by Oscar Castillo

Laredo is well-known to be an ever-busy city. In the midst of the urban jungle, it is nice to find a sanctuary to remind us of home. Whether traveling in the Laredo area, or simply in the midst of a home transition, hotels are a welcome bed in which to let worries melt away. However, with so many options on the market, it can be hard to choose where to spend your nights (and hard-earned money). One of the leading providers in excellent hotel service is Red Roof Inn.

Scott Halket is general manager at the Calton Road location of Red Roof. Having prior worked at a Dallas location, he came to Laredo in March of 2016, helping provide quality service to guests at the hotel, and wise leadership for his team. “Laredo is an interesting market,” he states. “With the proximity to the border and the multicultural aspect, it’s an interesting and challenging market to work with.” The Red Roof Inn receives guests from all over Mexico and the US on a daily basis. He expresses that his team highly encompasses values such as hospitality skills, caring about people, putting others before themselves, intelligence, compassion, commitment, bilingualism, responsibility, and punctuality.

“Our success has to do with the team that we have, which provide seamless service,” he adds. “It is a synthesis of caring and sympathetic staff, rates that are affordable, taking care not to forget about local as well as our incoming populations and styles of guests, and providing them all with an excellent experience.” Of course, another great aspect of this particular Red Roof is, as Halket adequately stated, “Location, location, location.” Being right in the center of the most popular areas in town, it is a great option for any occasion whether it be shopping or exploring the city.

Of course, what sets this location high on our charts is its utmost dedication for customer service. “Customer service means treating guests like they’re in your own home,” he continues. “Not treating them like a customer, but treating them like a guest. Anticipating their needs, and providing a seamless service before they even think of it.” An incredible feature that Red Roof counts with is its pet-friendly nature, which allows one to bring along their furry friends on trips. It is a delight to be pampered in the spacious rooms, or even to take a dip in the hotel’s glistening pool. Certainly a great option for an escape.

“We love to provide great service,” Halket states. “You need a cab? You need a restaurant to go to? You need directions on how to get someplace? Let us know. We’re here to serve you and treat you like you are family.” Contending to be not only Laredo’s best but also the region, Red Roof on Calton is worth it.

by Ashley Salas

Let’s talk equality. Equality does not only refer to equal pay or equal political and social rights, but rather its a broader aspect that includes a representation for and of all human rights, whether you’re gay, straight, hispanic, black, blue, or green. We’re in the year 2018 and sexual equality is still one of the most controversial topics being discussed around the world. Whether you believe it’s religiously immoral or not or whether you believe you were genetically born with it or believe it’s a “nature vs. nurture” type of situation, the idea of homophobia is a thing. A real thing.

Earlier this month, an advertisement circulated around the city’s social media platforms, bringing up the question, “Can Homosexuals (LGBTQ) change?” A local church hosted a function that promised homosexuals a chance to “change” with “God’s love and power” by following a fourteen-step journey that ultimately leads to the cure: heterosexuality. Laredo’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer community, alongside Texas A&M International University’s Campus Ally Network and support programs such as Equality Texas, LULAC Council 12, Laredo BorderSlam Poetry and Laredo’s Sisters of Mercy counter-rallied and instead of resorting to protest in a violent way, they opted to love only to celebrate life. They took the opportunity to begin an open conversation, answer any doubts, and open their arms to anyone who just needed a big warm hug. The question is, “Why can’t people let other individuals be and embrace who they truly believe they are?” Who decided that the color blue, football, and cool cars were things that defined the male and the color pink, makeup, and barbies were things that defined the female. Maybe the reason why there’s denial of this group is because people are afraid or not a fan of any sort of change. People fear the “different” and “abnormality.” However, there’s a reality to accept: love is love and others’ mindsets have evolved. In fact, Laredo has evolved.

