Cafe con Pam

Your Intersections Are Your Superpower with Mark Travis Rivera

Episode Summary

Mark Travis Rivera shares his story of overcoming obstacles and owning all his intersections so he could be the best at telling his own story.

Episode Notes

Listeners, we're back this week with Mark Travis Rivera. 

Mark Travis Rivera is an award-winning professional storyteller––telling stories is at the core of Mark’s purpose in life. A graduate of William Paterson University of New Jersey, Rivera earned a bachelor’s in women’s & gender studies with a minor in public relations. In 2013, Rivera received the Student Government Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award for his commitment to the William Paterson community. In the same year, he was honored with the Campus Pride Voice & Action Award for his work with the LGBTQ community. More recently, he won the Audre Lorde Award for Social Justice from John Jay College of Criminal Justice, CUNY. Rivera is the youngest person to found an integrated dance company in the United States, marked dance project, a contemporary company for dancers with and without disabilities, established in March 2009, made its debut at Rutgers University. The company has also performed at the Silk City Summer Arts Festival, the Painted Bride Art Center, the Mandell Theater, the Actor’s Fund Arts Center in Brooklyn, NY and New York University. Through MDP, Rivera has worked with choreographers such as Caitlin Trainor, Stacey Tookey, Todrick Hall, Tyce Diorio, and Marinda Davis. After ten years of remarkable dancing, Rivera decided to dissolve the marked dance project and continue working as an independent disabled choreographer. Rivera’s writing has also been published in The Bergen Record, Herald News, The Star Ledger, Fox News Latino, and The Huffington Post. His debut collection, Drafts: An Imperfect Collection of Writing was published in August of 2017 through Amazon. In 2020, Rivera launched his wellness podcast, Marking The Path, which is available on Apple Podcast and Spotify.

During our conversation, we talked about:

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Relevant Timestamps:

7:47 - Thinking about his identity

9:27 - Racial identity

13:42 - Miami & Jersey

15:27 - His mother & his pursuit of ‘home’

25:35 - Living in NYC

29:45 - The label ‘ally’

41:23 - Being a ‘professional storyteller’

45:26 - Authenticity


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Episode Transcription

Hello everyone. This is Pam de Cafe con Pam, the bilingual podcast that features Latinx, Latine and people of the global majority who break barriers, change lives and make this world a better place. Welcome to episode 248 of Cafe con Pam. Today we have a conversation with Mark Travis Rivera. 

Mark is an award-winning professional storyteller––telling stories is at the core of Mark’s purpose in life. A graduate of William Paterson University of New Jersey, Mark earned a bachelor’s in women’s & gender studies with a minor in public relations. In 2013, Mark received the Student Government Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award for his commitment to the William Paterson community. In the same year, he was honored with the Campus Pride Voice & Action Award for his work with the LGBTQ community. More recently, he won the Audre Lorde Award for Social Justice from John Jay College of Criminal Justice, CUNY. 

Mark is the youngest person to found an integrated dance company in the United States, Marked Dance Project, a contemporary company for dancers with and without disabilities, established in March 2009, made its debut at Rutgers University. The company has also performed at the Silk City Summer Arts Festival, the Painted Bride Art Center, the Mandell Theater, the Actor’s Fund Arts Center in Brooklyn, NY and New York University. Through MDP, Mark has worked with choreographers such as Caitlin Trainor, Stacey Tookey, Todrick Hall, Tyce Diorio, and Marinda Davis. After ten years of remarkable dancing, Mark decided to dissolve the Marked Dance Project and continue working as an independent disabled choreographer. 

Mark’s writing has also been published in The Bergen Record, Herald News, The Star Ledger, Fox News Latino, and The Huffington Post. His debut collection, Drafts: An Imperfect Collection of Writing was published in August of 2017 through Amazon. In 2020, Mark launched his wellness podcast, Marking The Path, which is available on Apple Podcast and Spotify.

Listeners this conversation with Mark was awesome because, first we had scheduled the previous time and he will mention during the interview that we couldn't do it. And then we later rescheduled our conversation. And I think when those things happen, first of all, I love that he honored his needs at the time, because sometimes we have committed to calls or to meetings and any commitment, really. And if we don't feel like it, oftentimes, we just, we show up because we feel obligated to, because we've committed.

However, I do respect so much when people honor their needs and they are messaging and they say, you know what, right now I don't feel up to it. Right now at this moment it's not something that I have the capacity, to show up and be myself authentically and I'm not going to be able to share the message that I'm supposed to.

I respect that a lot and I think Mark and I had the conversation where we're supposed to have it and here it is. 


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I really enjoyed how we explored so many different points and how the conversation almost weaved itself. And I feel like that's something that happens at Cafe con Pam often. And this time it was really fun to go with however our conversation guided us, like a true cafecito in true Cafe con Pam fashion. Y bueno, I'm not going to talk any further. I'm just going to let you tune in and listen to my conversation with Mark Travis Rivera.


Pam: Well, Mark, welcome to Cafe con Pam.

Mark: Thank you for having me. I'm super honored to be here. I love podcast. As you know, I have my own podcast or had my own podcast, and I've been trying to get really intentional about connecting the other people who are like me, who are Latinx, who are storytellers. And my former assistant, Andy came across your work and she was like, you have to reach out to Pam and you have to be on this show. And I was like, okay, let's try reaching out. And so that's how that happened. So thank you for being receptive to my ask and for having me on your show.

Pam: For sure, for sure. I mean, I'm always open to having conversations with awesome people, right? That's the reason why I do what I do is to have intentional conversations, important conversations, and to share people's stories. So I'm glad you are here.

Mark: Yeah, thank you. And I love the pun of like Cafe con Pam, you know? Cause you think cafe con pan, you think about bread and in here is Pam, and so I just love it. I think, was that intentional?

Pam: Yeah. 

Mark: I love that. Yeah. I love it.

Pam: Yeah, very much so. So, Mark, what's your heritage?

Mark: I am Puerto Rican. Some Puerto Rican descent. I was born on the mainland as maybe you may know, Puerto Ricans have been US citizens since the 1800. And so it's interesting to think about my identity because my family looks like a melting pot, right? There's those of us who are lighter than me with blue eyes or those of us with darker complexions who are black, right. And who are viewed as black for the US Puerto Ricans. And then there are those on the middle, in the middle of all those things. And I was born in Miami. And so I grew up in a very Latinx experience in Miami with obviously a little of Cubans and Caribbean folks. And then my mom moved us to New Jersey where she grew up and it became a different type of experience. The live experience in New Jersey at that time was heavily Puerto Rican, Dominican, Colombian, you know, not as, uh, as many Cubans, um, at least not in the area I grew up in New Jersey, and obviously black folks. And there a lot of, um, people across the diaspora in New Jersey, and it was amazing to kind of grow up in a household where my stepfather was black and my mom's Puerto Rican and growing in a very bicultural household gave me an appreciation for the experiences... My sister has afrolatina [inaudible], right? And going to school to primarily black and brown children in schools. And what it meant to really grow up in a multicultural environment, right. And be able to embrace the fact that I'm part of the African diaspora and embrace my Puerto Ricanness, even though I've never been to the island as an adult, right. And so I feel like a lot of Latinx people who immigrate to America, for example, have this like immediate connection to their island that I feel like Puerto Rican's have been deprived of. And a lot of them actually, have been deprived of their culture because of assimilation and white supremacy, right. And so how do I reconnect with my identities and my culture? And so my skin color, my name, growing up was the norm for me, right? Like I was in around black and brown folks all the time. So it wasn't until I got to college that I realized, oh, my racial identity is an issue for some people. My last name's issue for some people.

