When we think of diverse representation, the first thing that comes to mind is usually the lack of it in the media, film, and television. However, it’s something as small as a greeting card that can also trigger feeling misrepresented or not represented at all. For instance, have you ever picked up a greeting card for your father on Father’s Day that happened to have an image of a tie although that’s not exactly the field he works in? Or, have you ever seen a card that combines your Spanglish lingo so well?
Brenda Castillo walked into a stationery boutique for the first time while living in San Francisco and instantly fell in love. It was around Father’s Day so she thought it would be perfect to buy her father a card. “My dad is a landscaper and has been doing that since we moved here to the U.S. [from Mexico], but I couldn’t find anything for him. Not necessarily in Spanish but even the imagery” she reveals. “Everything was bow ties or ties, and office attire that was represented on the greeting card and I thought, ‘I don’t know how I feel about giving this to my dad.’”
That moment inspired her to create the greeting card company Sweet Llamita. Her cards include sayings such as “Feliz Cumpleaños” with a candle lit on a concha, “Feliz Navidad Abueleitos” with a drawing of grandparents offered in different shades of skin tone, and “Cafecito Date Soon?!” well because, who doesn’t love cafecito?
Using both languages was important for her to include in her cards. “I’ve always wanted to represent the idea of living in two cultures because that’s what my life is like, and I think that a lot of people that are first or second generation understand that,” she says. “You have these expectations or you’re brought up a certain way, but then you’re also very tuned to the culture here, so I wanted the name [and cards] to represent that.”
However, being a woman and Latina, she says, has caused some internal struggles throughout her journey. She’s constantly asking herself: “Why didn’t I launch Sweet Llamita sooner? Why am I thinking that I need to get a job and can’t do this right now? Why am I afraid of being vulnerable to put my work out there and people not liking it and being okay with that? Why am I afraid of failing?”
“It’s all an internal dialogue that I think comes from being a woman, my heritage and where I come from. The little subconscious messages that I get from my family and expectations to put family first and not be selfish,” she explains. “[But] one of the things I have always lived by is that I don’t want to have regrets. If I’m older or retired, I don’t want to look back and say ‘I wish I would’ve done it’ when I had the energy and no commitments.”
When Sweet Llamita was created, Brenda was inspired to represent what she was familiar with — her Latino culture. But, after meeting her customers at different events, she realized that there’s need for other cultural representation.
“I want people to feel represented and [know that] there’s people out there who really care about their experiences. Being American is having different experiences, not just one, and I want Sweet Llamita to be a place where everybody is celebrated.”
You can check out all of Castillo’s beautiful designs at SweetLlamita.com