Cultural Symbolism Leads to Unique Business

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By Chuy Renteria, Hola Iowa

Elizabeth Valdez finds connection through the pieces she crafts; bespoke escapularious and accessories meticulously crafted with reverence for her culture. Escapularious are necklaces historically worn by Christians, often made of two squares connected by two strings, with one segment resting on the chest and the other on the back, symbolizing faith that a saint is keeping the wearer safe. Valdez’ desire to share these creations led to starting her own business, Escapularious Doble E. The connections through this work are multifaceted. It’s a connection to her customers, their shared appreciation of their heritage, and the community that they all call home. Of starting a business in Des Moines, she states, “I have a deep connection to this place and wanted to contribute to the local community. Iowa has a rich culture and a strong sense of community, which aligns perfectly with my passion for crafting.”

An avid crafter, Valdez was drawn to the endless possibility of tailoring each piece to the customer, or to particular scenes and messages. “The custom and personal feeling made me passionate about escapularios and accessories, and I wanted to share my creations with others. Seeing the joy and satisfaction on people’s faces when they wear my custom pieces is incredibly rewarding. It’s a way for me to express my creativity and make a positive impact in people’s lives.”

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These crafts hold centuries of tradition and history, especially for those from countries dominated by Roman Catholicism, the originators of the necklaces. The escapularious in particular took off with people taking care of the land, working dangerous and laborious jobs, and performers. That is where Valdez draws the most inspiration and feels most connected to her culture. “It has allowed me to tap into a rich heritage and create products that resonate with the charro and escaramuza communities. I draw inspiration from the vibrant colors, intricate designs, and traditional elements that are deeply rooted in our culture. This connection helps me create unique and authentic pieces that truly represent our heritage. Additionally, my understanding of the cultural significance of these traditions allows me to connect with customers on a deeper level and provide a more meaningful experience. It’s amazing to be able to celebrate and share our Latina culture through my business!”

Taking the leap into entrepreneurship has been a blessing for Valdez. She is excited at the prospect of more Latinas following in her footsteps. “When you do what you love, it shows in the quality of your work and how you connect with your customers. I would suggest thorough research and planning before getting started. Learn about the market, identify your target audience, and set realistic goals. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and surround yourself with mentors and other entrepreneurs who can guide you along the way. And of course, don’t give up! There will be challenges, but with perseverance and determination, you can achieve success. Best of luck on your entrepreneurial journey!” 

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