Pam: What happened?

Mark: It was just like a lot of, um, you know, it was, I remember one time sitting at a table in the student center and I said, "oh, I'm from Paterson, New Jersey". And one of the, my college student's friends said, "oh, you're from there?". And I don't think they made the correlation that one I was a person of color, and two that I was from Patterson until I said it.

Pam: What's the reputation?

Mark: Well, Patterson is an inner city. It was the first industrial city in America. We're known for our silk production. And to give you a point of reference, Victor Cruz from the Giants, former Giants football player is from Patterson. The rapper Fetty Wap is from Patterson. And so...

Pam: So there is a reputation.

Mark: There is a reputation, right? And it's like many inner cities across the country, you know, riddled with violence and crime and drug addiction and poverty. And you know, as no fault of the people who are from there, right? Poverty we know is manufactured, and no matter how much the local government tries to gentrify Patterson, like they did with Newark and Jersey City, Patterson won't let up, right? There is a resistance from the people to be by the people for the people. And I think that it frustrates some people, it frustrates some people because we have been conditioned to think that gentrification is the only way to improve our neighborhood, right? We think by allowing white folks to come in and claim ownership of our, of our cities and our areas and our streets will be a way to decrease crime. And so rather than trying to lure in white folks, we should be luring resources to the community members who already lived there, right?

Pam: Let's dissect that because it's so layered. Because, I mean, it's such a white supremacist principle to say "when white people come in, things get better".

Mark: Right.

Pam: Like, OMG.

Mark: Yeah. And I know we don't talk about this so I'm surprised that this is coming up for me in this conversation right now, I'm not necessarily someone who talks about urban development, urban planning, or really gentrification, right? Because there are people who study those fields and really can talk about the nuances of those things. My background is in gender and sexuality, and I do that from an intersectional perspective, right? So I think about how my race intersects with my gender and sexuality in my class and all these things. But I think the reason why this is coming up from me organically in this story is that, you know, I'm proud of where I come from. You know, my best friend, Jennifer Florentino was part of Steven Spielberg's remake of West Side Story, and they filmed it in Patterson. 

Pam: Wow!

Mark: Right? And so there is such a history of us escaping where we come from to make it in our careers. And now I live in Atlanta just for transparency's sake. I live in Atlanta, Georgia before that I was in California, before that I was in New York City in the Heights. And so I have left my hometown many years ago at this point, but I, I go back often, right. I go back to see my mom who still lives there. I go back to visit my sister who's in Elizabeth and it's been part of New Jersey and my niece goes to my Alma mater. And so I still go back to give back to my community, right? And so I think that's important to not forget where you come from, but also recognize that for many black and brown folks who make it out, right?. Pam, we have classmates from high school and classmates and family members who were murdered, who overdosed -trigger warning, sorry for those who are listening- that's the truth, right? Not everyone makes it out of the silk city. And I remember talking to my best friend at my own podcast about what her experience was like filming the Steven Spielberg movie, West Side Story, in her hometown.

Pam: Yeah.

Mark: On the same street she went to school at, right? And so what does it mean to really, and I think this has to do with identity, right?Because where we come from is about our identity, it shapes our identity. And I used to ignorantly say "your zip codes do not determine your life, where you will go, who you will become". And I stopped saying that within the last, I would say six to eight months. And while the sentiment behind that statement was sincere and a positive one, I realized that my zip code does determine where I go, who I become and how far I go. And I thought that I had to create distance between where I grew up and where I wanted to go, because of there was a shame around it. There was a shame about growing up poor, growing up in a single mother household when her relationship with my stepfather ended, and her going house to house and having housing insecurity and, and navigating my queerness in a latinx and brown and black space. And so, you know, I realized that so much of who I am is influenced and shaped by where I come from. Miami as my birth city and lived there until I was five years old that made me love the sun and the water, but it was in the cold winter months of Jersey that I realized what the resilience looked like. 

Pam: Ooooh!

Mark: You know, it was in the [inaudible] of winter, It was in the rain and sleet and darkness of winter days that I came to realize that I wanted to live in a, in a warmer place. So I moved to California and then 20th we'll get a, you know, live in a more affordable place, I moved to Atlanta to be closer to home, but there was something to be said about where I come from, really mapping out who I became.

Pam: Say more.

Mark: Well, yeah, I think, you know, I grew up mostly in a single mother household, my mom went from relationship to relationship, and in my formative years, when we first moved to Jersey, we stayed with relatives. And so it was like four kids to a bed. It was intense. It was in those experiences that I realized and really, as I write my memoir this year, about... The first time I remember yearning for a home, and yearning for a place to belong was when we moved, the day, we drove from Florida 24 hours to New Jersey, and we got stuck at a white castle in the middle of the night with snow falling down from the sky. It was my first time seeing snow, that I can remember. And I thought to myself, where the hell am I? I didn't say that as a child, but I thought to myself, looking back, I was like, where am I? Why is it snowing? What is this stuff falling from the sky? Why is it cold? Where's the sun? Where's the beach? Where'ss my family? And that was the first time in my life that I remembered yearning for home, cause home for me up to that point was Miami. It was where my cousins were, where my aunties were, where my uncle and my godmother were, and my grandmother my abuela, before she moved back to Puerto Rico. So it was a weird kind of yearning for a home. And I have spent the majority of my life yearning to belong in a home that was quiet and safe and supportive. 

Pam: Did you ever have a conversation with your mom about it?

Mark: No, you know, my mom and I, we were thick as thieves growing up. Cause she was only early twenties when she had me. Right. And she was a teenager when she had my sister. And so we were really close. I remember I'm going to share this story publicly for the first time. And I normally don't talk about my mother publicly because she always tries to sue me and stuff, and she gets mad when I talk about her, but whatever. When we were in Miami, one of my fondest memories with my mother as a kid was waking up early in the morning, around five o'clock in the morning to have café con pam. Right? Café con leche con pan. And that was our morning ritual because my mamá had to go to work and my grandma would make sure that I got on the school bus to go to school, right. Or she would drop me off. And so, you know, growing up disabled, my mom gave birth to me at five and a half months. I weighed one pound. I developed something called cerebral palsy, is a neurological impact when you-- at the time you're born and then it impacts you physically. And so it runs on a spectrum. There are some people who are so severe with CP that they can't speak, that have limited motor skills. There are those who are impacted just one side of their body, for me it impacted me from the hips down. And so growing up as a disabled frail child, my mother spent a lot of time with me in that hospital, orthopedic braces, appointments, taking me to specialists, taking me to pre-K school that was just for disabled children. Or at that point they would call it like special needs or handicapped children. So much of my formative years, transitioning from Miami to New Jersey made me kind of realize what is a home. Right? Because I remember having those fond memories with my mother has a child, very young, having café con leche y pan. Somehow with the transition from Miami to New Jersey that stopped happening.

Pam: Interesting. You become more independent?

