Many first-generation Latinxs know the difficulties of immigrating to the U.S., adjusting from culture shock, and working to help their family stay afloat. It can be hard to find your own path in life when you’re so used to doing everything you can for your family, especially since many of our parents have sacrificed everything to immigrate here. Such was the case for Myriam “Mylo” Lopez, the owner of biophilic design (which incorporates natural elements into buildings) and floral business, Mylofleur, and founder of Tierra a Tierra, better known as Land to Land, a refugee resettlement nonprofit organization that helps families from Russia and Ukraine escape the war between their homelands.
Born in Corona, California, this Mexican American jefa is based in Las Vegas, NV, and frequently moved around Mexico and the U.S. in her childhood and adolescence. Eventually, they moved to Las Vegas, where Lopez would help her mom clean up after floral designers at the MGM Mirage in Las Vegas to pay for architecture school; through hard work and dedication, she began networking with industry leaders and built her own business from the ground up. Along the way, she discovered her love for floral design & architecture, picked up valuable business skills that would prove to be useful in the future, and spent time being a missionary abroad in Eastern Europe and Asia, allowing her to learn more about the people living there and the challenges they face.
Lopez grew up along the border between Mexico and California. Her parents often struggled financially after they were hit by an economic crisis in Mexico during the 1990s; Lopez recalls a time when her family was temporarily homeless and sleeping outside on a mattress. After getting ahold of three cents (one peso), a young Lopez went to a nearby bodega, hoping to buy herself a box of Sonrisas cookies, but the cashier told her she didn’t have enough and to come back with three pesos.
“I walked home, and I was crying. My parents were so sad they couldn’t afford that, and then I looked at them, and I was like, ‘I’m gonna work so hard, so I can get a cajita Sonrisa,’” Lopez tells HipLatina. In her eyes, this story is what started her drive to work hard and later inspired her desire to learn English & move to the United States was born.
While at first Lopez had fun learning bits and pieces of Spanglish, moving to Calexico, CA made her realize that she didn’t know enough English to communicate with her new peers. At 11, she was sent to Utah to learn English, where she began working at a gas station and understanding how to navigate life and achieve her version of the ‘American Dream.’ Lopez and her family then finally moved to Las Vegas when she was in middle school, but she says the culture shock at her new school was strange and confusing at first, as she had always been surrounded by mainly Latinx people growing up until then.
Since her mom was always working, Lopez took charge as the eldest and essentially became her brothers’ mother as a teen, learning their daily routines and assisting her mom in any tasks she had. Eventually she grew tired of this, asking her mom if she always had to work and saying that she wanted to live her life, to which her mom responded by asking her to help her clean at the MGM Mirage casino. From that point on, Lopez began riding the bus to the casino after school to help her mom clean so they could go to lunch together.
One day, the Mirage director at the time asked Lopez what her plans were in the future and offered her an on-call job there with her mother, which she took promptly. When she decided she wanted to go to film school, the director supported her decision, offering her a position as her mother’s assistant so she could save up to go to film school; unfortunately, Lopez’ family was not as supportive, as they had expected her to be an electrician. She was ultimately accepted, and while attending film school at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, Lopez transitioned over to the then-new Wynn Las Vegas resort, where she became assistant designer and learned more about the hospitality industry.
In this role, she learned the importance of capturing Mother Nature & learned how many people were willing to pay for floral design. After some planning and reflection, Lopez decided to take a leap into the unknown, switch her major to landscape architecture, and write her thesis about how floral is the new architecture. Frustrated by what seemed to them as a lack of dedication on Lopez’ behalf, her architecture professors often encouraged her to move past floral design and focus on architecture; however, Lopez refused, determined to become a floral architect and biophilic designer
“There’s such a discredit on florists, especially in the [Latinx] community. If I said, ‘oh, soy florista,’ they would say ‘oh, how cute!’ If I said I’m a florist, they would think I had a shop,” Lopez explains. “Then [they would say], ‘you’re studying architecture? That’s funny; how does that work?’ At the moment, I was so young and naive that I didn’t understand how to explain it, but floral is the architecture; there’s no way that an architect can design a space such as hospitality, like a casino, without any elements or floral displays. There’s no luxury in that.”
After graduating in landscape architecture, Lopez began searching for internships that were available; through an internship/exchange program at the University of Utah called the International Language Program (ILP), she was offered the opportunity to travel to Russia to work for an archaeology firm and teach English to Russian students in school. Though it took her some time to get used to the cold, the lack of familiar foods, & the overall culture shock of living in Russia, Lopez loved the community she stayed in, as she felt appreciated by the people there and connected to them. Through the same program, she went on to teach in Ukraine and China before becoming a missionary and serving in another Russian city.
“When I was in Russia, everything I learned was activated; every decision of being Latina. I was more accepted in Russia because I was Mexican,” Lopez says. “Ukraine—beautiful country as well. China’s where I adopted the name Mylo because they couldn’t say Myriam, so they came up with Milo, and that is how [I] started progressing [to] Mylo [and] Mylofleur.”
