TENWEST Impact Festival: Community Builders are the Bridge (Highlights)

November 5, 2022
Stephanie Bermudez
Fireside chat with borderlander, community builders from Ambos Nogales (AZ/SON), Tucson (AZ) and Hermosillo (SON) at TENWEST Impact Festival.
Recovery is an ambiguous and complex word and there’s no one answer to the diverse needs of Arizona’s small businesses. That’s why we’ve joined forces with Arizona community-led organizations serving all 15 counties across the state to launch the AZNavigator. The AZNavigator is a team of 10 organizations working together across Arizona to improve quality and access to small business support services. From startups to established businesses, the network of experts can help stabilize, reinvent, or scale your company.
-TENWEST official site

TENWEST Impact Festival 2022 fostered a bridge that connected 4 cities from both United States and Mexico through honest conversations from six, inspiring borderlanders. This conversation focused on showcasing the newfound respect for the community builder and the spirit to develop many more across borders. The celebration of the cross border community builder not only includes recognizing their impact on the ground, but also understanding how their geographical and social context played a role in them becoming a link between communities. The session was facilitated with the Borderoots' Borders 2 Bridges format for this stories to be appreciated and to identify the planks needed to bring down the perceived barriers of opportunity.


Stéphanie Renée Bermúdez (Nogales / Tucson) - Founder @ Startup Unidos

Eleazar Coronado (Nogales) - Founder @ SHARE Espacio Cowork

Alma Peralta (Tucson /Nogales) - @ Academy for Women Entrepreneurs

Alejandra Cañedo Cota (Hermosillo) - Co-founder @ Borderoots

David Córdova (Hermosillo) - Co-founder @ FirePit

David Pacheco (Hermosillo)  - Community Leader @ Talent Nights Hermosillo

Full Facebook Stream here



Stephanie Bermudez:

"There were a lot of obstacles that we had to overcome, and I had to see the work of the community builder as an actor. They’re the most important actors in the ecosystem, they're the most consistent, the most passionate and they don't get paid for the work that they're doing. They are the source of information and the inspiration for all those funded organizations that look to us to inform them. Borderoots it's a part of that movement. Borderoots is inspired by well-known models, but is designed to redefine startup culture and what that means for the Borderlands.""

"When you're from the border, one of the common things that is often said is that we are third-cultured people. We are not from here and we are not from there. We are different, right? We are, we are regionalists, and it’s hard to identify as just one or the other."

"But what is our story? But what is our Border story? And what is our generation along the border already look like?"

"One of my favorite stats is that 50% of all the signups in the United States are right here, along the border states: Southern California, Southern Arizona, New Mexico and Texas, so we're having conversations about equity and about diversification and inclusivity. The talent is here, how can we ground that? How can we make that known? Is by giving people who are entrepreneurs and innovators, a platform to tell their side of the story."

Alejandra Cañedo:

"The border, technically speaking, is something that divides. However, how I've been seeing it, it's more like a cell's membrane. Everything that goes into the cell’s membrane, can go out as well. That’s part of nature. Cells also have internal "actors" like the mitochondria, which is the powerhouse. Who's our powerhouse then in that scenario? The community builder. Everyone of us in the community has that potential. And that's why community builders are so important because that’s who we see everyday, is who we look up to, is who pulls the reigns to change."

Borderoots Talk: Borders 2 Bridges

  1. Roots | Where does this story begin?
  2. Borders | What is in the way, a point of conflict?
  3. Bridges | How could this turn into a collaboration?

1. Roots

Eleazar Coronado:

"I’m from Nogales, where I’ve been my entire life. I’ve always been passionate about my city because I think living in a Border town is having the best of both worlds. Sonora is where my roots are and where I want to stay and develop."

David Pacheco

"I’m from Hermosillo, and since i was little and always liked to travel over Mexico, my family is from different spots from Mexico: Sinaloa, Sonora, CDMX, Guadalajara. And since I was in high school I started learning that people love creating.

Many experiences lead me to see who is creating big things all over Mexico, so I first started transmitting what I learned inside my university circle. A conference in Guadalajara and CDMX made me see how people wanted to create change and that that could be possible in Hermosillo as well. I started to collaborate with people like David Cordova, where we created an environment where people can see examples of that."

David Cordova:

"My family is very rooted in Sonora. My background is in software programming, so when I was in high school I had the amazing idea to be the next Mark Zuckerberg, so I started programming and ended up building a CRM.

There are a lot of challenges happening in Hermosillo where there is not the right tools to scale the projects because of investment, etc. Then I met the community, with Startup Weekend in 2017. I met a lot of people and helped built the whole framework of a startup, from the technical standpoint to the manufacturing standpoint. I really felt that I helped build something even though that startup failed because hey, it happens… The important part is that ideas don't get lost in Mexico."

Alejandra Cañedo:

"I’m from Hermosillo, I live in Hermosillo and I work remotely for Tucson and what I consume in the internet is mostly in english, so my mind is in both parts. I've lived in the capital of Sonora all my life, so I’m aware of how often my mind would switch to sort of think as an American even though I'm definitely not. That is something us Sonorans have because we consume all this media and we think we are there due to the close vecinity.  Is not until we come here to the US, it’s when we realize we are very different."

Stephanie Bermudez:

"I’m Nogalense, but I've been half my life in Tucson, so I’m also Tucsonian.
I feel Mexican but I know that I'm American. And I know that because my Mexican friends call me that regularly. Otherwise, I feel Mexican because of my experience and my friends' experience as people from Mexican descent. It's a really interesting kind of breakup, like well, “What am I?” I'm a third culture person.

