maria oliveira

This year’s Hispanic Heritage Month vibrates with a unique energy. In 2018, the political spotlight shines on the Latinx community not only as a celebration of culture, history, and success, but also because of the demographic’s growing influence. The midterm elections are inescapable in the news, especially in the midst of Texas’ heated and close Senate battle.

For this month’s feature, the collective blue team was intentional about highlighting an individual that represented both sides of the coin -- creator and political activist. We were incredibly honored to sit down with Maria Oliveira, co-founder of Passport Vintage – a vintage shop that’s been featured in publications such as Glamour, Harper’s Bazaar, and Refinery 29 – and social media coordinator for Jolt Texas, an organization that brings Latinos from across Texas together to exercise their collective influence and power.

Over the past few years, Maria has thoughtfully combined her experience in the fashion industry and determination to create diverse spaces to advocate for the Latinx community. While interviewing her at Greater Goods Coffee (another local business owned by a woman of color), she talks about her relationship with immigration, fashion, and the Latinx community.

 nina ho // collective blue

nina ho // collective blue

At 11 years old, Maria left her home country of Brazil with her family and settled in Ft. Lauderdale.

“[At first,] I didn't speak a word of English. Nothing,” Maria reveals. “I had a really hard time.”

The school that Maria attended didn’t offer English as a Second Language Services, so she had to overcome both the challenges of learning in a classroom setting and piece-mealing together an unfamiliar language. Despite the obstacles in front of her, Maria ultimately excelled.

“I won a full ride scholarship in the sixth grade. But because I was undocumented, I couldn't use it.”

Due to her legal status and family finances, higher education wasn’t an option. Maria started working at American Apparel immediately after graduating from high school where she worked her way up from Retail Associate to District Manager in Miami and then in Chicago. Eventually, her relentless drive led Maria to take a chance on herself. 

“I've always felt like I live my life for everyone else, so my big dream before I turned 30 was to do something for myself. That dream was to start my own business.”

Passport Vintage came about as a result of a timely business partnership and Maria’s “political awakeness.” Although American Apparel gave her a crash course in retail and fashion, Maria was discontent with the lack of representation and opportunities for people of color in the industry. She knew that if she wanted to improve the industry she loved, she had to create that opportunity herself.

“I've always felt like I live my life for everyone else, so my big dream before I turned 30 was to do something for myself. That dream was to start my own business.”

 nina ho // collective blue

nina ho // collective blue

Although newcomer brands like Fenty Beauty have been revolutionizing the beauty and fashion industry, there are many long-term giants in the space that tout diversity and inclusion as marketing ploys as opposed to a true priority. Maria believes that it’s important to support brands that stand for the right values from their inception as opposed to those seeking to capitalize on recent trends.

“I'm tired of screaming, ‘Make a shade for me,’” asserts Maria. “No, let's support people that are us and are supporting us. I'm more about elevating people of color who don't have those opportunities than to beg these businesses to cater to me.”

Maria’s activism extends beyond Passport Vintage. The passing of DACA in 2012 ignited Maria’s advocacy for immigrants’ rights. Her previous status as an undocumented immigrant and her brother’s status as a DACA recipient became driving forces for her political activism. After moving to Austin, Maria felt that it was “serendipity” that led her to meet Cristina Tzintzún, Executive Director of Jolt Texas.

“Jolt is knocking on a hundred thousand doors to mobilize people to vote for Beto. We want to mobilize young Latinx voters so that we can change Texas.”

“Jolt is knocking on a hundred thousand doors to mobilize people to vote for Beto. We want to mobilize young Latinx voters so that we can change Texas.”

 nina ho // collective blue

nina ho // collective blue

In today’s political climate, we often waver between righteous action and paralyzing helplessness. Living in America as a woman, a person of color, or a member of another marginalized community can be exhausting and feels like we’re in a constant state of resistance.

Sometimes we just want to be and create without constantly feeling like we have to fight. Since there is often not much representation of diverse creators, it can feel like we’re not allowed to produce imperfect work because whatever we produce represents the quality of our communities as a whole. However, we shouldn’t forget that the fact that our work even exists – and that offering individualized perspectives into our shared identities – is resistance enough.

For Maria, resistance looks like creating a space for herself in an industry she loves and prioritizing her own dreams. She’s found a balance between combining work that makes her happy and helping her community move forward.

“As I've gotten older, I'm meshing all the different parts of myself that I kept compartmentalized for so long.”

When asked about how to best support her, Maria told us to go vote. Given the current political environment, your vote this midterm elections could make a significant difference in bringing about change.

Below are some helpful dates and links to help you get out and vote!

October 9, 2018 - Last day to register to vote  

You can register to vote by printing out the form from this link and follow the directions to mail in your voter registration. If you’re unsure if about your voter registration status, you can check through that same link – www.votetexas.gov.

The non-profit organization vote.org is also another credible source that’s easy to navigate and user friendly with simple language: www.vote.org/state/texas/.

(Be wary of phishing sites and only enter your personal information to check your registration status on credible websites.)

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October 22 - November 2, 2018 - Early voting period by “personal appearance” (aka in-person)  

Here’s a list of early voting locations in Travis County. There are also mobile voting locations as places like local supermarkets and recreational centers. We highly recommend voting early to avoid the crowds on election day.

November 6, 2018 - Election Day

Here’s a list of election day voting locations in Travis County.

Where can I read up on candidates and issues for the 2018 Texas midterms election?

Political news sites like Texas Tribune have a breakdown of the Texas Elections. You can also search for your general election ballot here by entering your county and then doing research on the candidates on your ballot.

Additionally, Maria has also provided her own light-hearted voter’s guide below. (But obviously we recommend you doing your own research on the candidates, too.)

Lastly, you can follow Maria, Passport Vintage, and Jolt Texas on Instagram to stay up to date with their work.