Mark: No, what happened was, it just, I feel like if our lives were in Miami was unstable, I never knew it, or I never felt it because we were always surrounded by family. Right? And so we always had food and we always had people to hang out with and, and, and roof over our heads, and a bed. And so I remember when he got to New Jersey, for some reason, even though we had family in New Jersey, obviously we stayed with them for a few months, it felt very turbulent. It felt like we were, you know, four kids to a bed, that we were unstable. Right. And so that lack of stability really informed a lot of the work I have to do in therapy. Right?

Pam: For sure.

Mark: What does the booty look like? What does being openly queer and gender nonconforming as a Puerto Rican man, what does that look like? Right? And so, I spent a lot of my time in therapy processing the resentment I had towards my mother. As I got older, I heard about why we left Miami and that made a different for me. And so we left abruptly from Miami because my mother was escaping an abusive partner and he had threatened to kill her. Right? So, the urgency, the need to pack up and drive for 24 hours straight. Yes, that urgency and that kind of thing. And I don't want to go too detailed about that cause that's her story to tell. But you know, it really informed me as a young adult, like understanding her. I always saw her as a mother and it took me a long time to see her first as a woman, and then my mother.

Pam: Mm. And I think it's powerful also to look back and what I'm hearing is she did what she had to do with what she had. And at that point, I mean, arguably, she doesn't need to explain why we're running away. You know, perhaps in a way it's a way to protect you because you don't need to know. You just know we're going. 

Mark: Yeah. And how many mothers made that sacrifice? Right? 

Pam: 100%

Mark: Especially a lot of Latinx mothers, right? Mothers of color. How many of them drop everything, pack their bags in the car, in a Toyota and drive 24 hours straight to make sure that their children were safe. And I think about, you know, for Puerto Ricans, we don't immigrate with migrate, what about so many Latinx family members whose mothers pack up their stuff in a different country and immigrate to America for a better life. Right? And so there is such a, I think for a lot of Puerto Rican, there is such an othering and this is probably the reason why the Latinx community has such a hard time building momentum in our movement because we are so siloed and we're so diverse, and so, um, nuanced in our experiences that it's harder to build a movement that is representative and inclusive of all people in the, in diaspora. And so I find that for my black American friends, or for our black friends, they had easier time developing the movement. Right? Because there was a, there was a common experience they had as black Americans. Right? And so, but we, the descendants of taíno native people and mixed race people and people who were the pawns of slave owners, enslaved, you know, like that is such a nuanced thing. Right? And so what does that look like? What does it look like to claim such a history? And how do you explain that when there's people from Latin America and Mexico and [inaudible] and the Puerto Ricans and the Dominicans and the Haitians and all of these things that happen around our culture and identity. And, you know, I feel like that's why it's so hard to develop a cohesive movement around Latinx representation in the U S. 

Pam: Absolutely. And I come from a single mother household who crossed borders with three kids to make sure that their kids were safe. And so I hear that and I think there's still a lot of trauma that needs to be healed in anyone from Latin American descent, because I don't think we've been able to find a common ground. You know, there's a lot of organizations that are like, yeah, yes! For Latinos! We get stuck in the semantics a lot of times, you know. Is it Latine, is it Latinx, is it Latina, is it Latino, you know, like it's very layered.

Mark: Yes.

Pam: And I think we also need to be open to have those conversations, to say, well, what is a common ground where we can come together, instead of saying, well, "my country is better than yours". We're both oppressed. Once we come here, the system doesn't like either of us, so. 

Mark: Right. And I think, you know, there's been a lot of talk. And again, I'm not an expert in, in the history of Puerto Rico, but there's been a lot of talk about Puerto Rico's independence, those who want [inaudible] US territory and those who want them to have continued relationship with and representation in the US government. I think it's fascinating to me again, because so much of my history has been lost in migration. And partly because it doesn't get talked enough about in US history, even though we're a US territory. And then part of it is like, I don't have immediate access to the island to really learn history from there in the US. And there are still those things I just don't understand. And so, like, I'm actually going to Puerto Rico for the first time as an adult for my 31st birthday. And there's been for those who don't know, um, Puerto Rico has been having in the, in the last couple years, especially increase in femicide and violence against trans and LGBTQ people. So as an openly visibly queer person, I'm scared to go back to the island as an adult. I'm scared of going to San Juan and having something happen to me. And so my family has been trying to talk me out of it. I'm just, well, how, how am I going to get connected to myself and my culture if I can't go back to the island.

Pam: So they've been telling you, don't go because it's not safe.

Mark: Because they feel it as unsafe for someone like me. So of course, I'm going to wear a short trunk, not going to wear any dresses. I'm not gonna wear any heels. I'm going to dress down. Right? I'm not gonna wear any makeup. I'm not taking my nails off. They're too expensive to take on and off, but I'm going to be a more muted version of myself to ensure my safety. But it's sad to me that I can't go back to the island and just be myself, but that's true in America. And that's what I told my mother last night, I was like, you know, I have to be seen everywhere I go. I'm in Atlanta, the most progressive city, probably in the south, but you go an hour outside of Atlanta and it's a straight up Trumpville, you know what I mean? So it's like, it's dangerous for someone like me, and not just because I'm queer, but because I'm a brown person, you know what I mean? So it's like, there's nuance here. Right? But then the south, particularly Atlanta, I have come to realize in the last few months. There isn't a Latinx identity here. Either you are black or white. So there is this very binary way of looking at race structures here. And historically has been a black and white city, but as the farm industry has kind of shifted and changed, a lot of the farmers are Latinx people. And so what's happening is that in rural parts of Georgia and the far areas of Georgia, you're seeing an influx of Latinx communities develop, but it's not necessarily translating in the inner city of Atlanta.

Pam: So they're still living in the outskirts or like outside of the city.

Mark: Yeah, you know, the rural and more suburban parts of Atlanta where the farming is taking place. And that makes sense, right. To be close to work and close to, to where you have to survive and all that. But there is not enough conversation about what the Latinx experience is like in the south. And I don't want to come in as a newbie and be like, this is what we needs to happen. But what I'm learning is that I have been building community with black folks who are creatives and straight and queer and trans in the south here in Atlanta. And I'm often the only Latinx person in the room. So there's, there's a couple of white folks. Me and then the black folks. And I was like, there has to be more of me in Atlanta than just me. Right? There has to be more Latinx folks who live in Atlanta and, you know, you see pockets of them online. And, but there was not a cohesive movement, I think, in the south, in Atlanta, in particular for Latinx artists or storytellers to kind of unite. So it's also interesting to me that I've been thinking about that a lot lately.

Pam: Totally. I mean, especially coming from California.

Mark: Right, I was living in the bay area where is very diverse. Lots of, um, Mexican food in the bay area is so much better than Mexican food here in Atlanta, obviously. But I would say that Atlanta has given me more access to Caribbean food, whereas in the bay area, that was very limited. There was was like one Puerto Rican restaurant that I liked in the bay area. And there's probably three in the entire bay area altogether, but they were so expensive and I was like, they are exploiting...

Pam: Supply and demand.

Mark: Supply and deman, right? And capitalism. I was like, y'all kidding me. You want, you want me to pay $16 for a plate of [inaudible]? 

Pam: $16???

Mark: Yeah. I was like, I can go to the hood in Patterson and get that shit for like $8. 

Pam: Yes. 

