For a cursed man, Antonio Rivera isn’t doing too bad.
He has an 8-month-old son, a supportive wife, and a growing apparel company with deep cultural meaning.
When Rivera isn’t at his day job as a graphic designer, he creates designs for shirts and posters for his brand, Maldición. The Spanish word translates to “cursed,” which he sees as a common thread running through humanity.
“This idea that everybody has negative things in their lives they have to fight through,” Rivera explained. “It’s up to you to identify those and try to fight them.”
He started printing shirts and attended his first show, the annual Day of the Dead event in Midtown, in October 2012. With the help of his wife, Olga, and family, he launched the Maldición website in March 2013, with just three designs. When his products garnered positive feedback, he was encouraged to grow his business.
Just this weekend, Maldición was featured at the Cinco de Mayo Festival in San Francisco and the Dia de los Niños in Belmont.
A U.S. native, Rivera said he feels a strong connection with indigenous Mexican roots. His art and designs are rich in inspiration from xicano/a literature, and he believes in spreading an understanding of indigenous cultures often left out of high school history classes.
This inspiration spills out in designs much deeper than common Día de los Muertos-styled clothes. The philosophy behind the brand is one of unification: to inform, engage and motivate the citizenry of customers.
“We’ve (Latinos/as) been here and our art is important, our stories are interesting, beautiful and powerful,” he said. “I want Maldición to be that for others. (To) inspire, empower and motivate, no matter who you are and where you come from.”
This collectivist mentality is exhibited each time a Maldición booth goes up at an event, as his friends and family members are often part of the effort.
“We could not do what we do without the help and support we get from our friends and family.” From modeling clothing for the website to running booths, Rivera’s family stands behind the brand he’s created, making it even more meaningful.
A poster of the main logo includes descriptions of the complex meanings behind the image. The M is an abbreviation for Maldición but also for Mexico, and the X for Chicano. The four cardinal directions are included, as it was a powerful element in indigenous American cultures. The logo is encompassed in a circle, which pays tribute to the circle of life and nature.
“I hadn’t really seen any body with a strong message like I had and that had strong cultural connection, but also well-designed and good quality,” he said.
Many of his designs are packed with cultural symbols and messages. Some are so subtle they could be missed, like the meaning behind the crossed out M in the logo, which signifies that each person has the power to cross off their curses, or their maldición.
“Every shirt has a meaning, and everything has a message,” he explained.
Sometimes the designs take somewhat political tones.
“Immigration: More American Than Apple Pie,” says one shirt. Rivera explained part of his aim is to use his artistic brand as an outlet for discussion about today’s pressing topics for Latino/a cultures.
“We’re living through some crazy times right now and it was my way of talking about it … without really saying anything,” Rivera said.