With a room full of about 100 attendees and mother monster Lady Gaga blasting from the speakers, from drag queens to Catholic sisters to politicians to poets, it was all bursting with love and acceptance, hoping the exchange of thoughts sparked a foundation of support for everyone. Testimonies floated out of people who took the stage, many of which have suffered loss of friends due to suicide, rejection because of their family’s strong morals, and discrimination by civilians. Tears of each kind were shed, each holding a dear memory of a story of a man who was beat to death in the 90s but was never on the news, or the sick dying man who believed he wouldn’t see his god because of his sexual preference, or the young man whose only wish was to save lives but was denied the opportunity to donate blood because he was gay. Nevertheless, the night ended with a room of nothing but positive energy and love, and rainbow colored feather scarves and a fabulous drag show. So here’s some food for thought, like some magical person in the audience said: “be whatever color you want to be because the world is not black and white.”

Laredo is definitely a melting pot of cultures. Within our city we can find many families, businesses, and entities from all over the world. Of course, being right on the border, we take great pride in both our American and Hispanic heritage. For this reason, events like the Sister Cities Festival are so important to the community and offer us a little taste of what we’re missing from our brothers and sisters from across.

Sister Cities is a celebration of Mexican culture as it brings together over 200 exhibitors and vendors representing across 60 cities from all over Mexico, all under one roof. From Tex-Mex, to authentic Mexican and Latin, there are literally hundreds of selections in terms of vendors all housed in the grand indoor mercado.

Join us in exploring through countless pieces including jewelry, clothes, toys, home decor, and even unique foods and ingredients, all authentic and made in Mexico. Sister Cities is a tour across the rich tapestry that is Mexican culture, bursting in color, personality, and crafted with dedication and love. However, it isn’t just Mexico this event brings together but also people from all over the world. It is an international expo that celebrates union and trust in one another as neighbors.

While Laredo is known as the “Gateway to Mexico,” its strategic location as the nation’s largest inland port makes it the “Gateway to the World.” Established under seven flags, Laredo now embraces a global culture with the influx of new nationalities, each with their own unique flavor. By creating this network not only with Mexico but with the world, we can learn from other cultures and share a bit of what makes each of us unique. It is a great privilege that Laredo lies at the center of this communion, and it is definitely quite the experience to just indulge in what the rest of the world has to offer. Whether you want a traditional new outfit or accessory, or whether you want to try some of that authentic Mexican cuisine, come on over to Sister Cities and show your support. The event is an entire weekend, spanning three days, July 13-15, at the Laredo Energy Arena. Admission is free. 

by Oscar Castillo

Photos By Misael Hernández, Model: Gaby Cadena, Makeup Artist: Guillermo Castilleja

Every day hides a special surprise for those willing to search for it.  With July tends to come time off from school or work. Though a lot of us prefer to use that time off for simple relaxation and dissociation, many others like to make the most of their free time. For this we have decided to include a celebration or two that occur each day in July. Some of these may range from National holidays to well-known celebrations to some that are just outright strange and unique.

We start, of course, with July 1, which is actually known as Canada Day in the land of the maple leaf, which is celebrated with local treats such as Poutine, Baklava, and “Beaver Tails” which are not what they sound like. For the lovers of the supernatural, July 2 is seen as World UFO Day, which is a great excuse to take a camping trip with telescopes in hand in wait of an amazing encounter. On the third,  it is National “Stay Out of the Sun Day” where we are reminded to always stay safe and protected while outside. The sun is good and all, but too much can be harmful. Be sure and wear lots of sunscreen and stay hydrated on these scorching hot days.

Celebrations in July range from National holidays to well-known celebrations to some that are just outright strange and unique, like Piña Colada Day; the 19th is National Hot Dog Day. July 16th is National Ice Cream Day.

On the fourth of July, nothing of interest really happens, of course, other than the biggest party across the entire United States. Get those grills firing and prepare for the fireworks show. The following day is National Bikini Day, so get out your favorite two-piece and hit the beach. The 6th  is both International Kissing Day and National Fried Chicken day, which is certainly a strange combo but why not do both and smooch on some good old fashioned chicken at your local joint? The 7th is National Strawberry Sundae Day, the 8th is National Video Game Day, and the 9th is National Sugar Cookie Day, so those days are perfect for getting your buddies together (or online), and duking it out in some co-op games, all the while snacking on some sweets. With how hot the days are, that honestly sounds like heaven.

