Kelly Talamas and Cristina Cabarcos on the importance of showcasing La

Kelly Talamas and Cristina Cabarcos on the importance of showcasing Latin talent

To close Hispanic Heritage Month, we had the privilege of having a 'cafecito' as they would call it, with Kelly Talamas and Cristina Cabarcos.

Kelly, former Editor-In-Chief of Vogue Latin America and a creative consultant of over 15 years, along with Cristina, a fashion industry veteran and Publicist with a career at CHANEL under her belt, are the inspiring and creative force behind LATINNESS, a media platform dedicated to the celebration and showcasing of the Latin talent of our region. 

Guaia Madre (GM): You two go way back. How did you meet?

KELLY: We first met in person years ago, around 2017, after exchanging a million work emails. I was working at Vogue and Cristy as PR with CHANEL...

CRISTINA: Yes, it was on Kelly’s first trip to Panama. She was there for work, and I took her on an express tour through the city. We connected immediately!

KELLY: We bonded over our Cuban roots when we discovered that Cristy’s father and my mother were both born in Cuba. We also realized we had studied the same degrees at University– Journalism and Economics, which was a weird coincidence.

GM: Where did you grow up and how do you feel that place influenced you and your work?

KELLY: I was born and raised in Miami to a Cuban mother and American father of Palestinian descent. At school, most of us were first generation Americans born to Latin parents who migrated to the United States, the majority Cuban. Since everyone I knew growing up had a similar story, I didn’t appreciate the uniqueness of it then. It wasn’t until I went away to University outside of Miami that I realized how different my community was in comparison to the rest of the United States. That’s when I started to really appreciate and understand my heritage and my family’s story, and was inspired to become more expressive about it. Years later, when I moved to Mexico, my pride in my roots really took hold, as I found I loved learning about and celebrating Mexican culture, while also missing a lot of the Cuban customs and traditions I was accustomed to.

Image courtesy of Latinness

Image courtesy of Latinness


CRISTINA: I was born and raised in Panama City. After college in Boston, I moved to Bogotá, Colombia, which has been my base for the past 10 years. I have been lucky to live through the resurgence of Colombia fashion abroad. The new generation of talented designers finally getting recognition and success abroad, the ruffles, the boleros, a real success case study that has then opened doors to other Latin American designers.

GM: Where did the idea of creating Latinness come from?

KELLY: Three years ago when we began to imagine this project, we realized there lacked a space in media that encompasses the entire region yet offers a very local look at what’s happening here. There’s so much interest in Latin America amongst Latins and foreigners alike. Working in the creative industry and surrounded by so much talent, we thought why not show the region through the stories of these creatives.

CRISTY: From there LATINNESS was born. Through our work, both of us have had the opportunity to get to know a large part of the region and make friends in different countries, so we find ourselves in a very opportune situation to be able to launch a project of this scale.

GM: Both of you have a long career and a history with fashion, how does that influence Latinness?

CRISTINA: My life in CHANEL, allowed me to meet some of the brightest creatives in the region, through the work of journalists, producers, actors, painters. That's how I met you, Marcela and Kelly.

KELLY: Same with me and Vogue, it brought me to Latin America, literally, with a move to Mexico. While at the magazine, I loved discovering all the talent that exists, and sharing those individual stories, either through editorial or the initiatives we launched while there like Who’s On Next or Vogue Talents Corner. The Instagram era started during my tenure at Vogue, and I guess that also kind of became my angle on social media– this exposure to the creative world here. Latinness feels like a natural extension of that.

GM: What have you discovered in your exploration of Latin American culture?

CRISTINA: The vastness of projects that remain undiscovered, even within different countries. In our Cafecito section, we give voices to creatives doing interesting projects in fields such as architecture, design, music, fashion, art, gastronomy, among others.

KELLY: That it’s an endless fountain of creativity! The further we get into it, the more we realize how there are so many different versions and interpretations of what it means to be Latin. The ingenuity and talent is incredible... We interviewed Marisa Taha, a chef in Bolivia, who through her foundation, documents ancestral products, recipes and techniques used in indigenous communities in order to preserve them. Also Mozhdeh Matin, a designer in Peru working in the Amazon with natural leather alternatives.

Marsia Taha_Bolivian chef_Image courtesy of Latinness

Marsia Taha, Bolivian chef / Image courtesy of Latinness


CRISTINA: In Puerto Rico, Omar Robles is a photographer who documents dancers around the world, and Yaite Ramos really spoke to our hearts. She’s a rapper outside Cuba, who sharpened her lyrics because it is the only form of combat she has.

Yaite Ramos_Image courtesy of Latinness

Yaite Ramos / Image courtesy of Latinness

Yaite Ramos_Image courtesy of Latinness

Yaite Ramos / Image courtesy of Latinness


GM: It is very hard to pick just one but what is your favorite place in Latin America?

KELLY: Impossible to pick! But I will say, the cities I’ve lived in hold a really special place in my heart. Mexico City and Bogota have helped shape the person I am today.

CRISTINA: I’d also agree with Kelly. Bogotá has been my home for the past ten years, and i ́ll always feel at home on the beaches of Panama.

GM: From one Latina to another, what is your favorite thing about being us? About being latin?

CRISTINA: We ask this question all the time, and ultimately, everybody replies the same. It's an alegria of living, a quality of being joyful, and welcoming. The French would call it Joie de Vivre.

KELLY: Definitely the joy of living. We share this passion and zest for life that I haven’t experienced elsewhere.

GM: This month we celebrate Hispanic Heritage in the United States. How do you see the evolution of the Latin Diaspora in this country?

KELLY: I definitely think we’re moving in the right direction. Latins are finally being celebrated and given a platform for being who they are. In the past one would try to assimilate or hide their identity in order to get a seat at the table. Now, at least in our industries, it feels like our heritage and diversity are seen as a positive contribution. Of course, there’s still work to be done, but I’m happy to see much more representation than I remember growing up.

Mozhdeh Matin_Peruvian Fashion Designer_Image courtesy of latinness

Mozhdeh Matin, Peruvian Fashion Designer / Image courtesy of Latinness


CRISTINA: We’ve also seen a lot of young Latin entrepreneurs and creatives coming up and thriving within the industry, which is so encouraging and inspiring.

GM: Through the lens of architects, photographers, designers, musicians and artists, you celebrate and bring to the forefront the beauty of our Latin culture. Why is this so important to you?

CRISTINA: Latin stories seldomly get told, especially now with less and less traditional media. What moves us is telling stories of interesting creatives, and more, the paths that led them there, hoping to inspire the next generation of Latin creatives.

KELLY: As an expat living in Latin America, I guess I’ve always seen the region through a different lens, and since day one I’ve been fascinated with the culture, each country with its own customs and nuances. As far as we’ve come as Latins, there are still so many stereotypes surrounding our region, even between our own countries. We want to start a new conversation around the topic and invite our audience to look at our culture through a creative lens.

Photography by Omar Robles / Image courtesy of Latinness

Photography by Omar Robles / Image courtesy of Latinness

Photography by Omar Robles / Image courtesy of Latinness.

Photography by Omar Robles / Image courtesy of Latinness


GM: What is next for the two of you? Any future projects?

CRISTINA: We are launching a section that we had kind of dreamt of, but kept on hold during the pandemic: City Guides!

KELLY: Yes! Latinness Locals will be, we hope, the most extensive database of city guides on the region. We also want our audience to experience that “latinness” on a tangible level so we’re working on the idea of creating experiences that will give you a taste of the Latin American lifestyle. With this platform, it really feels like the opportunities are endless, which is so exciting.


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