Five Mexicans deported from the United States have joined forces to create a clothing brand with a political message and a social purpose.
Deportados Brand is the brainchild of deportees who were returned to their country of birth after spending much of their lives north of the border.
Now in Mexico City, the collective is designing and printing t-shirts and bags in a small screenprinting workshop in the neighborhood of Santa María la Ribera.
The group’s goal is clear: sell enough t-shirts so that they can reunite with their families who remain in the U.S.
“It’s more a social enterprise than a for-profit company,” Ana Laura López told the newspaper Milenio.
She was deported near the end of former president Barrack Obama’s second term after having lived and worked in Chicago for 15 years.
Her two teenage sons remain in the U.S. but, in addition to her deportation, López was banned from returning for 20 years, meaning that she now faces the challenge of being a long-distance mom.
Gustavo Lavariega is in a similar situation. He has two daughters in the United States but hasn’t seen them for a year. He hopes that the company grows so that he can save enough money to buy flights for them to come to Mexico to visit.
The end goal of seeing their families again provides the collective’s members with strong motivation to make a success of their new business, and their determined attitude is reflected in some of the phrases printed on their t-shirts.
“Deportados, pero no derrotados,” or “Deported, but not defeated,” is one. “Chingones aquí y allá,” or “Awesome here and there,” and “The border crossed my life,” are others.
In another design, U.S. President Donald Trump makes an appearance wearing a sombrero emblazoned with two of his own most memorable words: “bad hombre.”
Others are even more political. “Defend DACA,” reads one design referencing the Deferred Action for Child Arrivals policy which currently faces an uncertain future.
Another of their slogans makes it perfectly — and forcefully — clear what their opinion is about Trump’s border wall proposal.
The company was formed as an offshoot of a deportees’ support network founded by López that aims to help deportees adjust to life back in Mexico.
The members of Deportados Unidos en la Lucha (Deportees United in the Fight) continue to meet recent deportees at the Mexico City airport, orient them in the city, find them a place to stay if needed and help them find a way to earn an income.
“We were selling candy in the street”, Lavariega said, recalling both his early days as a recent deportee and where the idea for the clothing line first came from.
In order to be more recognizable on the street, he explained, the deportee vendors got some t-shirts made and soon after people started asking whether they were selling them. In January 2017, the company started designing and making its first t-shirts.
The Mexico City Labor Secretariat offered its support to the initiative, lending the group screenprinting equipment for a year and will soon make a decision whether they will be able to keep the machinery on a permanent basis.
Apart from helping its members earn a living and edge closer to their dreams of being reunited with their families, the company’s profits from t-shirt sales also help support recently arrived deportees.
Source: Milenio (sp)