The 10th is National Pina Colada Day, the 11th is National Slurpee Day, and the 12th is National “Eat Your Jello” Day, so feel free to treat yourself. You deserve it! Hot weather and cool treats go together like peanut butter and jelly. The 13th is National French Fry Day, The 14th is National Mac and Cheese Day as well as Bastille Day in France, and the 15th is National “Give Something Away” Day. Following the trend of yummy food, the 16th is both National Corn Fritter Day and National Ice Cream Day, the 17th is National Emoji Day (really?), and the 18th brings the International Nelson Mandela Day as well as the World Listening Day, which are adequately paired.

July is vacation time. It is summertime fun time. It is sun burn, sand in your pants, AC at full power, sleeping in, “why is the sun so evil” time. Just the mention of the word “July” evokes images of fun and relaxation (for most) and sunny outdoor activities. Summer is on full blast, and the heat is the highest ever. However, don’t let that stop you from making the most out of your summer vacation.”

We are all about our food, as evident, and the 19th is both National Daiquiri Day and National Hot Dog Day; something for both the kids and grown-ups. The 20th is National Lollipop Day as well as Moon Day, so why not visit the local planetarium? The 21st is National Junk Food Day (July sure likes to make us fat), and the following is National Hammock Day, which we will need after the junk food. However, the 22nd is also Parents’Day (yes, both of them) so be sure and celebrate your folks. The 23rd is National Gorgeous Grandma Day, so tell your Granny just how beautiful she still is. Following that is National Cousins Day, and the 24th is National Tequila Day, so why not do both and take your favorite party-crazed cousin out for some drinks? The 25th is National Hot Fudge Sundae Day, and the 26th is National Aunt and Uncle Day, so take this day to explain to your aunt and uncle all the partying you and your cousins did two nights prior. It’s also National Chili Dog Day so maybe offer a couple as a peace offering.

The 27th is National Scotch Day, The 28th is World Hepatitis Awareness Day, and the 29th brings both National Chicken Wing Day as well as National Lasagna Day, a yummy duo. The 30th is the International Day of Friendship as well as Cheesecake Day and Dance Day, so that just sounds like a good time overall. Finally, the 31st is National Mutt Day. There are many good dogs and cats at the shelter waiting for their forever home, and purebred or not, a pets’ love knows no limits.

In summary, there is lots of food to enjoy this July as in general it is National Ice Cream Month. Just like the cold treats keep us nice and cool in the summer and balance us out, it is important to always practice safety and moderation when going out of town. Always wear proper sun protection, and have a healthy time. After all, come August, it’s back to the grind for all of us. Have fun but remember to be prudent and smart. Happy summer!

 

This week, the biggest event in entertainment is, without a doubt, E3, The Electronic Entertainment Expo. This week-long event is a mecca for everything relating to gaming and technology. Gamers all over the world flock to this event both in person and through online streaming to see what new games and products their favorite developers have crafted. Some of the more popular presentations included Bethesda announcing several of their titles including the much-awaited Fallout 76 and a tease into the future game, The Elder Scrolls VI. An enormous wave of excitement filled both the showroom and the internet when Nintendo unleashed Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, which counts with the biggest character roster in the series featuring every single character from past games. It ‘s been certainly an exciting week for gamers. Which title are you most looking forward to?

Many restaurants are beloved by their loyal customers. Their brand name is something that we tend to love and expect. However, we were shocked this week upon hearing that a popular eatery chain had changed its name. The International House of Pancakes, commonly known as IHOP, suddenly changed its name to IHOB. Many speculations began to swarm trying to decipher what the B in the name meant, many believing it was for breakfast. To the surprise of many, it actually stood for Burgers as the chain seemed to want to focus on them now. Of course, the internet was quick to meme the situation, and many other restaurants’ Twitter pages joined in the fun, roasting and poking fun at the change.

