Just in time for the weather to cool down in perpetually hot Austin, National Hispanic Heritage Month is kicking off today through Oct. 15 and this city has some women to thank.
With more than 33% of the city identifying as Hispanic, the contributions of Austin's Hispanic community are innumerable and present in the everyday lives of residents. So, in celebration of Costa Rica, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico and Chile, here are some of Austin's Hispanic women you should know of.
TK Tunchez, Las Ofrendas
Dealing stickers with snarky slogans, multicolored maximalist accessories and wearable art pieces, Etsy store Las Ofrendas is the product of TK Tunchez and the creative spirit that guides her hand.
"The openness, the gemstones, the flowers we get from the earth, everything that generates for us is an offering from our ancestors. And we, as humans, will one day return back into the Earth to be the offering for the next generation," Tunchez told Austonia. "That's what inspires all of the work in the arts that I do, it's about empowerment, it's about creating joy and it's about really creating pieces that help people live their boldest, badass lives."
A lifelong artist, Tunchez was born in Guatemala, not in Texas but to a Texan mother, so she got here as fast as she could. While she struggled at first to find her footing as an artist in Austin, she searched for and thoroughly integrated herself in Austin's community of color.
"You create the road as you walk it, right, so I think for me, as I walk it I'm also providing that road for entrepreneurs, especially people of color," Tunchez said. "They are capable of creating their own businesses, they are capable of creating their own lives, they are capable of creating where their destiny is in front of them, and they need to see examples of that."
Tunchez was never taught how to run a business on her own, so she shares the knowledge she has accumulated through her platforms: Frida Friday ATX and Fuego ATX, intersectional and queer marketplaces that center & support women of color.
"I think that it's really important for us to use these opportunities to give voice to the multiple people that create our communities, and to shine light on the ways that our communities and our ancestors have been resilient," Tunchez said. "I have a lot of pride in being a Latina woman and Latina queer and being able to talk about what makes my culture beautiful to me."
Gabriela Bucio, Gabriela's
The face behind Gabriela's Group—consisting of Mexican restaurant Gabriela's Downtown and Gabriela's South, Instagram-worthy taqueria Taquero Mucho, high-end seafood restaurant Seareinas, all-pink-everywhere cafe Revival Coffee, nightclubs Mala Vida and Mala Santa—Michoacán, Mexico natives Gabriela Bucio and brother Arturo, have taken Austin's entertainment industry by storm.
Having worked in the Austin food industry since 2010, Bucio opened Gabriela's Downtown in 2018 and never stopped working on something new since then. Bucio is extending her help where she can—when Revival Coffee's previous owners began to struggle with rent payments due to the pandemic, Bucio took over the business, remodeled and reopened with the same staff.
As a proud U.S. immigrant, Bucio has said her goal is to give Latin Austinites a place that was made for them while she expands her ventures into the Hispanic community.
Nancy Flores, Austin Vida
After covering Austin's Latin community as the Austin American-Statesman's Community Affairs reporter for more than a decade, Nancy Flores has a profound passion for representing the city's communities of color.
Growing up reading Austin Vida, a former Hispanic-focused publication in Austin, made Flores feel represented, a feeling she wanted to share with the diverse Latin community around her. Flores began to resurrect the publication last fall with monthly Cultura Guides and plans to relaunch the website in the coming months.
"The Latinx community is not a monolithic group, so in a community like Austin where Mexican-American culture is dominant, because that's the population, you don't see as much of the other lands and cultures that make up a big part of the diaspora," Flores told Austonia. "It's important to highlight those nuances and even within the community to learn from each other."
In a city where Hispanic people are prevalent but representation is lacking, Flores works to uplift the people around her by celebrating the contributions and everyday achievements in the Latin community all year, not just this month.
"(Hispanic Heritage Month) is an opportunity to educate yourself a little bit more about the culture and find out how to be supportive and how to be an ally," Flores said. "For us, celebrating that heritage is happening year-round."
Reyna and Maritza Vazquez, Veracruz All Natural
Natives of Veracruz, Mexico, Reyna and Maritza Vazquez learned how to cook from their mother while working at a taqueria. The family moved to Austin in 1999, when the sisters were in their teen years. Even by then, the sisters knew they wanted to leave their mark on Austin cuisine.
Already having learned the value of hard work from the restaurant, the Vazquez sisters were prepared for the workload that came with opening up and saved for years to get their first short-lived food truck in 2006, selling juices and snow cones.
The Vazquez's tried again with a breakfast taco truck in 2008. After gaining a quick reputation for their organic ingredients, fresh salsas and migas, the Vazquez sisters have expanded to six locations, several of them trucks, across the Austin metro area. Most recently, they announced their expansion to Los Angeles with a new food truck called "Hot Tacos," opening this month.
Having received international acclaim for their fresh food and being recognized in the New York Times and LA Times, the Vazquez sisters have earned a well-deserved spotlight. Rest assured, you'll see more from the Vazquez family.
Candace Perez, The Posh Picnic
Prior to COVID, event specialist and Candace Perez and her party-planning company Events by Perez had events planned for all of 2020. When the pandemic hit and postponements turned to cancellations, she became restless and missed her job.
