Clothing speaks. It conveys style, reflects cultural values, and voices our personality. It forms a part of our identity, one that is chosen. In that light, the identity that clothing can provide is not something that can be taken away, or given by others. It’s a choice. A form of communicating who we are.
How does a native Mexican immigrant share part of their culture, their identity, in Grand Rapids, Michigan?
Nancy Quero Ramirez migrated to the United States when she was eighteen. She adapted to American culture while maintaining her heritage. The change in landscape didn’t stop her from eating the food of her home country, and she continued to speak Spanish with loved ones. Food and language, foundations to culture and identity, never faltered. Clothing, however? Fashion? Well, that was a difficult transition. Ramirez found herself in a place where she was unable to express herself, unable to connect to a part of her history that is an essential component of who she is: Mexicana.
This emptiness was fueled by Grand Rapids. Instances of racism and discrimination created a division. How do we handle spaces that do not accept us? How do we bridge the individuals, subcultures, with the dominate one? These questions become more daunting when an overwhelming population discourages understanding and advocates assimilation.
In the absence of Mexican fashion, a void that had overtaken her, Ramirez and her sister, Guadalupe Quero, began a small business to provide clothing that overlapped with their heritage. Happiness was found through their work. Both became a portal, connecting to a part of the world that had been ignored. Nancy focused on the business, while Guadalupe designed the dresses.
Oaxaca Y Sus Regiones (Oaxaca and its Regions) highlights the fashion native to Oaxaca, a southern state of Mexico. Originally envisioned as a fashion show, Oaxaca exhibits dresses from the eight regions of the state. Each one unique, shaped by the environment that developed it. Some of the dresses flow, encoated with bright colors. One dress radiates red. Another is black, a littler heavier, but just as beautiful as the others with flowers sprouting from the bottom.
These dresses empower. The negative comments made, the racists actions, and discriminatory behavior endured by the sisters strengthened their resolve, the connection to their heritage. That energy manifested into the current work on display. Identity is chosen. Identity finds a way.
For Guadalupe, she feels a sense of pride representing the richness of her culture, connecting to her identity. Both enjoy their work by providing a pathway a pathway to their heritage for the younger youth in the United States.
How do you express yourself? What do want others to know by viewing you? What kind of bond does your clothing have with your heritage, if any?
Most importantly, does your clothing bring you happiness? Does it reflect your identity?
Nancy Quero Ramirez is the founder of Guelaguetza Designs, a small business that is focused on promoting Mexican culture through the sale of handcrafted items like artisan clothing and jewelry, which is made in Oaxaca by local artists.
Born and raised in Mexico, values like respect, honesty, friendship, and the love for her culture were instilled in her by her mother. Immigrating to the USA when she was 18 years old, Nancy left behind family and friends, but not her roots. With hard work and dedication, she overcame the language barrier and obtained her Associates Degree in Accounting from GRCC. Guelaguetza Designs opened in 2005.
She currently manages her time between family, work, and business. She aims to inspire Latina entrepreneurs and younger generations to embrace their Mexican culture to transcend and flourish in this country.