Mark: You know what I mean? So it was fascinating. So what I appreciate about Atlanta is that there are some like Cuban restaurants and some Puerto Rican restaurants I've heard about. I been to the Puerto Rican restaurants, the actually a little bit on the outskirts. I'm scared to travel off of the perimeter, but they exist here. Right? There's more Caribbean presence here than there was in the bay area. So I appreciate that. But then there's no place like New York City, there's no place like the Heigths, there's no place like the New York Ricans ,right? And what that means. And so I've kind of realized that in my pursuit of belonging and home right now, Atlanta is the closest I ever felt to home. 

Pam: Really?

Mark: Yeah. And I think it's because there was such a strong, a diverse people of color community here versus the bay area. But also I feel like there is such proximity to New York City and New Jersey that I can just go back and visit and do work stuff in New York and then come back and feel fine, right? I feel that I have to have a reset, a place to recharge. I didn't always feel that in New York City, actually living in New York City from 2017 to 2019 was probably the loneliest I've ever felt in my life. 

Pam: Wow. 

Mark: In a city filled with millions. 

Pam: Yeah.

Mark: In a vibrant, loud community in the Heights.

Pam: Where there's always something to do. Always.

Mark: I felt the loneliness. I was the most depressed, the most anxious, the most lonely I ever felt. I always dreamed of living in New York. That plan, I don't really have a reference to it, but I've always wanted to be that New York Times reporter who looked fabulous doing it. I had a dream of being a New York Times reporter and I had a background in journalism when I was in high school and pursued that in college. And, you know, obviously I-- my, my life took a different career path, but the dream was always live in New York City, and just like me queer person in New York City, and take dance classes at [inaudible] and go to the Broadway shows and write for the New York Times and have this luxurious life. And when I got there, it was not what I imagined it to be. But what I will say is that there's no city like New York City in this country, probably in the world, but definitely in this country. And the energy I feel in New York, when I go to visit, when I go to do work stuff or work trips, there's nothing-- I love the energy of New York. And I think what it was for me to answer your why, winter as someone who has depression and bipolar disorder, winter in New York just feels extra gloomy. And I also realized that I needed more space. Because I grew up in Jersey with this, look, you know, we were cramped up too, you know, in the city of Patterson, but we had a little more space, like actual space in our living rooms and our apartments. We had backyard and front yards and, just experiences like that, right? So, it was weird to go to New York where I was living in a walk-up apartment, you know, third floor up, and it's really small. It was an older apartment. So it wasn't as nice, and it was what I could afford at the time in the Heights. And so what was interesting was this idea that I just didn't feel it had enough space, I felt very isolated and very closed off. 

Pam: How interesting, right?

Mark: Yeah. And now I have like a one bedroom apartment in Atlanta where I can actually have space. I go to my bedroom not to live my life in my bedroom, like I did in New York, because I had roommates in New York. I had one roommate. And so if she was in the room, it just felt too tight for both of us to be in at the same time, unless we were doing it together. And so I'll just stay in my room. And so I felt like my entire existence, and this is very similar also in New Jersey. I just feel like a lot, my entire existence existed within my room. And that I never had space. And so now I can, like, first of all, I get up every morning and it's quiet. And growing up in a [inaudible] household, you know how rare it is to have quiet, and to be able to wake up, not to the sounds of yelling or loud speaking, but to quiet. 

Pam: Yes.

Mark: And as I've gotten older, I really enjoy my quiet. 

Pam: Yes, I resonate. For me that kind of that I came up to me as you were speaking is safety plus belonging equals expansion. And so, as you describe your apartment and your existence in, in Atlanta, it allows you to expand while still acknowledging the fact that it's not safe. If you venture out of Atlanta then it's, we're not going to feel as expansive. 

Mark: Right.

Pam: However, within the space that is safe for you, which is your home in this case, or perhaps the city, or perhaps the places and communities where you hang out, then you're able to expand fully.

Mark: Yeah. And I think we take for granted what it means to have a home. 

Pam: Yes.

Mark: And I think I realized this a lot when I lived in California in the bay area, because when I first lived in California was 2013, for a summer apprenticeship, and I paid like six something a month for my apartment-- [inaudible] of a two bedroom apartment, by Lake Merritt, which is a really nice area in Oakland, fast forward to 2019, the housing market is unrecognizable. You're lucky if you get a studio for under a thousand dollars, actually you can't get a studio. You're lucky if you get a studio for a thousand dollars without it falling apart, or, you know, and so it was the first time in my adult life since my New York city apartment, despite feeling lonely and isolated at a stable housing, and it was fixed income rent. So my rent wasn't going up every year. I mean, I was very fortunate to have, like, it was right controls. Because my roommate had been living there for like over seven years. She had, she was one of the first, I always joke. She was one of the first white people to move up in the Heights before it became a trendy neighborhood, right? We talked about just going back to our earlier conversation about justification, as she grew up in Vermont and what school in Kansas city, you know, so it was really cool. And she's one of those, um, I don't like to throw the label ally, and I've been telling people to get away from the term ally, and to start to embrace the idea of being aware. 

Pam: Yes.

Mark: Right? Because to be aware is-- allows you to take action. And no one has to throw that label on you. It's the work you do on yourself. Right. And so I think allyship has become very performative. It's become very reactionary. Maybe it has to become about checking off boxes. So even if they're not aware of why the hell they're blacking out their profile they put on social media, they just do it because they want to be an ally. Tat's not helpful, right? And so I've been trying to shift the dialogue from allyship to awareness, to be an ally, to be aware. Right? 

Pam: Totally. To piggyback on that. One of my queer friends, we were having a conversation about allyship and similar things, right? And I was like, well, "I don't, I don't call myself an ally". And he was like, "good". Because you don't own it. Somebody needs to say thank you for being an ally. So it's not something that you call upon yourself. It's something that is gifted to you, if you earn it.

Mark: Right. But even that, to me feels very performative because I feel like, why do I need to take the time to give white person praise for being something that they should be doing? 

Pam: Right, totally.

Mark: Why can I just say, how about you stop focusing on being an ally and focus on being aware. 

Pam: Just be a real human being.

Mark: Just be a real human, be aware of your privilege, be aware of your [inaudible] you have an inability to see how your privilege shows up, and really be aware of what's happening around the world and in your communities that don't sense your whiteness. And so my time in the bay area helped me realize that at first-- the first time I was an adult that I had housing and security again, which was really, it was a trigger for me because I had grown up with so much housing insecurity that going from like apartment sublet to sublet, to sublet, to sub-let. I moved five times in two years. And the longest stretch of time, rather than one place was seven months, which was the last place I lived at before I left to Atlanta. So just to show you like whw bad the housing market is out there, right? And so I think people, you know, we take for granted, especially in America, we take for granted our sense of family or belonging or home. And I don't anymore, because the homelessness was so rampant and so visible in the bay area. More so than New York, because I felt like because of the weather, it was different out there, people really stood outside more. You saw whole size of highways becoming encampments for homeless folks. You saw the side of the road just become these like other communities within communities. And what I realized was, and there was always this conversation, especially in the bay area of like, how do we deconstruct these encampments? How do we-- how you fucking build houses that are affordable, that we can afford to live in them. How about you reallocate resources to build and deal with their addiction and mental health issues and not just, you know, focus on the nuisance that they are, right? Because I don't think anyone aspires when they're growing up to be homeless. I mean, I haven't met anyone that has that, that to me. Yeah. I really aspire to this life. I really aspired to struggle to eat, struggle to feel warm or to deal with the rain or the elements. I, I really aspire to this, right? That's what I really wanted. I've never heard anyone say that, right? But I've also realized I'm one layoff away or one job loss or one paycheck away from being housing insecure or being homeless, right? And that shit is humbling as fuck. And it makes me really rely on my gratitude for what I have. And I had mentioned it to you prior to the interview that when I moved to Atlanta, the week I moved here, I got fired from my job. She laid off like seven people at once and it was a very traumatic experience. That was the first time I ever got fired from a job. I mean, I got fired from my church job cause I came out gay, but that doesn't count. That was sheer discrimination. What she did was she [inaudible] me and it was just bad situation. So, that led me into like struggle for a few months. And I'm still getting out of that struggle. Right? Like I'm have my own place. I'm currently subletting this place because I wanted to shop around, to see what neighborhood I wanted to be in. Cause I was, I was staying in the Midtown area, which is the queer neighborhood of Atlanta. And now I'm Inman Park, which is a very young, professional hip, cool kind of neighborhood to be in, and I'm really happy to be here. So I think I want to stay in Inman Park and not in the gay neighborhood, but anyway, we'll see what happens. 

