Muchacha Power: The Luchadora Who Started An Empowering Clothing Line
Who are the role models for today’s young girls? Take a look at any toy isle or the theme of any birthday party and one is bombarded by all the shades of pink and, most importantly, princesses. Though Disney has attempted to diversify its princesses, the predominantly popular ones are the fair skinned light eyed ones à la Frozen; mothers can attest to the effect these movies can have over their children. While there is nothing inherently wrong with princesses, Cynthia Carrion noticed a very important symptom of potential self-hate subliminally being planted in her daughters, so she decided to start Muchacha Power, a clothing line offering empower clothes to young girls. But before her success with Muchacha Power, her story begins as a child of two role models who showed her the other type of power a woman, like her, can aspire to embody. And Cynthia herself can be seen as a role model of a woman who has dedicated her life to the people’s fight.
Cynthia’s mother is from the Dominican Republic, specifically Santiago and her father is Puerto Rican, from Ponce. They met as union organizers in New York; she knew about Cesar Chavez, boycotts and protests before she learned about George Washington. Cynthia grew up in Queens and went to school in Long Island. She was the kind of kid in grade school who, when writing a report about the enslavement, made a diagram with each person holding up protest signs demanding human rights. In college as part of the Student Liberation Action Movement, she became the first Latina president of the Hunter College Undergraduate Student Government, in 2001. Since then, and for the past 15 years, her career has focused on advancing human rights on a local, national and international level. Most of Cynthia’s work has focused on youth and community development, especially those marginalized. She has worked with Centro de Mujeres Afrocostarricenses in Costa Rica, Visao Foundation in Sierra Leone, Amnesty International USA, Human Rights Watch, NYC Department of Education, Hour Children, Caribbean Cultural Center, Manhattan Neighborhood Network – Youth Channel and currently as Deputy Director for Northern Manhattan Coalition for Immigrant Rights. In addition, along with a volunteer base, Cynthia coordinates Border of Lights, to commemorate the victims of the 1937 Haitian Massacre and support solidarity along the DR-Haiti border. And to top it off, she also started an Uptown Soccer Academy with her husband in Washington Heights.
It had always been Cynthia’s dream to live in the Dominican Republic; when she became pregnant with her second daughter, the dream became an intense pull. She felt raising a family can be hard in NYC, especially with two young children in a small apartment during the long winter months. Shortly after she gave birth, she told her husband her well-being depended on being close to water and warmer weather. They packed up their belongings and at six weeks postpartum in November 2015, Cynthia and her family were on a plane to Puerto Plata. Originally they gave themselves Cynthia’s three-month maternity leave to decide if it was a permanent move, but once they got to Cabarete, they didn’t want to leave. She had become familiar with Cabarete through her previous work but could have never anticipated the amazing network she has developed of friends, schools and outdoor activities.
It was also important to Cynthia that she spent time with her grandmother. Weekends, holidays and really as often as she could, she would take the two hour drive to Santiago to visit and have little adventures and family gatherings to cherish the time with her family elder. Cynthia’s grandmother died suddenly this past March from a heart attack; though the passing was sad, Cynthia felt blessed to have spent the time she did with her. Cynthia’s children got to spend time in their great grandmother’s garden and she benefitted from her grandmother’s wisdom for those last couple of moments.
It was in the Dominican Republic that her clothing line Muchacha Power was forged. She didn’t see any clothes that shared her values of raising a strong Latina. Imagery is so important to toddlers, so Cynthia’s goal was to create something fierce that wasn’t about the dominant narrative of Disney princesses waiting to be kissed or saved by a prince. Culture and values are reinforced with the media and this includes the clothing choices we provide our young girls. Muchacha Power is a unique clothing line that celebrates young girls and women as “bold, brave & fuerte.” Though she is new to the fashion and garment industry, her passion for women’s rights and youth development have allowed her to build a brand that she believes in.
Her late grandmother had also been a seamstress in New York City for over 30 years. Cynthia had grown up watching her and her great-aunt sewing. All her bathing suits growing up were made by her grandmother; making the shirts felt like a way to stay connected to her. Cynthia knew how hard her grandmother had worked to make a living and wanted to ensure that the people who work for the Muchacha Power brand feel respected and compensated for their work. Worker’s rights are incredibly important to her as well as the role of economic empowerment in transforming a woman’s life and that of her family. Muchacha Power is slowly funding itself to eventually become a worker’s collective, while a portion of their sales goes to supporting local education and employment initiatives in the Dominican Republic for women and children. Muchacha Power is still a small start-up that wants to grow and be part of the movement that is sustainable for workers and the environment.
Cynthia shared more of her thoughts on the clothing line’s significance: “Muchacha Power started as a project to celebrate our blended culture and Spanglish! Watching my daughter request and look for her Muchacha Power tee has been really moving. She will tell me she is going to be “bold, brave y fuerte” on her own. It’s important because while, my daughter still likes princesses, she knows that she is also Muchacha Power. That her image is just as powerful as those of Disney characters. That her mama is also Muchacha Power strong.” She wants for all of our children to know that they are strong and valued. She wants the image to reflect their beauty and their uniqueness. Diasporic Latinxs, in her case Diasporic Dominicana, speak with the fluidity of both languages and culture,s and our clothing should celebrate that. Cynthia spoke more on the creation of another narrative, “It is also important that we challenge the narrative of girls as “princesas” needing a prince and see them as the heroes of their lives (and ours)!”
What’s next for this powerful Muchacha? There are many plans and visions for the future, such as a permanent work space to provide consistent employment for workers. At the moment, the grassroots clothing line is being supported by family, friends and clients from all over New York, the east coast, Los Angeles and even Europe. Cynthia thought just her friends would order but the first few orders were from people excited about her clothing line. As the clothing line continues to evolve, the hope is that this unique messaging will reach more and more muchachas who celebrate their power by being bold, brave and fuerte.
Links To Purchase:
Follow Muchacha Power on FB: