Austin rapper Jordi Esparza may not have won the 2021 Red Bull Batalla, the world's largest Spanish freestyle rap competition, but for a spirited two rounds, the 22-year old Mexican native looked like he had every right to.
On Saturday evening in Los Angeles, the event itself looked like Cobra Kai meets Star Search with graphics adding a very Batman Beyond aesthetic. Over a dozen rappers hoping to represent the U.S. in the international round of the competition took to the stage with in-your-face jabs at accents, sexual orientation and odors, among other things.
This was Esparza's second rodeo; he had placed third at the 2020 National Finals, automatically securing him a spot this year.
However, things were different this year. He was not nervous about the contest. Unlike in 2020, when he made his Red Bull Batalla debut, the anxiety of the event led him to "feeling so bad."
Affecting a casual calm, the locally-based landscaper said he just felt "so relaxed, so happy" and primarily wanted to "enjoy everything."
Choosing his first-round opponent, Esparza, whose stage name is Jordi, elected to go against LA-based Boss.
Esparza freestyled an attack on his opponent's weight and cholo style of dress.
Boss—bracketing his Latin freestyle with English appeals to the crowd—mocked Jordi's lack of education, made fun of how clean Jordi's shoes looked and suggested that Jordi just came back from a Footlocker.
That first round went to Jordi.
But his next opponent Eckonn would prove to be his undoing.
Eckonn compared Jordi to Hannah Montana, while Jordi soulfully explained that he had learned from the best.
Esparza's verbal dexterity is matched by a rattling rhythm and a game face that is as mawkish as it is mockish. The overall effect is that of an underdog with bite.
Eckonn beat Esparza in that round with the overall championship going to Palm Beach-based rapper Reverse.
However, Esparza was just happy to be there. He recently told Austonia going to the finals again was a dream come true—a pinnacle that he said he won't know how to top.
With his nimble jabs and sneaky prowess, honed from pop culture and the swagger of a young working man hungry to be more, Jordi Esparza is just getting started.
Southwest Airlines will soon be offering more at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport with the addition of nine nonstop flights and increased service.
In March 2022, the airline will increase service by more than 20 flights per day, offering nonstop service between Austin and 46 destinations on up to 105 departures a day, according to a release from the airline.
Starting March 10, the following new and returning nonstop flights will be available:
- Puerto Vallarta—subject to requisite government approvals
Seasonal weekly service will also begin March 10 to:
- Panama City
- Destin/Fort Walton Beach
The announcement comes on the 44th anniversary of Southwest Airlines serving Austin.
"As Austin and its airport continue to grow, we are excited to welcome these new and expanded services to central Texas," said Jacqueline Yaft, chief executive officer at ABIA. "Celebrating 44 years of Southwest operations in Austin, we are grateful for their continued investment and confidence in the future of AUS."
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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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Want to become an influencer, a business-savvy marketer and content creator while doing what you love?
For Austinite AvaGG and thousands of others, that dream unexpectedly became reality as they dove into the ever-evolving world of Twitch, a video game streaming platform. Ava now only goes by her gaming name after facing safety issues.
Ava's original goal was simple: Make money and connections while playing her favorite games, including Apex Legends, Magic the Gathering and Animal Crossing, on Twitch.
Now a 10-year streaming veteran with over 450,000 Twitch subscribers and well over 200,000 followers across Instagram and Twitter, Ava said the industry has changed exponentially in ways she never expected. As a longtime Texan who joined Twitch when it was around a year old, Ava's watched the industry transform—for better or for worse—from a hobby to a more than full-time job.
"You are a content creator, you're an influencer," Ava said. "It's hard because you still just think of yourself as a person who's just playing video games, and you also have to come to the realization that you have a platform that people do follow."
Through subscriptions and tips, sponsorships with national brands and a grueling streaming schedule that can well surpass the typical 40-hour workweek, Ava has been able to skip the office lifestyle, become friends with notable people and travel the world.
But it wasn't always this easy—for years, Ava said the job was just enough to pay the bills.
Through years of growth and a boost in the COVID-19 pandemic, Ava and over 8 million other Twitch streamers have gained the ability to diversify their business ventures and profit from large sponsorships. By 2020, 26.5 million viewers were logging into the streaming site daily, and over 8 million streamers were on the site in July 2021. Twitch gods like Ninja, who broke all-time streaming records in 2019 as he played Fortnite with rapper Drake, have made big-money sponsorships with brands like Adidas and Ubereats.
That growth has been especially evident in Austin. Streamers Lululuvely (1.1 million Twitch followers), TeaWrex (265,000 followers) and Nokokopuffs (265,000 followers) are just a few Austinites who have cashed in on the site.
The city's web of influencers has only grown more tight-knit—Ava, for instance, has friends that range from fellow streamers to prominent local food blogger Jane Ko, otherwise known as Koko—and many streamers decided to make the move to Austin to hang out with their virtual friends.
"I think it just started because, like, one or two people moved here, and then once a couple of them moved here, then everyone else followed," Ava said. "I convinced so many friends from like the (Grand Theft Auto game) World to move here... You game together with them for years so you want to hang out."
Ava said it's nice to have friends that understand her unique employment status. But it's also hard to strike a work-life balance in a world where your every move could be monetized.
"It's the entertainment business, right?" Ava said. "If you're not doing something, then someone else is going to. It's a harsh world."
Some cracks are beginning to show in the fledgling gaming world. Gaming addictions are now making headlines, with Austin online gambling streamer TrainwrecksTV (195,00 subscribers) recently coming forward about his own addiction. Ava's dealt with stalking, misogyny and racism, though she's managed to turn incidents into teaching moments for her followers. At 30, she's even seen premature effects on her health—from back pain to mental health issues from staying inside.
But the nature of gaming still stands true. Due to its inclusivity and widespread interest, she believes Twitch streaming and E-sports industries will soon become more popular than sports.
"I feel like it's going to explode," Ava said. "Because that's what's cool about gaming is, you know, for as noninclusive as people try to make it, it can be very inclusive, right? It's women, and men, young and old. I'm going to be 80 years old, probably still paying attention to Twitch."
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