And so for her queer quinceañera, thrown in partnership with WhatsApp, Rosales included personal touches that align with Chicano history. It’s the first of many such events—Vivian Odior, WhatsApp’s global head of marketing, has spearheaded a series of “Diasporic Dinners.”
“WhatsApp plays a connecting role to our users’ worlds and their homes, their second homes,” said Odior. “As we grow in the U.S., we just want to be more relevant to that group of people, to reflect them, and just show up in their communities, talking about the things they care about.”
For this particular dinner, guests including fashion designer Victor Barragán, musician Empress Of, and artist Rafa Esparza were served a modern Mexican meal from chef Gerardo Gonzalez (a wizard who managed to make a vegan chicharrón taste like the real thing). Dessert was a spin on a traditional tres leches cake mixed with a capirotada, Rosales’s mother’s favorite. Tables were littered with chilis, citrus, cherry tomatoes, potatoes, and garlic; and pom-poms, inspired by images of 1940s Pachuca celebrations, dangled overhead.
Photographer Star Montana manned a photo studio with custom backgrounds showing cherubic angels and comedy/tragedy masks, rendered with airbrushed paint. And there was a gorgeous lowrider under a massive wreath of balloons, a midnight blue 1965 Buick Riviera with clamshell headlights owned by filmmaker and photographer Gilbert Trejo. Trejo’s father, the legendary actor Danny Trejo (father and son own and work on numerous classic cars together), added his own ice-blue fuzzy dice and rosary to the rearview mirror.
Trejo has submitted numerous photos of his family members to Rosales’s archive, calling it “a great place to see and share and express pride and be proud.”
“I think it’s an amazing place for people to share their history,” he said. “It’s a really small, insulated culture. Not insulated by choice—forced into being insulated. Outside of that culture, you’re meant to be embarrassed by your family doing what they have to do and being from the neighborhood that they’re from, and there’s a lot of trauma that we have culturally in regards to our Chicano past. And yet, even though it’s so niche and insular, we’re so visually ripped off! It’s so influential.”
Chicano aesthetics are constantly, as Trejo said, copied, in fashion and film and music. Yet Rosales’s dinner, which was happily noisy and fun for seemingly all, was filled with creatives who are taking proud ownership of their culture. There were attendees such as identical twin models Hector and Jose Polio, South Central natives who have cofounded a new clothing company called Gente Unida, and Joey Barba and Javier Bandera, the cofounders of popular streetwear brand Paisa Boys (Barba showed me an excellent meme featuring a crocheted Minions G-string). Their brand is designed to, as Barba said, “shine a light on people that we feel like make L.A. what it is. The gardeners, the construction workers, the cooks, the nannies—they feel invisible. So our brand is designed to put a light on them and on the food, the music, the sense of humor, the culture.”