Both the United States and Guatemala were stricken with terror in the last weeks as they saw an incredible amount of volcanic activity. The Kilauea in Hawaii and the Fuego in Guatemala erupted, causing devastating damage to surrounding areas. Although evacuation efforts took place, the damage to people’s livelihood was palpable, especially in Guatemala’s case. As molten lava filled the streets and destroyed everything in its path, many took to social media to report and record the destruction unfolding before their eyes. Efforts are still underway to help the affected areas, so please contact your nearest aid station to see how you can help the cause.

By Oscar Perez

Rebecca Garcia, a Newborn Photographer, took her passion for capturing everyday moments with her phone to a full blown photography career in a matter of 5 years! I met up with her during the month of May to talk about her journey through the photography world!

Oscar: Thank you Rebecca for meeting up with me! Let’s get started! How would you describe who you are?

Rebecca: Well, first and foremost I am a mom who decided to start documenting my kids’ life by taking photos of them since they were newborns. This is where the love for doing this professionally came from and it grew into my career. I am now a Professional Newborn Photographer.

How did you start this journey with photography?

I always knew I liked photography. Back in the day, I had my point and shoot camera everywhere I went! I have always loved taking photos I just didn’t know to what extend I could actually do photography until I became a mom.

Did you go to school to study photography?

I studied psychology and once I graduated I still felt lost, stuck in between “what do I do now?” and “Do I go for my masters?” It was during this time that I was was blessed with my first son, Nathan. When he was born I was taking photos of him all the time with my phone. Then it got to the point where I wanted professional photos and so I picked up the camera!

When was the first time you remember being creative?

When I was young I would draw all the time. I used to paint all the time! I had an easel! Hahaha! I always felt I needed a creative outlet and photography came in to do just that! I started creating headbands before photography to get this creativity out of me.

How did the headband business lead to photography?

I was creating these headbands that photographers from around the state wanted to buy for their photo sessions and I thought I can take up photography.  I had no money and I needed money to buy my first camera. I sold my motorcycle for $1,500 and bought supplies to make headbands. I didn’t know what I was doing, it was just happening! It was the money I made from this that was used to buy my first DSLR Camera. A Nikon 3200.

Awesome! What was the first thing you did when you got your camera?

I started photographing my kids and my headbands. I posted the pictures [online] and little by little people started asking me to take pictures of their kids. I had only carried two babies in my life and they were mine! Hahaha so I was like “no..no.. I can’t. I only photograph my kids.”

So how did you get going on that opportunity?

I had a friend who pushed me a lot and I’m grateful she did! I took pictures of her kid and that’s how it got started. Once I posted the first photo I kept on going! I don’t quit!

I love that you were jumping into these opportunities! Did you always have this entrepreneurial spirit?

Honestly, I don’t remember but I can tell you that when I was in a motorcycle club there was no nice tee shirts for girls. There were a few of us female riders and I wanted to make something nice for us. So I did. I made 50 shirts and sold them at $20 a piece within 2 weeks! That was the first time I did something that was entrepreneurial.

What was the first service you offered as a photographer?

My first services started with newborn photography. I’m not going to lie, I did try everything else to see what I liked.

What advice would you give to someone thinking of pursuing photography as a profession?

Gain your experience. Find out if you really like the type of photography you will be doing. Don’t do it for the money. Do it because you love doing it! Don’t give up! Keep going! You need to do you! Find your style! It’s the hardest thing but the most rewarding thing when you find yourself. Be genuine!

How do you realize you like a style? I’ve seen your work go from newborn photography to family portraits.

This past year I started with families! I always stayed away from photographing families because I didn’t want it to be boring for them. Like the typical “Smile. Look at the camera.” Lately, I tell my clients, “We are going to take traditional photos but also be prepared to play with your kids!” Those photos of them being genuine with their kids have been the best photos I have taken! It tells the story of who they really are! A loving family!

I can say you ‘photograph love’!

