Mexico has had an extraordinary influence on my life. My parents owned a piñata factory in Tijuana, Mexico and employed around 500 people or “piñateros”. I spent my summers helping my Dad package orders, wandering around the warehouse, and sitting with the women who dressed the piñatas in colorful tissue paper just hoping to help snip at tissue paper with a pair of scissors. While my dad was busy working, I was learning to make menudo and snacking on fresh tortillas with the women in the kitchen. On a regular basis a big semi-truck was used to pick up pinatas from those that weren’t able to work in the warehouse and worked at home. The truck would return to the warehouse packed full, and my main job along with my siblings was to empty the semi-truck into the warehouse. We usually got paid in pesos and spent anything we earned on candy like Pico, Lucas and pretty much anything with tamarindo in it. The most anticipated event of the year was our holiday party which always included a mariachi band and dancing. I was impressed to see the men transform from their casual work clothes to tailored dress shirts, big shiny belt buckles and fancy cowboy boots and hats. I still love mariachi and to my delight and surprise, my parents hired the biggest mariachi band I’ve ever seen for my baby shower when I was pregnant with my triplets.
Observing my Dad manage the people and the operation of my parents’ factories, named “Ya Otta Piñata”, is one of the first memories I have of internalizing that my Dad loved the people of Mexico. He did a lot to support whoever needed any type of help at all. If you have ever driven across “la frontera”, the Mexico-US border, then you know how devastating of an experience it can be to see the many children, women and men in desperate need of help. For one reason or another, many resort to begging. The only times I can recall my dad turning a person away without money or food was because he had given them his contact card instead with a promise that if they showed up to his factory he would give them a job they could count on.
Employees would give my dad a wish list of “encargos” or items they wanted to buy, like Nike Air Jordans, Discman players, and boomboxes. On the weekends we would spend hours at Costco (which was not yet in Mexico), fulfilling their requests. My Dad’s employees respected him, but also loved him. I can vividly remember wanting to go home at the end of the day from the factory but first my dad would wade through the swarm of workers, who would laugh hysterically with him, and would create challenges or games where they could win cash or some exciting prize as he was trying to leave for the day. Watching my dad run his business in Mexico taught me to work hard and be resourceful, humble and gracious.
I am a proud lover of Mexican culture because of the time I got to spend growing up south of the US border. My love for the people of Mexico is deep and I've dreamt of the day I could make my way back to working in Mexico. I have chosen to create Nena & Co.’s Mexico Collection (and all of our collections) sustainably and responsibly, because as my Mom often says, “Mexico has been good to us” and so I want to be good to Mexico.
- Ali Hynek, CEO and Founder of Nena & Co.