When we were young girls growing up in our respective communities and families, the co-founders of Luz Collective had very distinct, yet very similar experiences growing up as second generation Latinas.
I experienced extreme hardship growing up in poverty with a dysfunctional family, then later tracked into the school to prison pipeline that landed me, a gifted and talented education student, in juvenile prison and on juvenile parole by age 15. I went on to become a lawyer, the first Latina elected to the Nevada Legislature in the history of the state (along with three Latina colleagues), a senior media executive, and now co-founder and CEO of the Luz Collective.
Mary Hernandez had a similar childhood, growing up with her migrant family in extreme poverty in Santa Paula, a small agricultural community in Ventura County. In spite of this, she defied the odds by graduating high school and becoming the first in her family to graduate from college. She did so in part because of a math and science Upward Bound program that she was lucky enough to attend. Mary brought her many talents and skills to her roles as Talent Director and Business Operations Director before working her way to an executive position at a multi-million dollar startup where she was essential in building it from the ground up. Mary is now a co-founder and Chief Operations Officer of Luz Collective.
We began working together at mitu, a digital media company creating mainstream content for Latinx youth in the U.S., and quickly discovered that despite having distinct and varied childhoods, we also had so much in common.
We clearly remember feeling less than when our brothers were more valued than we were. We were either subjected to, or witnessed the double-standards we lived by, and acknowledged how unfair it felt when the girls were taught to be humble and meek while the boys were taught to go out and conquer the world, often with a causal warning to not get anyone pregnant. We recalled watching TV and seeing our bodies sexualized over and over again but if we wore the same tight clothes, we were sluts who brought shame to our families, or worse yet, invited sexual assault. We remember defying the media’s portrayal of us by educating ourselves and then forging ahead into adulthood having to figure out every step mostly on our own. What’s a credit score and why is mine so low? What is a first time home-buyer loan and who can get one of those? I’m the baddest bitch in this place but have no idea how to ask for a raise. We lamented so many things that we experienced, yet we soldiered on. Defying more odds. Finding support and community wherever we could.
Yet it was also the good times that brought us together, and the fond memories we had of our parents, friends, and relatives sticking with us through “las malas y las buenas” (the good times and the bad). We found community in the fact that family didn’t always refer to the people who raised us, but the people who loved us. We celebrated because we knew that no matter what we saw on TV, someone out there expected more of us – we just didn’t see it all the time. We rejoiced and stood firm in our truths and tall in our beliefs knowing that there were 27 million other Latinas who were experiencing some variation of all of the above – and many were thriving.
After moving on from mitu, we found ourselves contemplating next moves.
It didn’t take long to figure out that the community we wanted and needed didn’t exist.
It was abundantly clear that if we wanted a place to call home we would have to build it ourselves. On that day, Luz Collective was born.
Latinas are 27 million strong and command over 700 billion dollars a year in purchasing power. We are 1 in every 5 women now and by 2060, we will be 1 in every 3. When we lead small businesses, we see the strongest revenue growth amongst all women. The list of incredible positive statistics is lengthy, yet we don’t see these stories being told, and we don’t see the resources we need being made available to further these gains. We see the same tired Latina stereotypes, over and over again. Luz Collective is here to change that.
Luz Collective will challenge the stereotypes and disrupt these tired narratives through digital content. We will empower our communities and inspire Latinas across generations through events where we can experience community. And we will support Latina merchandising entrepreneurs through an e-commerce marketplace where we can build each other up with our dollars.
We built Luz Collective because we were tired of being undervalued, marginalized, and misrepresented. We built Luz Collective so that young girls could see themselves represented differently than we did. We built Luz Collective because we wanted a home.
Welcome, Bienvenidas, están en su casa. We hope you like it.
Lucy and Mary