Yes! My latest photo shoots were the ones for Mother’s Day. I didn’t call them “Mommy and me” sessions rather I called them “Motherhood” session. This is because that’s the truth behind this role as a mother! Genuine smiles!

Let’s talk about obstacles. Do you remember the first obstacle you faced when becoming a photographer?

Yes, learning to work my camera and nobody wanting to help.  Also, being on the smallest budget ever!

How did you get past that obstacle?

I watched a million YouTube videos and read the manual! That’s how I learned to work my camera. I attended newborn photography trainings. The trainings are important to me because I want my clients to feel comfortable in me handling their babies.

Did you ever want to quit the first year?

Yes. Sometimes I got some babies that did not cooperate and I wondered if I was photographing the right way.

How did you keep going?

I kept going by getting through it. Now I just go with the flow. The “Baby calls the Shots!”. The shoot flows from there and it has worked out for me that way. I want the parents to be happy.

What’s the toughest thing about being a photographer?

Having patience for the creative process. You can’t force it. I cannot force myself to sit down and edit when I’m not feeling creative.

Do you have a routine for cultivating that feeling to create?

I do. At night. When it’s quiet. I get more done. I’m focused on the photo and feel the mood. It goes from there…

Do you work by yourself? Have you had assistants?

I had two assistants for a short period but I work better alone.

What’s your inspiration for the different photography sessions you have during the year?

I don’t like the sessions to look cheesy. I want them to look real. I find inspiration all around. I used to think “we need to plan and set up a photo” but you really don’t. You can let it flow.

I love that. Yeah, you have to let it flow! How do stay organized?

I keep a calendar. I carry it around with me all day! I have to have it on paper. Not digital!

Do you schedule time off? For yourself?

Yes, Mondays! I do need the time with my kids! I have the first two weeks off in June to kickoff summer!

Are you excited about something that’s coming up here in the near future?

Yes! These past two weeks I made the jump from working in my home studio to getting a new studio. It’s time. It’s time to grow.

How do you know it’s time to grow?

I feel it. I need something challenging.

What’s the vision behind getting a bigger studio?

I want to teach photography but it’s not for aspiring professional photographers. I want to start by teaching moms! There are tons of moms like myself who have bought cameras but don’t know how to use them. I want to start there so they can learn and take nice pictures of their kids. You know, photographing everyday life.

When do you move in?

We are trying to get this going by next week [May 20th]

Who is we?

My sons and I. They are such a big part of this journey that I asked them about moving to a new studio. We made this decision as a family!

That’s beautiful! I can’t wait to visit the studio! Where can the readers find your work?

They can find me on Instagram, Facebook, Website and now at the new studio. My phone is on my pages! Anybody can contact me! I’m accessible.

Instagram: @RebeccaMasonPhotography

Website: www.RebeccaMasonPhotography

Great! Rebecca thank you for sharing your story with me today, I know you will inspire people to chase their dreams! You have taken risks and you have made your vision a reality! I look forward to seeing all your future work!

by Fernanda Alvarado

To the strong willed individuals who stuck to their resolutions we say, “Congratulations! You can enjoy this season without guilt!” To the ones that love food a bit more than most we say, “Don’t worry! There is a swimsuit for every style, shape, or form!”

The summer 2018 swimwear trends cover every possible aspect and personality that could want to make a splash at the pool or at the beach. Thank goodness! The options for this season’s swimwear trends include one and two pieces with imaginative styling. The rise of the one piece is in full force as well, and each of the designs is stunning with options to flatter everyone. From sunbathers to surfers and models to the more modest, the summer 2018 swimwear trends strategically cover it all.

 

 

Swimsuits with Tassels
Tassels are cuter than ever. You’ll stand out from the crowd with a bathing suit decorated with yarn tassels. They became more chic and feminine. Some bathing suits can even be accentuated with accessories and jewelry.

One-Piece Swimsuits
You can never go wrong with a classing one-piece bathing suit. However, this season spruce things up a bit. Add a touch of oomph to your suit and think plunging necklines, which are one of the best summer 2018 swimwear trends to go for!