The first time I met Eleazar, one thing I was fascinated about is how passionate he was about existing on both sides. There’s this access and availability to things that I don’t have as an American like healthcare but also this safety and feeling comfortable of existing in both areas. Many people don’t have that access and I certainly took it for granted.

It wasn’t till later in my life that I went back to Sonora, and it wasn’t until recently that I got my dual citizenship and honored my Sonoran roots. When I began to do that, it just grounded me more in my American not so much Sonoran because I realized that being Sonoran is also being American. And that’s my role in this, not to be THE Sonoran, but be what I am today: a Sonoran in America who now has the comfortability and accessibility to support others."

2-3. Borders & Bridges:

Stephanie Bermudez:

"I built a really good career here developing an ecosystem. I was part of the founding team for TENWEST and so many more things in our community. What I became really passionate about is when I realized there wasn't a representation that looked like me or had my background in the projects that I was participating in. I was invited to the table, but I wasn't getting paid for my expertise or my abilities. I realized people needed that and they wanted that, but I realized that they're approach was off.

I was invited to come back to my community and do something  for us, for borderlanders and do a community assessment that I was responsible for because we all have these perceived assumptions of Nogales. We all have that Nogales experience that comes to our minds. Nogales is so much more than that.

And as Startup Unidos, our first event (where Eleazar and Almita participated) was to highlight the impact the economy has on the border, and that it wasn't talked about enough. I wanted to do what I had learned from other communities and do it in places that matter to me the most, where I didn't feel all those things I was feeling in other places."

Alejandra Cañedo:

"I realized that I am different. Even though I knew the language, I knew my way around somewhat, working in USA really highlighted how I was different and helped me see there's so much more I don't know yet. So, I'm looking at it as an opportunity and using that to inspire other Mexicans to let go of that fear of the unknown. Especially because back home we are like babies in the startup ecosystem due to all of the information on innovation and entrepreneurship not being curated for us. We have to absorb all of these terms and practices and make it our own. Give it the Mexican twist. Then, we can share that among ourselves and grow as a community.

I think the most important part is: how do we share that? What language are we using? It doesn't have to be something so scary to share. The words we use don't have to be out of our reach. It is everyday stuff, it’s ingrained in our cultural family values. We are hard workers. So, why it has been scary?. And there's a lot of things I want to create when dealing with this communication. And that way can work on that bridge And honor that difference as something we also have to celebrate, not only what brings us together but also what each community can give. And that may be the hardest part."

David Cordova:

"We grow fearing of the United States. We fear the rules in their society. The first time I came with my family here, you feel intimidated, because you feel everyone is watching you. And you grow with the idealization that America is superior in any way. And I don't think we realize we are probably the same or we can contribute in different things together. I think that way of thinking, it's really rooted in the society of each of our countries. And I think that something that it's changing in recent times, it’s the relationship with Mexico and the United States, which has improved a lot, we are not that scared as before.  I'm seeing that a way to fight that real, imposter syndrome is through it's own people. Sonorans are getting jobs here at Arizona, and I think that it's going to be like the key to change. They will open the way."

David Pacheco:

"As a Mexican and also as a Latino, it’s really helpful to speak Spanish, because no matter where we go in Latinoamerica, Spanish will be spoken (minus where they speak Portuguese). But when you come to the United States, it’s a different story. As some Mexicans say, 'I can understand English, but I can’t speak it', so the complete change of language makes it tricky to really connect. I have gone to places like Colombia, Belize, Brazil and I realized that making connections with Americans it’s far more difficult, not only because of the language, but also because of the vast difference of culture.

I went to Africa in 2018, and everybody spoke English, of course, with their respective accents, because English is the universal language. Even though my English was not perfect, they thought I was American. That’s where I realized that the comparison I made with our northern neighbors was more in my head than in the international point of view. More so that if I went to Mexico City, they would not view me as a “true” Mexican, me being a Sonorense. The spanglish/pocho way of speaking really gives us away."


Eleazar Coronado:

"There was a time where I used to work in the maquiladora industry for about 20 years. And one day the facility where I was working decided to close and I realized that everything that had happened to me previously to that event build me up for what was going to happen right now. I realized I didn't want to continue working on that industry. And I wanted to do something for myself.

I asked myself, how can I benefit from all the contacts that I built until now? I was president of the Human resources Association for three years. That's where I met Stephanie. So, the question was, If I did something for myself, how will having all these contacts benefit not only me, but all the people around me. And that's where I realized: I wanted to be a community builder, do something for myself and see the impact it has on a lot of people. With my experience, with my contacts, with me knowing people, with knowing the right people, knowing who someone needs to call. To have the phone numbers and have a good relationship with them, it has helped other people grow. And to realize that I could keep connecting people and companies, that was fulfilling. That's how I started, and that's how it connected me to other communities: to the border, to Nogales, to Tucson.

I just wanted to talk to you guys (from Hermosillo) about your experience. My experience was completely different from you: living in Nogales and living in a bordertown, I never felt less. I never felt different. I never felt like I couldn't do something. That's why I say that being a Sonoran, it's different from being Nogalense. I never felt like I was gonna get caught. Because that was my every day. For me, crossing the border was everyday stuff because I've been doing it since I was like months old. For me, it was a very different experience, but thank you for sharing your point of view.

There's a difference between being bicultural and understanding other culture."


Check out FirePit's look into Hermosillo's startup communities!

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