Meeting Mari Salinas for the first time was an event, to say the least. She doesn't strike you as arrogant or pretentious, but all at the same time, you get the feeling that this girl is clearly self-aware, carrying with her an air of distinct confidence. Reminiscent of that girl we all went to high school with - the one who was friends with everybody - Mari lets you know she's in the room but reminds everyone that you're there, too.
Coming off of the major success of last month's fashion show, Estilo en la Calle, which was held at the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center as part of Una Noche de la Gloria and co-produced by Agosto Cuellar, Salinas is embarking on a new phase of her life. While she does have a fashion and marketing degree, she's more inclined to say she went to the "Agosto Cuellar School of Fashion," as a means to pay homage to the boutique and mentor she's worked with at Southtown's Jive Refried since 1999. "I always knew I wanted to do something creative. And at the time, my eyes were open and Agosto showed me the path," Salinas told me recently.
Shortly after she began working for Cuellar, Salinas enrolled at a fashion school in California, packed up her life in San Antonio, and headed West. She wasn't there for more than a week before her student loan fell through, but like any true survivor, she came back to Texas with a renewed sense of strength and motivation. Like many young Latinas I know, she was told that the path to success could be found by marrying well (and that the only way to do that was to lose weight). But instead of seeking out a husband to solidify her identity, Salinas decided that the whole of her twenties would be spent getting to know herself through travel and experience, marking each passing year with an added layer of wisdom to her already keen sense of consciousness. At present, she lives by a very simple personal code: "Life is about balance."
Years later, one wonders if her work was really meant to take place in San Antonio all along. She shines on gracefully in her local environment, networking, working (she helps manage Krazy Vatos Emporium on South Presa where she also maintains a certain level of creative freedom), and working out her personal fashion dynamic. Estilo en la Calle seemed to mark the beginning of a new journey for Salinas. Having worked closely on several fashion shows, she has the all the makings of a fashion success and treads a line somewhere between a local girl who's made good and a future mogul. At 30 years old, Salinas is proof that young Latinas can stand independently and freely, because she's done so without compromising herself, her self-image, or her values.
Xicana Spotlight is a monthly series dedicated to celebrating a beautiful, inspired, wise, accomplished, motivated, dedicated, and proud local Xicana. To submit your nomination, please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.