many Cubans), how to craft a perfect croqueta, and more – from their Abuelas at the kitchen counter.

Abuela’s Counter is all about teaching followers how to make traditional Cuban dishes with a modern spin. The concept is that Cuban cooking can be intimidating – possibly because recipes can take a lot of time and patience and possibly because your grandmother never actually taught you how to make her specialties – and they want to help people connect to their Cuban roots through cooking.

Food as a Love Language for Latinas
“Cuban culture is a very mothering culture. It’s all about our mothers and Abuelas taking care of everything and taking care of us, not just with love, but also with food. Food is our love language,” explains Ani to BELatina News.

“So, in many cases, our generation never really learned to cook, because it was always something that our relatives did for us. That’s intimidating, trying to re-make those recipes.” And it’s not just about the actual methods and recipes, but also the emotions behind these dishes. “The myths and the legends that surround these dishes can be very intimidating to try to recreate,” Cristina added.

What if you try to make a traditional dish you grew up eating, but you mess it up? Or what if your Abuela never showed you how to make it and you have to start from scratch? It can certainly feel overwhelming, which is a common sentiment that Abuela’s Counter is hoping to tackle one flan at a time.

After all, food and all of the senses that go along with it can take us back to our childhoods and help us bond with family members of all generations. The traditions in the kitchen are what bring us all together, and that’s never been more true than for families of immigrants. “No matter what we do, it always comes back to food. It all goes back to sitting at Abuela’s counter and learning about life. Learning how food doesn’t just feed us but brings us together,” Ani and Cristina say on their website.

On their Instagram page, they offer easy-to-follow recipes, and how-to videos showcasing simple ways to whip up Cuban masterpieces. From Guava Coconut Cookies to Ropa Vieja to Arroz Con Pollo, Cuban Flan, and everything in between, they’re taking the mystery out of the equation so anyone can make these dishes.

Their recipes are broken down in detail on their website. There are no secret steps or mysterious quantities (did you ever notice how older generations always add “a pinch” of this or “a splash” of that?). Just easy to follow, simple, step-by-step recipes of classic favorites that have probably been haunting you since birth. We’re looking at you Cuban flan.

Flan is a favorite of both Ani and Cristina, which is why they were so proud when they got it just right.

For an easy weeknight (or any night) dinner, they swear by their Fricase de Pollo, a comforting chicken dish that fills you up in all the important ways.

Click here to read the full article on Be Latina.

PepsiCo Launches $50 Million Juntos Crecemos Platform to Support Hispanic-Owned Businesses Across the U.S.
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PepsiCo Launches $50 Million Juntos Crecemos Platform to Support Hispanic-Owned Businesses Across the U.S.

By PR Newswire

PepsiCo, Inc. (NASDAQ:PEP) today announced Juntos Crecemos, (Together We Grow), a $50 million platform aimed at strengthening Hispanic-owned businesses, specifically restaurants, bodegas and carnicerías (meat markets), addressing foundational business challenges, and supporting business growth over the next five years. Juntos Crecemos is part of PepsiCo’s Racial Equality Journey Hispanic Initiative, a $172 million set of commitments launched in October of last year.

According to a study by the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Hispanic-owned businesses alone contribute over $800 billion in economic activity and play a central role in their communities. According to a Stanford University survey, as a result of the pandemic, 86% of Hispanic small business owners reported significant negative impacts, including complete closure, and were only half as likely as their white counterparts to receive Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans. This, coupled with the historic systemic barriers affecting wealth and educational attainment, contributes to smaller business income among Hispanic business owners according to research conducted by the Small Business Association.

“Juntos Crecemos and The PepsiCo Foundation IMPACTO Hispanic Business Accelerator bring our Racial Equality Journey and PepsiCo’s values to life,” said Esperanza Teasdale, VP & GM, Hispanic Business Unit, PepsiCo Beverages North America. “We’re proud and committed to supporting and elevating the voice of the Hispanic small business community that is impacted by systemic inequality.”

Benefits for Hispanic Small Business Owners
Small business owners participating in Juntos Crecemos will have access to the Hispanic Digital & Delivery Program, a customized eight-week consultation curriculum tailored to meet their specific needs, including helping them improve their online presence, delivery logistics, online ordering, and marketing practices. Participants will also have access to consultation from experts via office hours, where they will receive coaching and guidance on devising solutions for business challenges.

