Arts Balancing novelty with knowledge

Entrepreneurs design INKA Clothes to open minds

As he looked through a table filled with multicolored T-shirts in the San Antonio College courtyard, freshman biology major Joshua Garcia pointed out a dark-blue shirt with white lettering to his friend. The front read: “I’m okay. My grandma rubbed an egg on me.”

“I want that shirt,” Garcia said, recalling how his grandmother would use the folkloric remedy, prevalent in the Latin culture, to rid him of sickness “This shirt is an icebreaker. If someone sees it that doesn’t know about the egg, they’ll ask you about it and you can explain it.”

INKA Clothing Co. co-founder Erika Tarin, left, sells the company’s wares and runs the business end.

The shirt is one of 16 designs created by San Antonio-based INKA Clothing Co. to express social, political, and cultural awareness through humor and positive messages. Founded less than a year ago by four natives of Midland, Texas brother and sister tandem Erika and Eli Tarin, and friends Bert Maddux and Raul Ramirez INKA began with a few witticisms for T-shirts and has since turned into a business venture whose products can be found across San Antonio.

“I would hear the guys talk all the time about what they wanted to do,” Erika Tarin, a St. Mary’s University graduate student, said. “They always wanted to come up with something to express their lifestyles. They saw themselves as urban hippies, sort of stuck between two cultures of Mexican and American. Finally, I told them, Ya’ll need to stop all this talking and do something.’”

With a bachelor’s degree in business, Erika laid out a plan for the city’s four newest entrepreneurs. The goal: to bring generations together and stop classism and racism through commerce.

INKA Clothing Co.

sold at

> Flip Side Record Parlor
> Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center
> Snaps Skate Shop

and online at

“As a Latino you go into a mall and you see shirts that aren’t really about you,” Erika said. “But when you see a shirt that says, My grandma rubbed an egg on me,’ it kind of hits home. You become connected, in a way, to others who have experienced those same things.”

All four founders of INKA experienced racism while growing up in Midland. Unlike San Antonio, where Hispanics are the majority, in the West Texas city Maddux said he felt there were low expectations of him because he is Mexican-American. The shirts, he added, are key in addressing these issues and bridging the gap between cultures for the next generation.

“We try to balance out the novelty with knowledge,” Maddux said. “We want `the shirts` to be funny, but at the same time we want people to see that there is more to them than just that. We want to send a conscious message.”

Erika, too, remembers derogatory terms that were tossed her way as a teenager in the Panhandle. One of these words, “Frijolero,” can now be found on an INKA T-shirt with what Erika calls a “positive twist” on an expression that has always been used as a putdown. The back of the shirt reads, “Slow cooked to perfection.”

INKA designs

“A lot of people who were not Hispanic would call us beaners’ or bean eaters,’” Erika said. “With this shirt we want to say, You know what? We do eat beans. This is who we are and we’re proud of it. But this is not all we are.’”

Currently, INKA shirts are sold at Flip Side Record Parlor, the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center, and Snaps Skate Shop. Shirts can also be purchased online at

“We just wanted something that would show our culture and our individuality,” Maddux said. “We want to stand for something and determine what we want to be.”

By Kiko Martinez

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