Pam: You can always travel to the neighborhoods. 

Mark: It's only like a 10 minute Uber drive away. I got this sublet to experience this neighborhood and see other transitional space like, well, we're, don't want to start setting roots, right? And coming back to my earlier story about belonging and feeling at home, I've never felt like I belong in the city the way I feel here. And I have community here. I have friends. I have colleagues here. I have social media friends that became real life friends. I have a good friend named Angelina. Who's a latina from the Bronx who I met on LinkedIn. She just happens to be.

Pam: Oh my gosh!

Mark: Yeah. And so like, and I have colleagues I worked with who live here and, you know, it's just, I went home a couple weeks ago for the first time in a while. And it was just nice to be able to travel a two hour flight versus a six hour flight. Cause you know, I think it's an airport you're probably spend about four or five hours traveling home, you know, do all the whole deal from Atlanta to New Jersey versus, eight to 10 hours commute from California to New Jersey. So, you know, that makes a difference on, on not just my pocket book, but my energy and my time and my body. Yeah. Cause I mean the commute between California and New Jersey were long and expensive.

Pam: And time, travelling

Mark: And time. Yeah. And the time difference. And I remember the first time I went home for Christmas as I'm moving to California, my flight was a thousand dollars. 

Pam: Whoa.

Mark: I was like, am I leaving the country?

Pam: Totally!

Mark: I'm paying a thousand dollars to travel home, and it's just capitalism and, and all of this supply and demand shit. But yes, I guess that's kind of how I've kind of come to embrace it. I know that I kind of thinking this all the tension, so I apologize, but, um, you know, I guess my home and where I am and who I am has really shaped my understanding of self. And I think for a long time, I never felt like I had to center my, my racial identity on the city, because I always felt like it was just what I knew. And again, going back to my [inaudible] story, that was when I realized my race was an issue for some people. Right? And so I wouldn't say my name was Rivera, very Americano kind of way of saying instead of Rivera. And I, and I tried to reclaim that. And my name is Mark Travis and Mark Travis, I mean, it's a very like euro centric name and, you know, shoutout to Mark Anthony for, but like Mark Travis, that's just very eurocentric. I came to embrace that as well, right? To embrace the fact that, and it wasn't like my mom chose it to distance ourselves from our culture. Her name is [inaudible] doesn't get more Puerto Rican than that, right? [inaudible] Rivera. Right? That's her whole [inaudible]  right?. And as I mentioned, [inaudible] for Martinez and you know, and I just have to be Mark Travis Rivera or Rivera, and so it's something about kind of recognizing my Latinxness. I'm really yearning to go back to the islands and getting connected to my history and my roots in a way that I can't do on the mainland. And it was kind of excitement that I'm going to it for my birthday this year, I'm going to San Juan and really connecting with my roots there.

Pam: How exciting. Okay. This is a great time to take a quick coffee break. 


Pam: Mark, do you drink coffee, though?

Mark: Yeah. I mean, as a child I did with my mother, I told you, café con leche, and every once in a while, but I didn't become a serious coffee drinker until college. 

Pam: Same!

Mark: Yeah, college will do it to you. Yeah. College will make you do it. And then I kind of stopped out of college. I kind of slowed down my drinking. My first job out of college was at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York city. Let me tell you, John Jay is the best place to work because you'll hear Spanglish and Spanish, and someone will have Cafe Bustelo somewhere right in the offices because there's such a rich Afrolatinx, Latinx, Caribbean...

Pam: Is a staple.

Mark: Is a staple, you know what I mean? It's like, it's like Cafe Bustelo was our cake cup favorite over there. So when was commuting from New Jersey to New York city, I would have to get up every morning, probably around six something in the morning to get ready to then travel, to get there on time to work. It was like an hour, I think, door to door with an hour and a half commute without delays. And so I would have to start drinking coffee when I got to the office because I had been up for hours before that, by that point. And so I got back into drinking coffee and it became a very common thing for me. And then when I left John Jay to go to California, I started drinking less coffee just because I felt like it was really starting to affect my nervous system. And I did feel that was going on. And I liked my coffee, really sweet and really light. So, you know, you're drinking a lot of sugar when you're drinking café con leche, you know, [inaudible], I would call it. And so now I have a [inaudible]. It was Café Bustelo and he doesn't like coffee, and I drink it every once in a while. So yesterday I was feeling really tired. So I had a cup of coffee, but I don't drink it often.

Pam: Nice. Do you have a favorite coffee shop that you visit in Atlanta?

Mark: You know, because of COVID I haven't gone to coffee shops per se or cafes, but there were some cool cafes I had visited in New York city in the Heights, hanging out with friends in the upper Manhattan area. I forget the name of it right now, but it was like really cute, like authentic, like cafes. And it was like, you can tell it was like a dying breed because a lot of cafes have shut down since these corporations have kind of taken over the industry. Right. So the, the I'm not gonna name them, but, you know, they've kind of taken over the neighborhoods and what I love about Washington Heights in particular, that I felt like it still had, similar to Patterson, it still had its culture, its flavor, despite developers try to come in and gentrify, right? Yes. We saw more white folks than normal in the Heights, but it was still like, you know. You still have the old man [inaudible] name of the cart, but it would be like icys and you got flavored icys. Right. And de coco and rainbow, and serve different sorbets and you have the empanada stand and you have the trudel stand and you'll have, you know, these staples in our communities. Right. And so you still have enough flavor in the Heigths. Right. And so I really appreciate it. I really appreciate being able to walk off at my building and hear Spanish in the air. 

Pam: I know! It makes such a difference. 

Mark: You get to hear the music and feel the pulse of a community. Right. And I think what, white supremacy has robbed us off with slavery and colonization is really our sense of community.

Pam: For sure.