Prints
Clever, funny and sarcastic prints are showing up on cover-ups, two pieces, and one pieces. A play on words here and there has shown that it is not just for a cute T-shirt. Off Duty Mermaid, and Bae Watch are popular options.up for a quick bite are out and about as well.

High-Waisted Two Pieces
The high waist trend has been building steam and gaining ground more reliably for the past few years than any other. Maybe it’s the flattering way our hips flair or our tummies are tucked but this trend is cute on anyone.

So, pack up your swimsuit, put on those sunglasses, and drive towards the sunset. This summer is sure to be one filled with memories and laughter and with our tips you’ll be a statement all on your own! Happy swimming, readers!

By Yeradi Armenta

Dr. Seuss once said, “Why fit in when you were born to stand out?”. Even as a little girl, I’ve always been one to stay true to my image. From my own closet, I would create different outfits. I’d get a shirt of one style, a short or skirt with a different print, then maybe I’d add a cape and totally random shoes and I’d leave the house ready to take on the day. I was the type of kid who would color my shiny dress shoes with black sharpie. I’d put new designs on my shoes and I’d wear them every time I went out. My mother would sometimes have a different opinion about my outfits but would always end up supporting her little fashionista. I have always liked dressing and being different, and yes, it was a little because I wanted to be the center of attention.

I believe that style comes from comfort. You can choose to be who you are and you can choose how to present yourself to the world through your fashion style. It is important to know that comfort plays a huge role in how you dress. When you’re not comfortable, you are not at your best.

Don’t be scared to show you have personal style. You can be THAT girl! Life is a runway, dress like it!”

The term It is defined as “denoting a person or thing that is exceptionally fashionable, popular, or successful at a particular time.” That is exactly what I had in mind when I created my online shop, The It Shop. 

I try to dress in clothes that people can get from The It Shop. After all, that is how I started. Friends and family would always ask me where I got the different items, whether they be clothes, shoes, accessories, or purses. The question became so common that my husband suggested I begin my own online store.

It should be mentioned that I began my shop with personalized genuine leather goods. One day, I was minding my own business, when someone noticed my purse. They completely fell in love with it and they’d tell me they wanted one but that they couldn’t go to Mexico to get one. When I least expected, I had about ten people asking me to go get them purses like mine.

So I spoke with three different brands in Mexico and I became a distributor of genuine leather goods.

The It Shop is what I love to do. Because through it, I’ve been able to meet so many different people and I’ve been able to experience a Fashion Week in Mexico City. The It Shop was selected with a small group of online fashion retailers that have been actively promoted through notorious fashion influencers in Monterrey and Mexico City.

During Fashion Week it was so exciting and amazing to see the influencers I work with wearing clothing and accessories from The It Shop. It was also a pleasure seeing people in the shows react to these outfits positively and they were even curious about where they came from! I even got a chance to be interviewed because of the way I dressed for the shows! Fashion Week is a fabulous experience, but let me tell you that it’s quite tiring, too. For example, for every runway show you have to form a line to get into the show itself, once the runway walk ends, you have to get back in line to go to the next runway walk and so on and so forth all day long. But I was happy and excited. I loved this experience and even had the opportunity to sit in on the most colorful and trendy runways.

My passion for fashion led me to witness Benito Santos’ runway show. He’s a really well-known designer in Mexico and I knew I had to be a part of his show. After all, his fashion pieces have ended up even on the Miss Universe stage in 2010 with the show’s winner, Ximena Navarrete. This was an out of this world experience!

I knew this Fashion Week would give me a fresh perspective on fashion and a cool twist to The It Shop. All of these experiences led me to a greater love for all things that make fashion unique.

I went from selling only personalized leather goods to clothing from boutiques based out of Los Angeles and New York. Everything that comes my way, that I think is trending, I try to sell it. I have had my Instagram store for about two years now and I have over six thousand followers. I look forward to learning more and sharing with you guys. After all, you are part of my inspiration!