Dalinda Gonzalez-Alcantar felt the frustration growing during the 2015 presidential campaign as she listened to depictions of the Rio Grande Valley. During that time, she tuned into a National Public Radio series about the border.
“Obese, crime-infested, dirty. It wasn’t the home I’ve known,” Gonzalez-Alcantar said of the descriptions of her region. “This is why we haven’t given ourselves permission to be proud of where we live. We have a right to be proud of who we are, our culture and our region.”
Gonzalez-Alcantar, a former teacher, a self-taught coder and now the executive director of the Boys & Girls Club of McAllen, decided to use her bachelor of fine arts degree from Texas State University to express the frustration she felt.
“My background and what I feel in my rebellious heart is to create visual representation,” she said.
The original visual representation for Gonzalez-Alcantar’s feelings was three numbers: 956. She put the numbers on t-shirts and formed a company, Alablanca Apparel.
“I grew up on Whitewing, off of 10th Street in McAllen,” Gonzalez-Alcantar said. “So Alablanca is a nod to my barrio.”
Proud Of Her Roots
It’s a neighborhood she is proud to represent. As she speaks, Gonzalez-Alcantar drifts back and forth between English and Spanish, a master at both. Both languages represent who she is, and it is this bilingual, biliterate, bicultural heritage she celebrates through Alablanca.
At first, Gonzalez-Alcantar sold her tees at local markets. A year later, she added a second design, this one addressing her feelings about the national attention on the border during a heavy wave of asylum seekers in 2016. Her new design shifted from three numbers to two words: Southern Border.
“There was a trending hashtag at the time,” Gonzalez-Alcantar said of #southernborder. “I actually made this design in opposition to the picture they were trying to paint. I live in the Valley, and I’m proud to be in the Valley, proud of the culture in the Valley.
“One, it’s about representation. When I wear my shirts, I feel like who I am,” she said. “We all deserve the opportunity to wear things that feel like us.”
Growing Sales, New Designs
Eventually, Alablanca Apparel expanded its product line from tees to leggings, beanies, tanks and sweatshirts in response to customer requests and the clothing industry. Despite the end to in-person markets in 2020, the company experienced record sales, garnering website sales from across the country.
“California, Florida, Chicago, New York City,” Gonzalez-Alcantar said of where her products were shipped. “Those girls are proud of who they are and where they came from.”
One exciting trend Gonzalez-Alcantar has noticed is that customers are actually waiting for the company to drop new designs, which is happening monthly.
“We actually have collectors of the designs,” she said.
In April, Alablanca dropped Sacred Reina, what Gonzalez-Alcantar described as “a visual representation that we are sacred as women and we deserve to be treated as such.”
On the website, she describes it this way: “Amiga, you should be treated with reverence and respect like the sacred reina you are, so grab your crown and go get yours in our Sacred Reina tee, inspired by you!”
Inspiration and Giving Back
Gonzalez-Alcantar continues to hold true to one of her company’s founding tenets, which is giving back. Her Tu Lucha Es Mi Lucha, Your Struggle is My Struggle, t-shirt was inspired by the Raise Your Voice campaign, teaching minority communities how to live together.
Alablanca donates some of the profits from these shirts to organizations working in underserved communities. Past recipients include Know Your Rights Campaign and United We Dream.
Gonzalez-Alcantar is the founder, the owner and the sole designer. She says most of her design ideas come to her in the middle of the night. Many still have inspiration by things she sees on the news that have a profound impact on her.
“In art, you are trained to dismantle, to look at things from all aspects,” she said.
Gonzalez-Alcantar is happy to see her message – on her canvas – spreading nationally through Alablanca Apparel.
“What matters most to me,” she said, “is that we find representation important. This is what a leader looks like. This is what a leader sounds like. My generation, we get to be proud of our culture.”