Around April, Austin native Perez started working on an idea to bring parties back safely and stylishly with an elaborate, Instagram-worthy outdoor picnic service called The Posh Picnic.
"I figured COVID was going to be done by Memorial Day. I don't think anybody knew the magnitude and how this was really going to affect us and it really killed the event industry," Perez said. "By April, I was miserable… like, 'I have to do something else. What is something else I can do that's going to be safe and people are going to feel comfortable?"
Her idea was a runaway success and best of all, she was thrilled to be part of people's joyful moments again.
"Pivoting to the picnics, I've been able to incorporate a lot of the vendors that I worked with before, and spread the love," Perez said. "I like to be a part of people's special moments—it fills my heart with joy, like a burst of excitement when I see them walk up to their picnic excited and surprised and you know they're giggling and they love it. I think that picnics are here to stay."
While succeeding in her unique party-planning endeavors, Perez said philanthropy is central to her business. Perez partnered with a fellow business to provide more than 100 hot meals to people during Texas' February Storm and holds seasonal Breakfast with the Grinch events that benefit Partnerships for Children.
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Republic Square Park has turned into a Ford-themed fiesta for its Built to Connect pop-up experience, complete with test drives, off-roading and an inside look at the Tesla-rivaling electric vehicles that the motor vehicle company is planning to integrate over the next decade.
The outdoor driving event is free, open to the public and will stay in the park from now until Oct. 24, offering rides on Bronco Mountain, a 0-40 mph zip in the 2022 all-electric Ford F-150 Lightning and a chance to win an original Ford Bronco.
The event kicked off with a panel of speakers, including Austin Director of Transportation Rob Spillar, Ford General Manager Darren Palmer and engineering specialists discussing Ford's goals to make it so that 50% of the vehicles on the road are electric by 2030.
As an eco-conscious city, Spillar said that around 4,000 vehicles, or 22% of the Texas electric vehicle market, as well as over 15,000 plugins lie in Austin, meaning driving electric just got accessible.
"Austin, as you know, is a fast-growing modern city that is committed to protecting the long term health and viability of our communities and strategies that reduce greenhouse gases, mitigate the effects of climate change and improve the drone quality of life here in Central Texas for all of our residents," Spillar said.
And Ford's electric vehicles are putting up some steep competition for newly-Austin-based company Tesla. The new electric Mustang Mach-E and F-150 Lighting offer amenities that used to be exclusive to Musk's brand, such as the BlueCruise self-driving network. The cars also boast a 300-mile range on a single charge, assisted reverse technology and access to the biggest charging network outside of the home.
Plus, Ford's got affordability on its side. The F-150 Lightning starts at $39,974 and the Mustang Mach-E starts at $42,895, while the cheapest Tesla model, the Model 3, starts at $41,990 and averages 262 miles on a single charge.
Speaking of price, the numbers on the electric vehicles may look like a little more than you'd like to pay for your transport, but Palmer promises it will pay off. In addition to a $7,500 tax credit you can earn for your sustainability, you'll never have to buy a pricey tank of gas again.
"Personally, I have not found one customer ever, who would go back to gas so that says something," Palmer said. "I realized, at $51,000, that car outruns every childhood hero car I ever had."
Texas buyers: take note. The Ford Lightning can power your house for three to 10 days, just in case the statewide power grid fails. You can take it glamping with you, so you don't have to leave the comfort of modern life behind, and in a pinch, Palmer said he's even seen a wedding party powered by the truck.
Ford is investing $30 billion into the U.S. market to meet demand by 2025 and the new electric truck already has over 150,000 reservations.
"I think they're going to take off much faster than you expect—they're going to be extremely, extremely popular next year," Palmer said. "With the incentives that are available today, this is starting to become more mainstream and viable for more and more families. We couldn't have done that before, we didn't have the technology, or the technology at that price."
The event is ongoing through next weekend from 12-9 p.m. Monday-Friday and 9 a.m.- 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
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The Austin Police Department is searching for a man who is believed to be behind a series of robberies that is "sexual in nature and is escalating."
Three robbery cases that took place in North Austin within a 30-day period are being investigated by police, who report the victims all had similar descriptions for suspects in the case. The suspect is described as a 20-25-year-old Spanish-speaking Hispanic man, approximately 5'3, thin build, recently shaved with black hair. Police say he is known to typically wear athletic clothing and used a knife on each of the victims.
Here's a breakdown of the cases:
1. At 7:56 a.m. on Sept. 22 at the 1600 block of Rutland Drive, a woman was walking alone and returning from her child's school when a suspect walking by inappropriately touched her. The suspect then grabbed her by the arm, threatened her with a knife and demanded "her property."
2. At 8:10 a.m. on Oct. 11 at 1700 block of Colony Creek Drive, a woman was walking to her child's school when a man approached her with a knife and then demanded her personal items. The suspect then said he would return the items in return for sex.
3. At 11:03 a.m. on Oct. 13 at the 9300 block of Northgate Boulevard, a woman was with her child in the laundry room of an apartment complex when a man walked in performing a sexual act. The suspect demanded personal items from the victim, threatening to hurt the victim and take her child.
Police cautioned the public to walk without earbuds, stay alert and report suspicious activity to the police.
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