Taco Fest shows bump in local creative businesses

Sven Wilde, the representative for Taqueria El Picante in Denton, said he wanted to help out some of his peers during Taco Fest 2k13.

So he invited them to be vendors at the two-day punk and hardcore music festival.

Texas Woman’s University student Billie Buck brought Lunar Imports Emporium, a project she shares with Thomas Cromwell, a University of North Texas student who is studying fashion merchandising. Lunar Imports is a creative re-use business that sells handmade clothing and recycled goods.

Buck said she uses existing clothes, and either alters or embellishes them. A regular T-shirt might become a one-shoulder top, and a pair of jeans might become a pair of shorts with some added designs.

“I learned that in middle school: make your clothes fit you. Still do it today,” Buck said. “We take found clothing, bleach the shit out of it, change it up and recycle it.”

Buck, who is Wilde’s roommate, also painted the murals inside Taqueria El Picante. The small taqueria is dressed up in bright colors — one wall resembling a starry sky, and the opposite bearing a purple cat drifting in the sky between a cactus and a painting of the virgin de guadelupe. There’s a message, too: “Taco cat will set you free.”

Cromwell said Lunar Imports is a pop-up shop that sets up at events and shows that attract customers who have no qualms with buying clothes that came off a rack as mall-ready fashion, but have been reinvented with scissors, thread, lace, appliques and whatever whims might come to the designers.

“What really has impressed me here today is really all of it,” Cromwell said. “This isn’t a typical punk hangout. It’s all of these subgroups. Seeing people create this strange imagination of aesthetics is really cool.”

Cromwell said Lunar Imports wants to dress every type of patron who attended the fest.

“We’re not just about doing small sizes,” he said. “We want to make clothes for all kinds of bodies, because all bodies are beautiful.”

The idea of all-bodies-welcome was a theme on Saturday for vendors and patrons. Total Twit, a Denton production company founded by Alli Play-Nice, is intent on booking punk and harcore bands that include women, people of color and queer artists. Total Twit booked the bands for Taco Fest. The taqueria has become something of a default venue for the production and booking company, and Alli has been up front about Total Twit shows being a place where no racism, sexism, homophobia or ableism is tolerated.

Liz Hernandez, also a friend of Alli and Wilde, debuted her tamaleraMasa de la Raza, at Taco Fest. The booth served three varieties all-organic, vegan tamales. Masa de la Raza will begin serving tamales at the Denton Community Market on May 25. Hernandez also brought her pop-up zine library, Puro Pinche, to the festival.

“The idea behind the tamalera is to serve food made in the mesoamerican tradition,” Hernandez said. “And it’s also to educate people about the Chicana and Latina struggle in everyday life.”

How does a vegan tamale educate foodies about the cultural importance of Latinas, as well as their struggles?

“I think food is  inherently an exchange of identity,” Hernandez said.

Hernandez said she grew up eating and making foods in mesoamerican tradition, which to her has to do with organic foods cooked and assembled simply — with corn as a staple. The vegan part of the equation has a political dimension to it. Call it protest through flavor and deliberate avoidance of animal products.

“By choosing veganism and not using meat or animal products, we are not supporting an imperialist industry that has exploited the Latin American population since it’s robbed us of our land,” Hernandez said.

Mesoamerican history treats corn with some reverence. Hernandez said historical mesoamericans studied their staple crop, looking for ways to make it as vital as possible, preserving proteins for warrior and clan alike. Community market and festival patrons might not be looking for a historical and cultural anecdote with a tamale, but conversations often get rolling when food gets handed across a booth.

Buck said Taco Fest was a good spot to sell her goods, while Hernandez said it was a chance to road-test her savory tamales (She’ll likely introduce her sweet and breakfast tamales at the Denton Community Market, which is 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. each Saturday through November in Denton Historical Park, at 317 W. Mulberry St.

“I absolutely love finding the right piece for the right person,” Buck said. “When someone tries something on and they see it looks perfect on them, they light up. I love that.”

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