“Providing these resources is critical to delivering on our ambition to drive long-term change and address systemic barriers in communities that too often have been overlooked,” said Antonio Escalona, SVP & GM, Hispanic Business Unit, PepsiCo Foods North America. “This is only the beginning, and we are committed to working alongside these restaurants, bodegas, and carnicerías to propel their businesses forward.”

As part of the program, participating bodegas and carnicerías owners will also receive store essentials, including safety kits, consumer promotions and targeted digital media support. To help raise awareness of Juntos Crecemos and assist with implementation, PepsiCo has partnered with the Latino Food Industry Association (LFIA).

“Hispanic small business owners have disproportionately been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, which is why we are excited to work with PepsiCo in bringing this much needed support to our community,” said Lupillo Ramirez, LFIA president. “Juntos Crecemos will provide valuable guidance and mentoring while connecting and uniting business owners across the country in sharing best practices.”

PepsiCo Foundation Support
As part of the Juntos Crecemos platform, The PepsiCo Foundation is officially launching the IMPACTO Hispanic Business Accelerator which will provide $10 million in funding to help 500 Hispanic small food and beverage business owners in 13 cities across the U.S. grow their enterprises over the next five years. It will also help these owners overcome systemic economic disparities and create economic opportunity within the community by providing business coaching in English and Spanish and other resources.

Today, The PepsiCo Foundation is announcing the first 150 IMPACTO grant recipients, including:

La Peña Restaurante in Chicago, IL,
De Mi Fogón in Houston, TX
Cuernavaca’s Grill in Los Angeles, CA
8 Burger in Miami, FL, and
Claudy’s Kitchen in Bronx, NY

“The contributions of Hispanic communities are an integral part of the fabric of American culture. Unfortunately, the community has also long faced systemic barriers to success – a divide only deepened by the impact of COVID-19,” said C.D. Glin, Vice President, The PepsiCo Foundation and Global Head of Philanthropy, PepsiCo. “Supporting long-term solutions that drive economic equity in the Hispanic community isn’t just right – it’s imperative. The IMPACTO Hispanic Business Accelerator and Juntos Crecemos are about more than just saving businesses; it is about investing in the people that bring life, culture and vibrancy to our communities and ensuring that they continue to grow, thrive, and prosper today and for generations to come.”

The Foundation is currently working with Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) partners including, Allies for Community Business in Chicago; Ascendus in New York; LiftFund in San Antonio; Accion Opportunity Fund in San Jose and Los Angeles; and DreamSpring in Albuquerque and other local organizations to provide $10,000 grants to beneficiaries and help business owners at every level retain employees and construct long-term business plans to support their future economic success. While launching in 13 cities (New York City, Miami, Chicago, Orlando, Albuquerque, Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, Los Angeles, El Paso, Las Vegas, Denver, Phoenix) where Hispanic-owned small businesses were hit particularly hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, The PepsiCo Foundation plans to expand the IMPACTO program to additional cities over the next five years based on community need.

Click here to read the full article on PR Newswire.

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Upcoming Events

  1. City Career Fair
    January 19, 2022 - November 4, 2022
  2. The Small Business Expo–Multiple Event Dates
    February 17, 2022 - December 1, 2022
  3. UNIDOS US Annual Conference & Latinx Inclusion Summit
    July 9, 2022 - July 11, 2022
  4. Business Beyond Barriers Conference + Expo
    July 14, 2022
  5. 2022 LULAC National convention
    July 25, 2022 - July 30, 2022
  6. ALPFA Conference 2022: Join us to celebrate 50 years!
    August 7, 2022 - August 11, 2022
  7. CHCI’s 2022 Leadership Conference & Gala
    September 13, 2022 - September 15, 2022
  8. The 2022 Global ERG Summit
    September 19, 2022 - September 23, 2022
  9. National College Resources Foundation Upcoming Events–Mark Your Calendar!
    September 24, 2022 - April 1, 2023
  10. ROMBA Conference
    October 6, 2022 - October 8, 2022