This story was created by #ThisIsTucson and underwritten by the University of Arizona, celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month. Thank you for supporting the local organizations that support us!
Tucson is full of talented makers and creatives. We see their hustle on social media constantly creating and sharing their processes with the world and it feels great to purchase something you know lots of love went into creating.
The work of this collection of Latinx makers is particularly unique because it's largely inspired by their love and pride for their culture, language and life in the Sonoran Desert. And the majority of the makers on this list are self-taught, spending countless hours experimenting and perfecting their craft.
This list is just a small sampling of the talented Latinx makers who call Tucson home.
To discover even more Latinx artists and makers, check out this list created by artist Mel Dominguez and maker Melissa Brown-Dominguez, owners of the South Tucson art gallery Galeria Mitotera (also, long-time friends of mine).
Pre-pandemic they hosted monthly mercaditos, or markets, at their space and throughout the pandemic they have been been highlighting the work and stories of local Latinx and indigenous makers and artists on their virtual series "Art Chats con la Mitotera," which is how we were introduced to the work of quite a few people on this list.
Marina Cordova, owner of Luna and Saya seems to be working non-stop creating polymer and acrylic earring masterpieces. Her latest Tucson-themed collection includes designs inspired by the monsoon rains, Talavera tile, snakes and the sunrise.
"I am a first generation Mexican-American and could not be more proud of my heritage and my loving family," Cordova, who started the brand in 2016, wrote on her website. "It is a very fun, loving, and bright culture that has influenced my work in so many ways — most importantly with the vibrancy of colors."
Hilos Shop features colorful, hand-embroidered masks, hoops, clutch bags and patches created by Alma Lara. Her love of embroidery started in 2016 when she taught herself the art by watching videos, but her passion for crafting started as a child growing up in her nana's home.
"Someone is purchasing much more than just an item, it was all those long hours of planning, trial and errors, and getting the courage to share it with the world. I wanted to share my vision, with people that can relate to my story," she wrote in her bio on her website. We can definitely relate to her Taco heart patch capturing our feelings for this delicious dish.
Señorita MAD creates hand-painted wine glasses, coffee mugs, pitchers and other drink-ware featuring colorful images and Spanish phrases. Creator Mayra Torres says as the daughter of Mexican immigrants she she draws from her family's culture to create her unique pieces.
Torres also sells paint kits with everything you need to create your own glass masterpiece, or she can personalize one of her designs with a phrase of your choice. Plus, she sews some pretty cute face masks with Mexican icons and prints.
Tilted Halos, a home-based baker, creates cupcakes, and cakes with flavors like churro, Mexican hot chocolate, hibiscus vanilla and piñata aka funfetti. All of baker Mariel Montiel's pastries are vegan and gluten-free so, you can feel a little less guilty about eating a dozen cupcakes in one sitting. Montiel also makes grain-free and vegan dog treats. You can place orders directly on her site or find her selling treats at local markets, keep an eye on her events section for where she'll be next.
Now through Sept. 24, Montiel is also selling a pan dulce box with your choice of donuts, empanadas and cochitos with a percentage of sales supporting Scholarship A-Z's Immigrant Scholarship Hustle program.
Velitas, a line of hand-made natural soy wax candles and melts created by Estefany Gallego all feature clever Spanish names "and sometimes inappropriate English tag lines," she says on her website.
"I wanted to embrace my bilingual culture and incorporate both pieces of myself, my life, mi cultura. I often speak in Spanglish with my friends and family members, sometimes even with strangers lol. I just jump back and forth, hablo así, y luego cambio a inglés, so this really encapsulates me," she wrote. "The names, tag lines, ideas, always come from personal experiences, feelings, thoughts, and more with a sense of cultura y amor. Excuse the language though, I cuss. I like to cuss."
Gallego is working hard to restock her online shop and promises a La Llorona-inspired candle is on its way, just in time for October.
RelaxLands, is a Tucson-based skincare company run by a husband-and-wife duo whose products for men and women are organic, vegan and cruelty-free. The company's products include creams, serums and scrubs and they can even be customized. Their mini-facial kits are a great way to test out many of their products and recreate a spa day from the comfort of your home.
RelaxLands and Velitas are partnering on creating a gift box inspired by the scents and symbols of Day of the Dead with items made by Latinx makers.
Many of West Boutique AZ's polymer and metal jewelry designs are inspired by the people, colors and images of Tucson and the southwest. Tucson native Stephanie Morales, whose dad and tio were fine jewelry makers, started her brand in 2019 and says her line of hand-made dangle and stud earrings, bracelets and other accessories is "fueled by love, family, compassion, dedication craftsmanship."
Mayra Duron, owner of Solace Designs didn't initially set out to start a business, she just enjoyed crafting with her daughter. But in 2018, after posting one of her designs on social media she immediately got six orders and they haven't stopped coming, she says.
About her art, Duron says: "What inspires me is both my tribe and people. Being raised here in the desert has had a direct impact in my Macramé art. I incorporate earth into every piece by building on cholla ribs, driftwood and Navajo patterns. I feel that people search for authenticity and when they come across all these elements and earth tones they are willing to invest in something so beautiful and unique. Not one piece will ever be like another."
Many of Serena Rios McRae's colorful watercolor paintings, decals, t-shirts and cards she creates under the name Cactus Clouds Art are inspired by the Arizona desert, her love of plants and reading. She discovered her passion for watercoloring years ago after practicing with a $5 set from the craft store and shares her expertise through streamable lessons to help others interested in the art.
Gatos por vida! Shop now
One in four undergrads at the University of Arizona identifies as Hispanic. Comunidad. Familia. These are the threads that connect us all. Color. Música. They quicken the pulse and set the rhythm for conversation and dance.
Viva Los Gatos!