Diana Diaz has always loved carrying monogrammed luxury handbag brands. However, despite searching high and low, she couldn’t find a brand more representative of her culture.

“I googled ‘Chicana Luxury Leather designer’ and couldn’t find her,” Diana told FIERCE. “So, I claimed her and decided that this was a cool challenge to take on. If you google her now, you’ll find Mexichic Crafts right up there with Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf. Cool, right?”

Now, this entrepreneur, passionate about design and couture, is making waves and cultivating a community in East Los Angeles. In honor of PRIDE Month, FIERCE spoke with Diana about her journey and her idea behind The Queer Mercado, East Los Angeles’ first safe and permanent queer family market.

A family passion

Diana Diaz inherited her passion for fashion and tailoring from her father. He was a tailor by trade in Mexico and went so far as to claim that he made a suit for Tony Curtis and Ricardo Montalban.

When Diana’s father moved to East Los Angeles, his mental health issues and language barriers gave him no choice but to set up his own unlicensed tailoring business from the basement of the family home.

“We made pillows and street-vended on Brooklyn Ave,” Diana told us. “We were resourceful. He taught me and my siblings how to make and mend our own clothing, sometimes from leftover textile scraps.”

By age 8, Diana was making and selling doll clothes. In high school, she designed and constructed her own formal dresses and some for her friends. But eventually, Diana focused on her passion: handbags made from tapestry-cutting scraps. She and her father collected the materials by dumpster diving in interior design factories.

“I sold these purses to various Melrose Ave shops and flea markets,” Diana said. “A buyer from Wetseal actually ordered a few of my designs that were sold at their high-end boutique, Arden B.”

All roads lead to The Queer Mercado

Diana Diaz didn’t have the money or time to pursue her passion while in graduate school. However, after a failed marriage, she decided to nurse her broken heart with her original passion. Today, her leather bags can be found at the Museum of Latin American Art and La Plaza de Arte y Cultura.

However, life had another adventure in store for Diana Diaz. Despite doing her best to leave East Los Angeles to escape the crack epidemic and gangs, Diana attended CSULA, was a teacher assistant, then a teacher, and now a counselor in her community.

Although she initially didn’t see it, this entrepreneur is happy to have stayed in her community. She has a house next door to her parents’s home and is raising her son in the place where she grew up and in the community she has decided to invest in with The Queer Mercado.

It is an initiative to create visibility, economic opportunity, and stability for the LGBTQ+ community in and around East Los Angeles. It is the first safe and permanent queer family market in the area.

Image used with permission from The Queer Mercado.

A unique initiative

“As a school counselor in East Los Angeles, I am privileged to work in the capacity where I was the first person a student ‘came out’ to,” Diana said. “Many of the Latino families struggled to accept their child’s identification with LGBTQ+. Many of my students had been bullied, harassed, or attacked because of their sexual orientation.”

For Diana, this was personal as she has friends and family members who are part of the LGBTQ+ community. Diana saw firsthand the fear of parents and children being judged, shunned, and suffering hate crimes.

At the time, there was no support that specifically addressed this community and no resource centers. As Diana recalls, the only Queer spaces in East Los Angeles were “a couple of bars that are not necessarily family-friendly.”

Image used with permission from The Queer Mercado.

“A student challenged me, ‘Ms. Diaz, that’s great that you created a space for women, but what about the queer community? I don’t drink, and I can’t be queer in East LA because I have been bullied. West side is too far and too expensive. Can you do something for the Queer East LA?'”3

This was the personal challenge that life put in Diana’s path, and she rose to the occasion.

Now, The Queer Mercado is a space full of love and great energy. “This kind of love makes me feel like I am being held accountable, so I behave better and take better care of myself and my community,” Diana concludes. “The Queer Mercado is my church. I look forward to our monthly market.”