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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Flyers are less satisfied with the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport than a year ago, a new study shows.
Research firm J.D. Power placed ABIA at No. 15 on a list ranking overall customer satisfaction at large airports, a slip from last year’s spot at No. 7. Other Texas airports secured rankings ahead of Austin, with Dallas Love Field at third, Houston Hobby at eight, and San Antonio International Airport at ninth.
Dallas/Ft. Worth ranked eight in the "mega airport" category.
The study examined airports based on the following factors: terminal facilities; airport arrival/departure; baggage claim; security check; check-in/baggage check; and food, beverage and retail.
On a 1,000-point scale, Austin-Bergstrom received 785 points this year compared to its score of 819 in 2021.
Passenger experiences at Austin-Bergstrom have been influenced by population growth in Central Texas, which has brought record traffic and longer wait times at TSA. And a recent power outage at Austin-Bergstrom caused flight delays. Michael Taylor, travel intelligence lead at J.D. Power., said that consumer satisfaction with flying has decreased overall.
“The combination of pent-up demand for air travel, the nationwide labor shortage and steadily rising prices on everything from jet fuel to a bottle of water have created a scenario in which airports are extremely crowded and passengers are increasingly frustrated—and it is likely to continue through 2023,” Taylor said.
Bailey Grimmett, a spokesperson for ABIA, commented on the ranking.
“We're grateful that AUS customers continue to rank our airport above average, especially during this year that saw air travel disruption here in Austin and across the globe as airports, airlines and the air travel industry continued navigating the impacts of the pandemic,” Grimmett said. “We look forward to delivering near-term and long-term improvements through our Journey With AUS program to improve the passenger experience.”
That program is slated to bring a new midfield concourse to increase gates and connect to the Barbara Jordan Terminal through an underground connector tunnel.
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By Jonathan Lee
The Planning Commission was split Tuesday on whether to help save an eclectic lakefront estate from demolition by zoning it historic amid concerns over tax breaks and the likelihood that a previous owner participated in segregation as a business owner.
The property in question, known as the Delisle House, is located at 2002 Scenic Drive in Tarrytown. The main house, with Spanish and Modern influences, was built in 1923 by Raymond Delisle, an optician. A Gothic Revival accessory apartment was built in 1946. The current owner applied to demolish the structures in order to build a new home.'
Historic preservationists, for their part, overwhelmingly support historic zoning, which would preserve the buildings in perpetuity. The Historic Landmark Commission unanimously voted to initiate historic zoning in July, citing architectural significance, landscape features and association to historic figures. City staffers recommend historic zoning, calling both structures one-of-a-kind examples of vernacular architecture.
Tarrytown neighbors have also banded together to stop the demolition. Many have written letters, and a few spoke at the meeting. “How could anyone buy this property with the intent of destroying it?” Ila Falvey said. “I think it’s an architectural treasure.”
Michael Whellan, an attorney representing the property owner, said that the claims made by preservationists are shaky. The buildings are run down, he said, and have had substantial renovations. A structural engineer hired by the owner said any attempt at preservation would involve tearing down and rebuilding – an undertaking Whellan said would likely cost millions.
Whellan also argued that any historical significance derived from the property’s association with Delisle and longtime owner C.H. Slator is dubious. “These men are not noted for any civic, philanthropic or historic impact,” he said.
What’s more, according to Whellan, Slator likely participated in segregation as the owner of the Tavern on North Lamar Boulevard between 1953 and 1960.
A city staffer, however, said she found no evidence to support the claim. “We would never landmark a property where a segregationist lived, or there was a racist person,” Kimberly Collins with the Historic Preservation Office said.
Commissioner Awais Azhar couldn’t support historic zoning in part due to lingering uncertainty about Slator. “Focusing on that factor is not here to disparage an individual or family. It is not about playing the race card. This is an important assertion for us to consider as Planning commissioners,” Azhar said.
Commissioner Carmen Llanes Pulido said that allegations of racism should come as no surprise. “We’re talking about white male property owners in the 1950s, in Austin, on the west side – and of course they were racist,” she said. But she argued that allowing the house to be demolished based on these grounds does nothing to help people of color who have been harmed by racism and segregation.
The question of tax breaks was also controversial. Michael Gaudini, representing the property owner, said that the tax breaks associated with historic zoning would exacerbate inequality by shifting property tax burdens to less affluent communities. City staffers estimate that the property, appraised at $3.5 million, would get either a $8,500 or $16,107 property tax break annually, depending on whether a homestead exemption is applied.
Commissioner Grayson Cox preferred the commission focus not on tax breaks but on whether the structures merit preservation. “To me, nothing in the historic preservation criteria lists, is this person deserving of a tax break or not?”
Azhar, on the other hand, said he plans to propose a code amendment getting rid of city property tax breaks for historic properties.
The commission fell one vote short of recommending historic zoning, with six commissioners in support and three opposed. Azhar and commissioners Claire Hempel and Greg Anderson voted against.
The odds of City Council zoning over an owner’s wishes are slim. Nine out of 11 members must vote in favor, and there have only been a handful of such cases over the past several decades.