The Hispanic who turns Selena and Juan Gabriel into gelatina desserts
Through GeLATINX, Myra Vasquez has put this candy back on the map with a mix of Mexican ingredients and Pop culture. New Yorkers, prepare your spoons.
The COVID pandemic has left the world with a bitter taste in its mouth. As small businesses try to get out of debt and relief checks arrive, there are those who make "renew or die" their motto for survival.
Myra Vasquez (45) was an educator of children for almost 20 years, set up a nursery at home and now runs a store with her family in the bohemian neighborhood of Boyle Heights, in New York called Espacio 1839, where they give local artists their chance. When the COVID-19 pandemic made New York its terrible epicenter, many of these artists turned out to help Myra and her family sustain the business, and she did everything to survive, including sewing masks with the help of her mother-in-law and her husband.
About a year ago this 45-year-old autodidactic baker realized that what people really needed was to get rid of the bad taste in their mouths, to somehow go back to that happy time when grandmothers and mothers made their gelatinas in the summer, and how children and adults enjoyed them. Her jello business during the pandemic is not only necessary, but successful.
For now, more than ever, birthdays need to be celebrated. Weddings. Graduations. I mean, life.
Myra Vasquez began to re-imagine gelatinas as an art form, bringing in ingredients and fantasy molds from Mexico.
There are many who request her creative GeLATINX, which combines coffee with guava, cheesecake, mango Chamoy or "choco-flan", and which have aroused real interest in her Instagram account, as they are not only delicious but also beautiful.
"At first, when COVID started, there was nothing in the markets. I had to cancel the orders," Myra tells LAist. "Now I have a limited menu, there are certain flavors I can't offer because I can't be running to the market all the time. I try not to expose myself because I have my children and an old man who lives with me."
Among her most successful creations are those dedicated to the queen of Tex-Mex, Selena, and Juan Gabriel, whose designs were made by her husband.
"Myra created a jelly that captured the essence of Selena," one client told LAist. "Not only did it look pretty, the taste was incredible. It was grape and milk (condensed milk)".
"Making gelatinas can be stressful because you don't know how it's going to turn out until you've turned the mold," said the artist, who makes 15 to 20 jello creations a week. "It can take six to eight hours because they have to be sitting down, especially if I'm making layers."
While gelatinas sold in supermarkets are becoming less popular and young Latino chefs prefer to give priority to more popular desserts, such as bizcochitos or pan dulce, Vasquez's jellos are proving to be a revelation.
Especially the two most loved ones: the tres leches mosaic and the strawberry one, a classic.
"The reward is seeing my jellies labeled in social media, people enjoying them at their intimate parties, the reaction on the children's faces when they see their jelly for the first time," concludes the Latina, who is already working on vegetarian options. "I feel those moments are the greatest compensation in these difficult times."