Mylofleur, which specializes in fresh, silk floral and plant art installations, special and private events, high end weddings, and bohemian elopement designs, was created by Lopez in 2017 and has worked with big name clients like the Grammys, Imagine Dragons, Usher, Anita Baker, Missy Eliott, Bitcoin, Facebook, Twitter and more. When she noticed the disconnect between nature, life, and the buildings around us, her goal was to bridge that gap and breathe life back into the places where we celebrate and commemorate ours.
“Latinos, we know how to activate any space. We see an open court, [or] dust, we turn it into a football field; we see a fence, [and] we’d see that as being able to chismear with a neighbor,” Lopez explains. “We don’t see it as an obstacle; we see it as, ‘oh, let’s sit down and have a private conversation.’ That’s what drove me to Mylofleur.”
In addition to providing beautiful decor, Mylofleur practices sustainability by saving the flowers that were used, drying them, and reselling them to a company that does Plexi walls. This way, the dried plant matter can be incorporated back into architecture.
Her most memorable experience thus far was being the floral designer for the Grammys after party last year at Omnia Nightclub in Caesar’s Palace. The coordinators contacted her three weeks before the event and switched up the venues a couple times; when they decided what they wanted, Lopez was told that she had about 24 hours to bring everything together for the event. In a hurry, she phoned everyone she knew in Las Vegas and quickly assembled a team. At the end of the day, they successfully completed something that would’ve normally taken four days in just one. Though they had to take all their hard work down just a few hours later, Lopez says that she’s extremely proud of her resilient team and the way everyone was able to come together as a community to overcome the challenge at hand. Additionally, she remembers how happy she felt when her parents heard about this feat and were impressed with her work.
“It made them process a whole week like, ‘oh my gosh, you did that. We’re so proud of you,’ and I never really heard that from my parents until now,” Lopez tells us. When creating Mylofleur, one of the biggest challenges Lopez faced was being taken seriously as a floral architect, especially by her parents, as it isn’t a career that is often respected or seen as valid. She felt like they, along with most people, didn’t understand what she was trying to build or what a floral architect even was when she told them about her business, as the two professions hadn’t really been merged or connected previously.
Another prominent challenge for Lopez is how as a businesswoman raised in a traditional Latinx household, she often feels responsible for her family; many of her business moves or personal life choices were once looked down upon by her parents, such as the choice to move out before getting married or to go to a summer architecture program in Mexico. Additionally, there were many times she mixed friendships with business, and she ultimately learned her lesson. Lopez believes the key to balancing these challenges is maintaining strong boundaries, controlling your emotions, and focusing on your own path and ultimate goal to avoid unnecessary strained relationships.
During her time abroad in Eastern Europe, Lopez felt embraced and touched by the kindness and acceptance she received in the Russian and Ukrainian communities she lived in. When tensions began rising between Russia and Ukraine, a couple of Lopez’ Russian friends reached out asking for help, and Lopez decided that she had to help her friends escape. When she learned that a number of refugees were hoping to enter the U.S. through the Mexico border, she reached out to some mentors for help.
“They’re going from one war and they’re going to another war,” Lopez says. “I’m listening to their plan, and my heart’s just beating hard; I said, ‘not as long as I live; you guys protected me, [so] I will protect you. I just need to know how.’”
Before she knew it, she had 10 families she was helping cross through to the U.S. through the Mexican border; she asked many for their education to see if she could employ them at Mylofleur and get them into the U.S. before they applied for asylum. In the future, Lopez hopes Land to Land can become a network for those seeking economic, religious, and political freedoms.
“America is not all about America; we make America,” Lopez says. “We need people to come and help us raise this country again.”
As someone who almost constantly has a lot on her plate, it’s hard to imagine how Lopez consistently fulfills all of her responsibilities. She admits that at first, she was using unhealthy coping mechanisms to relieve stress; when she eventually realized she was digging a hole to cover a hole, she had to change the way she was going about things. She began reaching out to her family and best friends to let off steam, created a sacred area for herself where she can go to be alone when she’s feeling down, and started getting into hobbies like playing piano and getting facials/massages. Additionally, she swears by journaling and sitting with her emotions, as she says it allows her to release what she’s feeling and provides a record of what she’s struggled with.
“I’m an advocate for writing because you can go back in two days and then reread it and say, ‘Okay, I know the pattern. I know what’s going on. I know what’s triggering this.’ No one can do it and figure it out unless it’s you, so you need to write it down,” Lopez explains. “When you start writing down, you start writing down your history, and when you start writing this history, your posterity or your nieces or nephews, anybody will say, ‘I have the same problem. My aunt had that problem!'”
Although she acknowledges that she is still figuring out her own mental health journey, Lopez advises those struggling with their own mental health to do their best to stay strong in the face of adversity and remember their path and goals.
“The most important part is everything’s gonna be ok; just push, push, push,” Lopez says. “You are your own, and no one was born at this time in this era except you to make whatever was supposed to be done. Do not doubt who you are.”