Mark: Because we are such, our culture is so intergenerational, intercultural, and interconnected that I feel like we've lost a lot of that over the years because of, you know, colonization and assimilation and white supremacy and also technology and social media. And now when you walk outside, you're glued to your phone versus looking around and saying hi to your neighbor. Right. I remember growing up as a kid in our neighborhood, we could walk and hang out with our bikes and do things before the nightfall. When the streetlights came on we had to head back home, but there was a sense of, especially in Miami, there was a sense of community. My cousin, I would roam the street like packs of wolves and we felt relatively safe. That's not common anymore. You don't see family members living blocks and blocks away from each other, or you don't see a lot of family members, even intergenerational living in the same house as much anymore. Right. So there was something to be said about how migration, immigration has impacted our communal way of living and being.

Pam: Totally. I think we're still in the coffee break, but, 

Mark: Sorry.

Pam: It's all good.

Mark: What do you drink your coffee with? I'm just curious. What do you drink with your coffee?

Pam: I am a black coffee drinker. I love pour-over. If I was to pick a brewing style type, it would be a pour-over with a Chemex, that's like perfect. If there's no Chemex, then, then maybe I will do, maybe a French press. And then, I mean, the default is, you know, drip that it's like, whatever, but my favorite way of drinking coffee is pour-over and I drink it black.

Mark: No sugar?

Pam: No sugar. It will be the way it comes out. The way it goes in. 

Mark: I can't do that. I can do like, maybe not as light. Like if I, if I'm running out of creamer, running out of milk, I'll do a splash of it. But like it has to be super sweet, I can't drink it-- I can't drink without sugar. Wow. Okay. Interesting. 

Pam: Yeah. So I invite you to [inaudible], just fully black coffee.

Mark: It's too bitter for me, because I don't like the taste of coffee in general. So I think the sugar and the milk kind of makes it doable for me. 

Pam: It makes sense. 

Mark: And it also reminds me of my childhood. Right. Like that's how my mom made it. And so that's how I 

Pam: Right, it's nostalgic. For sure. All right, let's go back to the show.


Pam: So Mark. Tell me what are you up to nowadays? Now in Atlanta, what's your next thing?

Mark: Yes. For those who don't know me, I'm a storyteller. I've been calling myself a professional storyteller. And I have friends who [inaudible] pumped it. They were like, what the hell is the difference between a professional and a not professional storyteller. Like what the hell is a storyteller. But the reason why I added the moniker professional was not to be elitist or egotistical, but to really respect my journey and respect the hard work I put into the craft. Right. Because it's become, it's become a trendy word. Oh, I'm a storyteller. Or, you know, I, I was like, yeah, but do you do the work? Do you put in the work? Do you study the craft? You know? And I think that makes a difference, right? Because I think there are a lot of people and I'm not here to police creatives or whoever people claim to be. But there are people who say, you know, it's so easy to be a writer or they claim to be a writer, but don't know much about the craft, right? And there is a science behind the writing and there's the creative side of writing and the artistry of writing. I think that some people, they mistake their talent, their raw talent and dismissed the craft, right? Like there are plenty of raw talented writers who don't get published or don't get their stories out there because they haven't developed their craft. And the craft is not just a science of writing. Right. But like how you sell it, how you market it, how you brand it. And so I think there are a lot of people who are storytellers who go unnoticed, right? And because, you know, the publishing industry is so white, and mainstream representation of our culture is so whitewashed, but at my core, I'm a storyteller. So I tell stories about four buckets, the one bucket, which is the additional format is the written word, right? I'm a poet, essayist, creative non-fiction writer. I have my first collection of poetry and essays called Drafts: An Imperfect Collection of Writing, which is currently exclusively available on Amazon. Apologies for those who don't like Amazon, it is what it is. If you just want me to send you the PDF of the manuscript, I'm happy to send that to you. So I have the written form, right? And my background, like I said, I mentioned earlier, I studied journalism in high school and creative writing. And so my training as a writer really developed there. And then I went off to college where I started a double major in communication journalism, and women's gender studies. And people always wonder, like, what the hell do you do with a woman gender studies degree? A lot of fucking reading and writing. So I really honed my writing skills there. And so it's the written word it's, I'm a dancer, choreographer. I became the youngest [inaudible] in the United States at 17 to create a dance company for disabled and non-disabled dancers, called Marked Dance Project. We ran from 2009 to 2019. Our final season was at New York city, at [inaudible] and then I dissolved it and moved to California. And now I'm an independent choreographer. So I still tell stories through movement. I'm actually choreographing rehearsing today with a dancer named Kayla Maria G who was is an Afro Latina dancer with a limb difference. And she and I are presenting work at the Latino Contemporary Dance Festival in Houston next week.

Pam: Oh, fun!

Mark: And I think we're the only disabled representation in the entire roster of the dance festival. So it's non-disabled dance companies mostly or non-disabled dancers and showing work. So I do a lot of representation around what does it mean to be a disabled person and choreograph and be a person of color? So that's the second bucket. The third bucket is audio. So I have a podcast called Marking the Path. I just launched a Twitter space series called #onlovingmen, where we talk about what it means to love a man. Right. We just launched it last night. It's going to happen. I don't know when this is coming out, when this stuff is coming out, but it's going to happen every Wednesday in March, which is really exciting. And then the fourth bucket is do speaking. Right? So I guess the, the podcasting kind of talks with the speaking, but I do public speaking. I've spoken at Harvard, MIT, NYU, did a TEDx talk. So I do a lot of work around public speaking and trainings about LGBTQ issues, aout intersectionality, about race and gender and sexuality, how they intersect, about disability in the arts. That's my creative hustle. My day job is I do communication and marketing for various consulting firms. So, right now I'm working with one particular consulting firm. And I do, I have other clients I work with as an independent consultant. My bread and butter comes from the marketing communications side of storytelling. And I specialize in social media management, and e-communications, newsletters, telling stories that way, brand development, how to establish a brand and how to tell stories through social media. So that's a lot of the work I do as a storyteller. 

Pam: I love it. What do you wish more people knew about? 

Mark: Um, I wish people knew more about authenticity and how to apply it to their lives. You know, I realized in college, in particular, in the bay area, when I was introduced to Dr. Brené Brown's work, that authenticity and vulnerability and coping with shame was not just something white people did. I had to do. Right. And I've had the privilege of meeting Brené Brown, Dr. Brené Brown in person a couple times, and we have a selfie and I'm a huge fan of her work. And I think of her work and not of her. Right. Cause I don't believe in idolazing people, I believe in respecting their work. She made great contributions. So I wish people understood that authenticity and vulnerability was not just something that white folks did that, that people of color need to have this conversation about what it means to be vulnerable, what does it mean to be authentic. What does it mean to show up as our authentic self with our culture and our language. What does it mean not to straighten our hair? Right. What does it mean to not enforce and assimilate. Right? I wish we were talking about that. 

Pam: I call that the effects of Calladita Culture. 

Mark: Calladita Culture. Say more about that. I think I haven't heard that phrase before. 

Pam: Well, I made it up.

Mark: Oh! [laughs] That makes sense.

