Latinx people from across the United States descended upon the Bay Area in October for one of the biggest gatherings of Latinx people and tech: LTX Fest 2019. The four-day celebration of community and tech spanned both sides of the San Francisco Bay, offering diverse panels and workshops that established what a Latinx and tech gathering of today should look like.
BELatina was in the building for this year’s LTX Fest 19. Here were some of our favorite things about the festival:
The Planning Team Organizations
— Jacqueline Martinez Garcel (@JMGarcel) October 12, 2019
LTX Fest 19 was possible because three different organizations came together to create an event that was both uniform and unique.
The Latino Community Foundation is a California-based organization with the mission of unleashing Latino power throughout California. They do this through “building a movement of civically engaged philanthropic leaders, investing in Latino-led organizations, and increasing political participation of Latinos in California.”
The second planning team organization was Latinas in Tech. Latinas in Tech is a national organization with chapters around the United States with the aim to connect, support, and empower Latinas working across the technology sector.
Finally, there was The Kapor Center, an organization that “aims to make the technology ecosystem and entrepreneurship more diverse and inclusive.” They have a particular interest in “positive social impacts for communities that have historically been on the periphery of access to opportunity, participation, and influence in the United States.” They certainly made a positive impact with LTX Fest 19!
Professional conventions are a great place for people to get together, learn, and connect with one another — but sometimes one leaves feeling like they didn’t really connect with local businesses. LTX Fest 19 went out of its way to feel more like a modern convening than a typical convention. (The organizers even deliberately avoided referring to the celebration as a convention or conference.) To connect to the local community, there was a mercardito where small Latinx businesses from the area could share their work and merchandise with attendees. Having a mercardito at LTX Fest 19 ensured that attendees could engage with and shop from a variety of local Latinx vendors, which made walking through it very exciting and engaging.
The Addition of Mental Health Resources
It is not a secret that Latinx communities have a hard time discussing the realities of mental and emotional health. However, not discussing something doesn’t make it go away. Studies show that undocumented Latina immigrants endure PTSD four times as much as everyone else in the country. With those realities in mind, it’s amazing that LTX Fest 19 had Latinx Therapy in the building providing a space for people to relax, converse, and have free conversations with licensed Latinx mental and emotional health professionals.
DREAMers in Tech
DREAMers were in the building speaking about their personal experiences with immigration and working in tech. What was especially impactful about the conversation was that everyone on stage expressed the ways they personally felt about tech, immigration, and what it means to be a DREAMer. They all had unique opinions and experiences, which made for rich conversation.
Some expressed feeling frustrated by certain topics that others felt very happy with. Hearing a diversity of experiences among DREAMers was a potent reminder that the immigration experience and feelings towards immigration are not monolithic. What everyone on the panel and in the audience could agree upon was that power and innovation are plentiful in the Latinx community.
LTX Fest 19 almost felt like a huge family get-together because of the diversity of ages among the attendees. You had abuelas, tios, mamis, and niños all in one space to learn about tech, community, and the innovation taking place among Latinx people in tech and business.
The food offerings were great! Everything from the meat to vegan options were delicious and offered a variety of food options across the Latinx community. There were maduros (amarillitos), tacos, pernil, churros, and of course delicious seafood options. Whoever pulled together the menus for the four-day fest did a great job diversifying the food and keeping everyone full and happy.
The Music and Atmosphere
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Mural at @pandora in Oakland. It’s pretty dope. . . .🙏🏽. . This is a special shout out and thank-you to many folks! First to @lizamarie408 of @mercadolatinx who put together so many events during #hispanicheritagemonth 🙏🏽 Because of Liza’s determination and positivity, she helped book gigs for many local entrepreneurs at @adobe @pandora and @pixar where I met amazing people who supported my small design empire. 🙏🏽 To @suziluv for putting together a wonderful fiesta at @oldnavy and inviting me to be one of three artisans at their Mercado. 🙏🏽 And to @myduarte for hooking me up with the @latinocommfdn #ltxfest19 with #latinasintech 🙏🏽 All that plus four other events means I had nine events in one month and a half. 🤪 I’m super thankful but exhausted. . . . .🙏🏽. . “Why do you work so hard or so much?” I was asked over the weekend. Well, here’s why! I have a full-time job as a visual journalist/special projects designer and that all basically goes to pay our mortgage. My design empire and paint parties and festival circuit fill my soul. After 22 years of designing newspapers I’ve finally found what I truly love and it’s not journalism anymore, it’s designing for my people, my culture and chicas and chico’s like me – under represented and poorly recognized. I create all the feels, on paper. There’s not a single dry eye at my booth when women and their daughters bond over a card that totally encapsulates their relationship. Simple Spanglish, for a priceless connection. . . .🙏🏽. . I went to art school in DC and it wasn’t fun. I was told that I needed to get out of my comfort zone. In the visual journalism world, I’ve won several prestigious design awards and I’ve seen my work on TV and at local museums and praised in letters to the editor and from my amazing coworkers. When I left the Post, I didn’t think I would have that feeling again. But I am, and it’s through the eyes of kids excited to paint and learn with me! It’s through the eyes of a dad picking a card for his mijo or mija. So I work hard to see these beautiful faces light up when they see themselves! . . .🙏🏽. . So there you have it! And then I take care of my kids and hubby and house. 🤪 I am truly thankful.
Does networking with a side of Bad Bunny and Mexican Corrido music in the background equal professionalism? Of course, it does! That’s exactly what happened at several networking mixers at LTX Fest 19. Diversity and inclusion look like many things, and allowing people to show up and create the atmosphere they need to be their best selves is part of that. Attendees had the ability to listen to music that spoke to their cultures while speaking to their expertise all at once, and it was great to witness.
The amount of inspiration one could experience in a four-day festival was overwhelming — in a good way, of course. It was simply awe-inspiring to hear from undocumented young people who are using their experiences to create tech solutions, to meet the Latinas who are creating programming that reaches people in their motherlands and here in the United States, and to learn from the activists who are making sure that Latinx people feel engaged and welcome in the political processes at the local and national level.