A few weeks ago, I visited the Mexican entrepreneur Reyna Navarro at her «Artesanía Mundo De Queen» store at 1825 S. 8th Street in Philadelphia. As I approached her establishment, I noticed a large mural painted by Mauro Carrera adorned with Mexican cultural motifs. The yellow color on the wall background, used as a canvas, silently invited me to a world full of creativity where love for cultural roots is proudly displayed.
Upon entering the store, I saw a lot of Mexican handicrafts. Reyna was behind the counter, and she greeted me when she noticed my presence. We started talking for a long time. I congratulated Reyna on her beautiful and prosperous business. She recalled starting to sell handicrafts at neighborhood fairs with only $200 in savings that she had at that time. The coronavirus pandemic forced her to create a more stable and lasting source of income for herself and her family.
Reyna recalled her numerous sacrifices to save up and pursue her ultimate goal of owning her own store. Gathering her family, she engaged in a heartfelt conversation, stressing the importance of their collective collaboration and support in this new chapter of her entrepreneurial journey.
As the head of the family, Reyna began cutting expenses at home and only kept the most essential services for the basic functioning of the household. She affirms that her husband has always supported her in achieving this ambitious dream.
During our conversation, and like any good salesperson, Reyna showed me some items she had for sale. My visit was not only to greet her but also to buy a hand-embroidered belt made by indigenous artisans living near the city of San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico. In this way, the small businesswoman also helps promote the local economy of her country. She also showed me some colorful thread shawls typical of her beloved Mexico.
During the pleasant conversation, she told me about the «Latinas Market» project. She has been working on this ambitious idea with a group, mostly consisting of women who sell various cultural items. As the founder, she aims to encourage small business owners to pursue their own entrepreneurial dreams. This association supports each other and explores creative ways to sell their items at local fairs around the city of Philadelphia and in innovative and improvised galleries in Latino businesses, such as the Peruvian restaurant Brazas BBQ Chicken, for example.
This first Latin artisan gallery is on South Street in downtown Philadelphia. As I walked towards the Peruvian restaurant, I noticed another Latin restaurant along the way, «El Puyero,» highlighting the flavor of Venezuelan cuisine. During the weekend, that area is heavily trafficked by many visitors who want to explore the commercial establishments in the area. As I stepped into Brazas BBQ, my gaze was immediately captivated by the vibrant Peruvian flag, proudly displaying its striking red and white colors. To my left, a captivating artwork depicting the revered Lord of Miracles (El Señor de los Milagros) caught my attention, beautifully reflecting an integral aspect of their rich culture to the diners.
After savoring some fried yucas (cassava) with huancaína sauce, (the preparation includes evaporated milk, yellow chili pepper, crackers, cheese, salt to taste, and vegetable oil) and enjoying a delicious roast chicken, some tasty green pasta with fried chicken Milanese (milanesa de pollo), and drinking the traditional purple corn refreshment (chicha morada) in the company of my husband, I began to observe the products for sale and read the narratives, written in Spanish and English, of each of the vendors exhibiting at the counter. For example, I found the stories of the following small business owners:
Xiquipilli-Martinez. This business was recreated in 2021 by Victoria Martinez to continue her father’s legacy, Don Adan. The word Xiquipilli comes from the Nahuatl language, meaning «basket.» This object is used for food transportation by the locals living in the Mexican mountains.
The tale unfolds with Don Adan, who was the proud owner of a small business nestled in the mountains of northern Puebla, Mexico. Amid the pandemic, he took it upon himself to embark on an initiative, offering a helping hand to local artisans by showcasing and selling their exquisite creations in his store. This endeavor provided a valuable platform for these talented individuals to exhibit their products and present them as a viable sale option for the public.
The selling strategy this group of local artisans used was the door-to-door method. In those difficult moments of the pandemic emergency, no one wanted to open their doors to buy any objects for fear of coronavirus transmission. After her father’s passing, Victoria continues his legacy by helping to activate the local economy of artisans in this region of Puebla.
Pupuseria y Artesanía Leticia. Zulma Guzmán started this business in 2019 to help artisans from El Salvador. Driven by a deep yearning to reconnect with her Salvadoran roots and share the cultural abundance of her homeland, Zulma embarked on the journey of creating this business. Through these products, she introduces the work crafted by artisan’s hands using traditional techniques and supports, at the same time, the local economy of those lesser-known Salvadoran regions abroad.
Mantas y Bordados Rosy. This project was born during the pandemic. Rosario Sánchez Luna uses different weaving techniques such as cross-stitch, backstitch, honeycomb, and petatillo (straw lines) to create innovative pieces for daily use and garments like scarves and hats. Rosario meticulously handcrafts each of her creations, following a specific process and investing considerable time in elaboration.
Lili Daliessio Designs. Lili Daliessio’s love for Colombian culture led her to create a small fashion and indigenous clothing design company using eco-friendly materials. In this way, she supports women who are victims of domestic violence, indigenous people, and homemakers. This group of artisans also manufactures their products to sell and generate income resources to become independent women.
Mochi Bay Bags. It offers handmade articles crafted by indigenous people from the northern region of Colombia, in the Guajira Peninsula.
Our Hope. The friendship bond shared between Whitney Banawa and Celia Cintron brought them together, igniting a collaboration to craft captivating decorative pieces infused with aromatic elements within their candles. Their imaginative and innovative designs set them apart in their artistic creations.
Artesanía Mundo de Queen. Reyna Navarro is the owner of this Mexican artisan products business. Like the others on this list, she helps promote the local economy of her country.
The «Latinas Market» initiative empowers and supports Latina women and entrepreneurs. As the name suggests, its mission is to foster the growth of this community. Over time, the group has expanded, welcoming fellow business owners who aspire to start their own enterprises. Together, they offer diverse, high-quality products that showcase rich cultural traditions. Each handmade item carries a unique story, crafted with passion and expertise by women and men artisans. These creators employ traditional methods that have stood the test of time, intending to contribute to the essence of their regional cultures with customers.
People wishing to participate in this global economy model can use the Zelle or Venmo mobile applications to make payments. If you would like to learn more about this initiative of Latino entrepreneurs and the products they offer, visit their Facebook page at @Mercadodelatinas.
Let’s support the collective stories of effort, dedication, and tradition behind each product!