Pam: So Calladita Culture is what women and I mean, frankly, anyone but men grow up hearing, which is "calladita te ves más bonita", "you look prettier when you're quiet", you need to be submissive. You need to not speak up. You need to look a certain way. Your body needs to look a certain way. Your proximity to whiteness gives you permission to enter rooms. Like the more white you look, the more you are accepted by not only the male gaze, but also society. The effects of Calladita Culture have kept us small, and so to your point about authenticity, because of Calladita Culture, I believe we've pulled away from, from keeping things real because there's this need to perform a certain way or to show up a certain way, because that's what colonization did to us. I remember my grandmother, for example, I mean, she was the matriarch of the house. She ran the house from the finances all the way to baking someone's birthday cake, like everything from A to Z. And she never worked in her life. She went to college to become, it wasn't a college degree per se, but she was a secretary at the time, when that's what women did. And she was, she studied her whole life, was how to be a good representation of Calladita Culture. Which is, she went to baking school, she knew how to sew, she could like make a mean like meal for everyone. She could host the party. She knew all about etiquette. Right. But when it came to her speaking, her voice in her truth, I'm still waiting for that. And I think for me, the reason why I'm so against the effects of Calladita Culture is because I think it's my job and part of why most of my work involves speaking up, it's to do that. It's to use my voice with authenticity, with being real and showing up as who I am unapologetically so, because it's time. 

Mark: Yeah. Oh, I got teary-eyed, I'm an easy crier, but that really touched me in a way about my abuela and how I felt the first born grandchild always has a special connection to abuelas. So my sister has that kinda relation with my grandmother and I never had that. I was like somewhere in the middle of the pack, each of my tías has six kids, so there's 12 grandchildren. And then my mom had two and then my uncle has had, well, two that I know for sure. And then I think he had one recently. So true [inaudible] so there's a lot of first cousins. Right. And I remember when I was living at my mom's house, trying to decide, like, when do I go, when do I move out and move to New York city following my dreams. It was a lot because I was the only son that she had. And I was the only one that she, you know, she might've been moved out when she was 17 and started her own family. I spend my mom and I most of our lives, right. And so I was feeling a lot of guilt and shame around wanting to leave her, knowing that I had to leave her for my own sake, my own sanity and my own desires. But there's a lot of pressure around being the provider, being there for your mother. You know, my mom is relatively young, she's in her early fifties. So to feel that way, you know, five, almost 10 years ago is wild to me. I'm like, what do you mean I have to sacrifice my dreams to help her? And not just help her like financially, but like help her by just being there to combat her loneliness. And I was like, that's not living. If my grandma did something that I didn't expect her to do, she's very progressive and I think she loves the fact that I'm her grandson, despite the fact that I-- I remember when she cleaned my room and she found all these dongs and dresses. And she was like, okay, mijo, let's just keep your room clean. It wasn't even a conversation around like what she found. It was just keep your room clean. Right. 


And sounds like definitely progressive grandma. 

Pam: Let's find a container for your toys.

Mark: Yeah, let's find a container for all your things. [laughs] I remember she had just came to visit us because my mom was really like going off the handles. And she had came to stay with us for a little bit. To kind of look after her and to visited me. And I remember she told me and I was going to say my Spanish isn't that great. I speak Spanglish. But she had said what translates to an English "the only obligation is to yourself and your freedom".

Pam: So good. 

Mark: And to this day, that liberation stays with me. 

Pam: She gave you permission.

Mark: She gave me permission to be myself, to pursue my dreams, to live my life, to fly and to expand. And that's so rare in so many communities, and so many people's families because we have this, like, if you leave, who is gonna look after her, if you leave, who's going to help her. And I was like, I need to build a life for myself that when she gets old enough where she can't take care of herself, I'll be there and be able to help her. 

Pam: Then you come in. Yes, yes. For sure. Oh, so powerful. 

Mark: Yeah. I'm gonna get that tattooed on my body somewhere, I haven't decided where yet, but...

Pam: I support. Can't wait to see the picture.


Mark: I have so many tattoos [inaudible] a podcast, you're not gonna see it, but there's-- I have so many tattoos.

Pam: Nice, nice, nice. Mark, where can people find you?

Mark: Um, they can find me on various platforms like Twitter and Instagram using the handle @marktravrivera. They can connect with me on LinkedIn @marktravrivera [inaudible] handle on there @marktravrivera on LinkedIn, they can go to my website at to learn more about the work I do. And just like connect with me. I'd be happy to connect with anyone.

Pam: Any upcoming projects, anything that's coming up?

Mark: Yes. By the time of this recording, I would have presented my first time in the south, which I'm really excited about, so I'm presenting this new Kayla Maria G called Liberation Freedom from Limits, which is a solo about Afro Latina with a limb difference, exploring her beauty and her sexuality and the gains in which liberation come from. And so we're working on that and I'm working on my memoir. I'm working with a developmental editor to help me, we're early stages, but we're working on a memoir tended to be titled "Crippled, but Not Broken".

Pam: So good. 

Mark: And I haven't thought of a subtitle yet, but this conversation has given me some ideas around stumbling for home and belong,  [inaudible] calculating we'll have this conversation. And so working in my memoir, I have speaking engagements coming up, I'm doing some amazing exciting things and just super happy. If you follow me on Twitter you'll see information about the Unloving men conversation series. If that goes well, I will continue it after March. That's all I have going on right now. 

Pam: That's it. Amazing. Mark. This has been lovely. It's been super fun to talk to you, explore your story, talking about all the things and learn more about what you do. Thank you so much for being on Cafe con Pam. 

Mark: Thank you for having me, Pam, thank you for your team for being so organized. And I know how much work goes into running a podcast. So I really appreciate when a team is as efficient and organized as your team has been. And I look forward to the replay. I don't normally listen to interviews I do, like it gets awkward when I replay them. I obviously I always share them, but I'm looking forward to it to re listen to this conversation because it was so wonderful to talk to someone like you and how organic it was. And you know, there was no prescript questions. It was just like, let's go, hit record. And those sometimes are the scariest conversations to have, because you don't have the luxury of pre preparing. You just have to go in and then they hope we don't talk out of your ass and your shit makes sense. And thank you for allowing me to show up today as I am in this moment. So thank you, Pam, for all that you do for our people and for our communities. 

Pam: Yes, 100%, yes. It's, it's funny because often people message us and they're like, can you send us the questions and Maru, who is the podcast manager shout out to the team. Yes. Thank you for that. Shout out to the Cafe con Pam team. Because this is not just me, everyone. It's just like people doing the work. Not just me. 

Mark: Yeah.

Pam: And so Maru typically is like, no, actually there are no, no questions to send. We just need you to show up and be yourself and flow with it. 

Mark: Yes.

Pam: It makes people nervous. 

Mark: Yeah. So yeah. Shout out to your team, Maru has been great to work with and you've been great to talk to. So I'm just thankful to be in your orbit now. I always say, you know, time is the one currency we can't get back. So thank you for spending some of that time with me. And I look forward to sharing this interview and sharing the other future work that you do.

Pam: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. I have two, last two questions. 

Mark: Yes.

Pam: Maybe I'll ask you the third one because I haven't, I don't typically ask for everyone, but... [inaudible] 

Do you have a remedio that you want to share, a remedy?

Mark: I don't know if there's a remedy besides the Vics thing, you know, that's pretty popular across all identities. The one remedy, I think it's more of a, for me, a spiritual act that helps remedy my spirit is I'll listen to praise and worship music. 

Pam: Wow! That's a new one I've not heard. 

Mark: Yeah. And I feel like a lot of people don't expect that from me because I'm visibly, so in my young child's life and my teen like I was very involved in church. I grew up in a Christian nondenominational church. I played Jesus in the Good Samaritan play. I taught pre-K preschool for, pre-K Sunday school. I was super involved. 

Pam: I think Jesus was queer. Yes.

