Aromas of authentic Mexican tacos and quesadillas greeted visitors at the Latinx + Chicanx Vendors, Makers and Artists Pop-Up Event hosted by the Latino Arts Foundation this past Saturday.
“It’s been a tremendous day — we’ve been nonstop. But I love getting to meet a lot of different people and share our authentic Mexican food with them,” said Frances Alaniz-Mendez, who founded Birrieria Tlaquepaque y Mas with her husband, Jesse Mendez.
The couple’s taco stand stood outside the Latino Arts Foundation in downtown Kansas City where diverse members of the community gathered to support Latinx and Chicanx vendors. At the forefront of the event was Deanna Munoz, the founder and CEO of the Latino Arts Foundation.
“It energizes me to watch these entrepreneurs get that visibility,” Munoz shared. “I am still that person who needs someone to help me out from time to time; so if I can help by providing an opportunity for people to sell their products — and bring the community together — then that’s what this is all about.”
Munoz founded the Latino Arts Foundation in 2018 to uplift underrepresented artists, honor cultural identity and heal historic inequities. Pop-up events are one way to provide that opportunity, she noted.
Click here to learn more about the Latino Arts Foundation.
As an entrepreneur herself with a new jewelry line, Midwest Chicana, Munoz understands the importance of being connected to the ecosystem and having access to resources, she said.
“For first-time entrepreneurs, it can be hard to find information and resources unless you know somebody,” Munoz said. “You’re kind of alone out here trying to figure it out. But it shouldn’t be that way.”
The pop-up makers fair was the second such event hosted by the Latino Arts Foundation in 2021, following its debut in March. Munoz plans to organize a pop-up every month.
“I’ve been slowly getting to know the entrepreneur community,” Munoz shared. “I started reaching out to people who I knew were selling their stuff online and maybe needed that first in-person event. Once I started making connections with one person, then that person was connected with another person.”
Munoz had nearly a dozen more vendors on the waiting list for Saturday’s event, she noted, explaining that the Latino Arts Foundation’s space was simply not big enough to accommodate more vendors.
“That really shows the need for these events within our [Latinx/Chicanx] community,” Munoz said. “… A lot of people don’t realize what we’re doing in Kansas City, so I’m glad that there’s even more stuff waiting for people to come and see.”
The Latino Arts Foundation’s third pop-up event is planned 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. May 8 in downtown Kansas City.
Follow the Latino Arts Foundation on Instagram for updates on events.
In the future, Munoz wants to move the pop-ups in a larger space that could host more vendors, she said. She’s in search of an available location near Westside or the northeast/downtown vicinity of KCK and is about 1,000 square feet — hoping the space could become home to the Chicano Arts and Culture Center of Kansas City, she added.
“The Chicano Arts and Culture Center will serve entrepreneurs and be a space where they can store their stuff,” Munoz explained. “It will also be an art gallery and host various art exhibitions. We’re going to have food and a bookstore, so people can learn about our culture. It’s very much about honoring the Chicano culture.”
A look at the vendors
Birrieria Tlaquepaque y Mas started its run with pop-ups in summer 2020 to provide Mendez’s parents with additional income during the COVID-19 pandemic, Alaniz-Mendez noted. The name “Birrieria Tlaquepaque y Mas” is an intermittent title until they are able to get a food truck, she added.
“We love to do the pop-up events,” Alaniz-Mendez said. “My husband is looking at possibly doing it full-time. We’re in the process of getting a food trailer, then getting licensed permits and hitting the city!”
Follow Birrieria Tlaquepaque y Mas on Facebook to find out where they’ll be next.
“These newspapers were digitized by the library and were about to be thrown away. A friend of mine saved them from ending up in the dumpster. He was moving out of the country, so I was like, ‘They’re mine now!’” Salazar recalled, laughing.
The poet also brought copies of her micropoetry book, “Tiny Bits of Flesh,” to Saturday’s event. She plans to one day publish her own work — rather than going through a publisher — with her poetry group La Resistencia.
Salazar and Munoz met when Munoz was featured on Netflix’s “Queer Eye” and Salazar was working as an assistant for one of the show’s hosts, Antoni Porowski.
“I’ve done a lot of stuff with Deanna and the foundation over the couple of years we’ve known each other,” Salazar said. “I want to keep going and be here for the community. Obviously we need something like this, so it’s really cool that Deanna does this out of the kindness of her heart.”
Click here to learn more about Maite Salazar and La Resistencia.
Mexican-American artist Ricardo Rizo was the final vendor to secure a spot at Saturday’s pop-up, he said, noting that he got connected to the Latino Arts Foundation through Instagram.
“I have been an artist all my life,” shared Rizo, founder of Ricardo’s Art. “I’ve been doing art shows and craft fairs for about three years now. I have a booth almost every weekend somewhere in Kansas City.”
Rizo pulls inspiration from the Kansas City community, as well from such aspects of his culture as the Mexican holiday, Day of the Dead, he noted.
“It’s a little bit goth, a little bit playful,” Rizo said, describing his art with a smile.
Click here to check out Ricardo’s Art.
Other vendors at Saturday’s event included: My Sister’s Closet, Bling with Loricita!, Daisy Escamilla, Chico Salvador, Midwest Chicana Brand, Limitless Nails, Art Junkez KC, Lesley Escamilla, Joselyn Ceramics, Alysia Reyes, Kandy Skullz Clothing, Cafe Ollama, Dona Fina Coffee, Mexico by Hand Tzintzun clothing and Yezzir Effect.
This story is possible thanks to support from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a private, nonpartisan foundation that works together with communities in education and entrepreneurship to create uncommon solutions and empower people to shape their futures and be successful.