Mar. 01, 2021

As told to Raquel Laneri

Edith Gutierrez-Hawbaker, Graphic Design ’98

Edith Gutierrez-Hawbaker.

I have always been an activist. Te lo juro means to swear, to make a promise, to honor yourself, and stand up for what you believe in. It is my motto. 

I was born in Argentina and grew up in Elizabeth, New Jersey. I didn’t become an American citizen until I was in my 20s. As an art director, I’ve always advocated to hire people of color and incorporate Latinx culture in the magazines and fashion brands I’ve worked for. But when my son came home with $13 he made at his abuela’s garage sale and said, “Mami, I’m going to donate it to Puerto Rico to help them rebuild after the hurricane,” I had my aha moment.

At the time, the Trump administration was badmouthing Mexicans and Latino culture. I asked myself, “What am I doing to counteract this?” 

Te Lo Juro’s Walter Mercado hoodie.

I launched Te Lo Juro Collective in 2019. We spread messages of hope and positivity through fashion and art. Twenty percent of sales go to organizations that support Latinx communities. I collaborate with other artists, because the idea of celebrating culture alone doesn’t make sense. 

The first T-shirt I designed for Te Lo Juro had a drawing of Walter Mercado. If you’re Latinx, you grew up with Walter. Walter wasn’t just a TV astrologer; he was all about bringing hope.

My mom was single, hustling, working two or three jobs. When she would feel down or unsure of herself, she would listen to Walter say, “everything is going to be fine; tomorrow’s another day,” and it would lift her spirits.

Walter embodied te lo juro. He took up so much space with his large capes and hair. It didn’t matter that he was androgynous; the machismo guys listened to him just as much as the abuelitas did. It was his soul they were responding to. 

The T-shirt was in the Netflix documentary about Mercado, Mucho Mucho Amor. We also have artwork [featuring] Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a fearless Latinx icon, and other type graphics that celebrate our community. But I’ll never stop drawing Walter. He’s my muse!

Featured Photo (top): Walter Mercado, courtesy of Netflix.