Learn how a certain type of jewelry unites and empowers a culture


Many women have a special connection with jewelry. Typically, that connection comes from a priceless piece that has been passed down from generation to generation. In this way, jewelry has the ability to personally connect us to our family history. More significantly, jewelry even harnesses the power to unite those sharing a cultural background. 


Katie Avila Loughmiller and Gabriela Riveros co-founded LUNA Collective, a Wisconsin-based organization in the United States that was created out of the desire to generate equal opportunities for local Latina artists. LUNA stands for “Latinas Unidas en las Artes”, and it also means “moon” in Spanish (a traditionally feminine symbol). Recently, Katie and Gabriela (along with active member Nicole Acosta) organized a meaningful showcase titled “HOOPS” to celebrate Latinx identity through the jewelry that connects the artists to their culture. Katie says, “While I think many of Latinas have similar thoughts and connections to hoop earrings, they also differ. And that's a goal for our group in general — to show that, yes, we are all Latinx but that doesn’t mean just onething. Our show celebrates the diversity within our culture.”


LUNA consists of 45 members and is growing. Fifteen of those members participated in the HOOPS show. Through photography, digital art, drawings, and paintings, each artist visually portrayed their unique relationship with hoop earrings and how it relates to their cultural connection. Katie explains, “Being adopted, I was torn away from my culture as an infant. The only ties to my culture were the few souvenirs my parents bought when they went to Colombia and one photo album.” Katie didn't know any Latina women growing up, and she recalls not knowing what to look like, how to dress, or how to act. She says, “I looked to pop culture. My favorite black and brown artists wore hoops and they were confident and beautiful. So, I emulated them, and I wore hoops too. When I wore them, I felt like I wasn't hiding anymore. I was ready to stop ignoring my Latina identity and begin the process to discover it. And it all started with the simple act of wearing hoops.”


Artist Irma Román says, “Earrings are a rite of passage. Some of us receive our first pair of hoops as early as infancy, when our ears are pierced.” Fellow member Araceli Zungia got her ears pierced early on, and she explains: “When I got hoop earrings as a baby, it was a way to express my femininity. My first pair of hoops were identical to my grandmother’s – they connected me to the women in my family.” 


"From My Roots to My Sky" by Francheska L. Gomez Rodriguez. See more images in the gallery below.

At some point throughout history, wearing hoop earrings was assigned a negative connotation — the assumption that the women who wore them were “cheap” or “brazen.”  Irma says, “I remember being told that big earrings were tacky — that girls from good families don’t wear big earrings.” She didn’t buy her first pair of hoops until she was an adult but now Irma says, “I treat myself to a pair whenever I’ve made an accomplishment or reach a milestone in life.”


Wearing hoops today is a symbol of reclaiming identity and power. Katie points out that, “Hoop earrings are not just an important symbol in Latinx culture but in many cultures, particularly the Black community.” Fellow artist Yeseñia Corona recalls, “The day my mom gave me my first pair of hoops, I felt like I was being given the secret to unleashing my power. When I wear hoops, I feel invincible.” 


Artist Taylor Herrada says, “I hope the show breaks the stereotype that we have to take our hoops off in certain situations to be taken seriously.” Growing up, Taylor felt the need to reject her Puerto Rican and Mexican culture to fit in better with those around her. “I didn’t want to stand out. I didn’t want to appear unprofessional. I didn’t want to feel judged,” she says. Taylor rediscovered hoops when she was 19 years old. “Wearing hoops gave me a sense of freedom and self-discovery. Since then, I have embraced my culture to where I taught myself how to speak Spanish.” Taylor asserts, “I wear hoops to embrace my identity, my wide nose, the color of my skin, and my curly hair. When I wear my hoops, I am confident, I am strong, and I am proud.”

View a gallery of LUNA Collective’s HOOPS art below. 

You can see the HOOPS show in person at the Urban Ecology Center located in Milwaukee, Wisconsin at 3700 W. Pierce St. through November 30, 2019. For more about LUNA Collective, check out their website here.

If you love wearing hoops or know someone else who does, check out these FREE downloadable projects:


Fiesta hoop earrings by Amy Jo Bigley


Lacy waves by Linda Arline Hartung

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