The New Latin American Equation

Earrings by Ana Gutiérrez, swimsuit by Eterea, picture by Mari Paz Howell

I have a pending balance with Latin America. Perhaps that’s unconsciously what the braid is all about. When I left Mexico, I had no idea I was actually leaving. I didn’t tell anyone beside my dad. It seemed like a ‘see you soon’ more than a ‘good-bye’, and 10 years after I wonder if I will ever return.

In Mexico we have (or hopefully once had), this tendency to believe that things that come from the ‘outside’, meaning Europe and the U.S., are a lot better than those produced in Latin America. The term to describe this is ‘malinchismo‘, and it goes back to the cultural baggage associated with Spanish colonialism.

I remember the pride my grandmother showed when she mentioned something that she bought was imported. Amazed by the beautiful images and clever marketing, especially from the U.S., we often devaluated the concept of ‘Made in Mexico‘, never mind ‘Made in anywhere else in Latin America.’

It took me many distancing years to see how wrong this was. Of course we are not a region that generates breakthrough technology or advances in engineering, yet when it comes to design in all of its forms, we absolutely know what we are doing.

Fully dressed in Latin American brands. Necklace by CaraLarga, skirt by Lorena Saravia, bag by Toribio and blouse by Montserrat Dibango

That’s where my pending balance stands at the moment. I, too, went through a stage where carrying a Louis Vuitton full of logos carried the weight of the way I perceived my self-worth, but that has truly changed. My logo bags are getting old in my closet, and when I choose a brand I know that I am investing on its values and sourcing: in other words, the way the world is going to be like for my children.

More often than not, fashion made in Latin America supports the work of indigenous people, and particularly women; and YES. I’m all for that.

Right…Says the girl who writes in English. Well, believe it or not, that’s the whole point. I want my message to be heard in the broad universe this language gives me access to, rather than just being understood by those who speak Spanish.

I just came back from the Mercedes Benz Fashion Week San José, which proved to be way more interesting than any fashion show I’ve seen this year: diversity on size and skin color, transexual beauty on the runways, a deep connection to what makes Latin America great, a vision of sustainability, speakers and buyers from all over the world, a great production, and influencers who are deeply committed to spreading the word about their roots. Plus Leonora Jimenez — the Latina Wonder Woman that has created a local empire that is every woman’s dream. She owns Traffic, the top fashion magazine in the city, the top beauty salon, heads Mercedes Benz Fashion Week San José, deals with sponsors, fully dresses in the designers that she’s presenting every day, and even rocks the runway for every designer on the last day. Oh yes, did I mention that she’s also extremely intelligent and drop dead gorgeous?

With La Chechi, Leonora Jimenez and Irma Martinez

This is the materialization of a different vision of Latin America. Weren’t we supposed to be machista societies where women needed to be the shadow of their men? I love the fact that this Fashion Week takes place in Costa Rica, the first country to have a democracy in the region and one of the most sustainable countries in the world as a result of a commitment to getting rid of the army, and instead investing on education and sustainability.

This is what the new Latin American equation looks like. I am committed to do everything I can to make it happen.

…And I can’t wait to see what comes out of it.

Stefani De la O, (the designer behind The Nomadic Collector, director of Estilo Costa Rica, and the amazing woman who organized this experience), La Chechi dressed in Carolina K, me dressed in Lorena SARAVIA, Irma Martinez dressed in Carolina K, red bags from Ximena Kavalekas.

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