Mark: I'm not gonna go there. But if you believe that, yes, I think Jesus was so, and the reason why I say that is because I think he was so beyond sexuality and gender. 

Pam: Totally.

Mark: His purpose on life superseded that. But yes, I grew up in the church. So a lot of people don't realize that, but in my, when I was a teenager, I got fired from my church job because I came out as gay and they all started laying hands on me to pray over me, to pray the demonic gay spirit out of me. And that trauma turned me away from the church. And so I spent my entire twenties suffering without my spirituality. And so I committed, especially after losing my job [inaudible] in my thirties, I told myself that I was gonna reconnect with my faith again, and reconnect with my spirituality. And so my remedy, even in my twenties, when things were really bad, I would turn on praise and worship music, but being more intentional. This morning, I put praise and worship music on and I sent it to myself that I knew I was gonna have a long day. And I said, let me start the day. Not with social media, even though I was doing that as well, but not with social, not with emails, not with my to-do list, but let me spend some time connecting to the higher power. I reminding myself that I am part of the divine and that the work I do, the stories I tell, the impact I have is a result of my connection to the divine, and my purpose, my calling. So that's my remedy. I listened to praise and worship music and I ground myself in that. 

Pam: And do you have a quote or mantra that you live by? It could be your abuela's, I think.

Mark: Yes, so my abuela's is one, but you know, another one is a... it's from Brené Brown research directly, it comes with "I am enough". The idea that I'm worthy of love and belonging. And so those mantras, "I am enough and I am worthy of love and belonging now, as I am" 

Pam: Mmmm. Last question: what do you think love is?

Mark: Oh, I'm so glad actually cause I'm such a lover of love, I... my friends always joke around that I'm the Adele and Taylor Swift of our circles. Love is why I do what I do. The love of self, to show up, be seen, be heard. That is an act of loving yourself because it gives you permission to be you. And then it gives people permission to love you for exactly who you are, right? Without conditions. And to me, love is at the core of all that I do. Love for my people, my communities, love of my, of the men I love, whether they're a trans or CIS, the men I love right. Love of my family, my friends, and the possibility of love as a revolutionary act to really heal the world, right? So I really drive by love ethic. And so I'm a lover.

Pam: Well, Mark Travis Rivera, thank you so much for being in Cafe con Pam, it was awesome.

Mark: Thank you, yes, I really enjoyed it. Thank you.

Listeners, stay shining. 


All right, listeners. That was my conversation with Mark. What are your thoughts? What resonated with you? I would love to hear, I would love to get your screenshots and tagging me on the socials to keep the conversation going. And I love receiving your DMs and telling me how the interviews resonated with you, it's super, super fun, so keep doing that. And if this is your first time here, welcome to Cafe con Pam. I hope you feel at home. I hope this feels like, I don't know a nice, what did Brenda from Ellas podcast called me recently? She said, I'm the tía with the gentle clap or with a gentle slap, the gentle slap, I think. Which I was like, "oh, that's cool". Meaning? I tell you what you need to hear with lots of love and I wipe your tears and I give you a hug afterwards. So if you're new here, I really hope you feel at home and the content resonated with you. If this is your first time, I invite you to subscribe. If this is your second, third, fourth, fifth, and 248th time, then I invite you to perhaps think about leaving your rating. And if you have a two more minutes, maybe a review, because it does make a difference in a podcast reputation, because while I can show up and promote the show in all the places and spaces, really people are looking to hear what other people are saying about it. And so your ratings and your reviews do make a difference. And I so appreciate if you take the time to leave one and to clarify, because one of you listeners messaged me and you were like, I was trying to update or to add another review, but I couldn't. Yeah, because you can only add one review. And so what you could do is edit and it's happened, it's super cool to see like, "oh, I listen now to, I don't know, episode, blah, blah, blah, and that was like really amazing". And so it's really awesome to see that you come back and you update your reviews. It's, it's super heartwarming. So I do appreciate it. I also want to stay connected with you. I have an online community and we have been steadily slowly growing, And that is where you can hang out with us. It's a Discord server and I have been hanging out in different Discord communities, and it's a really cool space to organize conversations. We've tried other platforms. And I think Discord is, is really awesome. Cause I hang out there all the time already because I'm in a couple of Web3 Discord servers. I'm not in a couple I'm in too many, I would say. So that's why I chose to do Discord, one of the many reasons why I chose Discord. And I would love to have you there. So just go to and you can join us. Other ways to connect social media, Instagram and Facebook, both cafeconpampodcast. Let's make sure that podcast is at the end. That's how we can stay connected. To learn more about my work, head over to That's where you can see all of the things that I do. And as a small business owner, I would be remiss if I didn't self-promote here because that's what we are here to do, to support each other. And what I do in case you're wondering aside from asking people questions and being good at it. I think I'm pretty good at asking questions. Aside from that I, well, I actually continue to ask questions to people in my coaching career. I'm a business coach. I became the business coach my mom needed, and my passion is truly to support women owned business owners. This mantle that damages of Calladita Culture, and Calladita Culture is what we continue to hear as brown folks, because, calladita no te ves más bonita, but that's what we hear, that calladita te ves más bonita. And I've been studying the damages of this very common and popular idiom in the Spanish language and how that affects women owned business owners is huge. It's just huge. So that's what I do in my work. And I use different tools inside of my work as a business coach, as a liberation business coach, because my focus is on liberating ourselves from those damages of Calladita Culture and also dismantling white supremacist principles in business. Because as I have done a lot of business calling work, I have a certificate of women entrepreneurship from Cornell University and inside of that program, while it was amazing and it was really women focused, there were a lot of principles that were offered that have been around for years since the history of business and all of those things are damaging for our communities. Those principles are damaging because instead of expanding ourselves, it really continues to oppress the people that we care about. So inside of my work, we explore how to really step into owning a business, making money because making money is not bad. And how do we do it in the best way and the most sustainable way, and the most liberated way. That's what I explore my work. And of your curious head over to That's where you can learn all the things.

If you're interested in hanging out with me in different ways, I do have a free challenge. I have two free challenges now, actually. The Cafe con Pam free challenge, which is a challenge to help you support you get more organized. There's a lot of tools. There's five days of tools that you can use. I also have the five day challenge and that one was super fun to do because for five days we tapped every morning and I taught you the tapping routine that I do myself every morning, and you can join it. You can watch the videos and you can do the challenge yourself, join the Discord channel for the tapping challenges specifically, and we can discuss further, but what's been cool about the five day tapping challenge is that people have continued that tapping sequence themselves. And it makes my heart so warm because this is one of the things that if you listened to Dr. Rocío's episode, we talked about visibility and the responsibility that we have for sharing that which we can offer. And when I wanted to think about, or when I was thinking about doing a tapping challenge, I was like, "you know what? what I can do is I can share what I do that know has worked for me, that know sustains me that know that it gives me energy" and it's almost rude for me not to share it. And so it was really amazing that it was well-received and we had lots of fun doing it, and you can check it out.

As far as updates for me to give you I am currently traveling a lot. This week I am still in San Diego next week I'm going to be in Denver. And so I get a new mic. Actually. That's an update. That's a podcast update actually. And I don't know if you can hear the difference, but I feel like I leveled myself up. I kept my same mic for five years, everyone. So five years with the same microphone, I'm sure producer Nancy is going to enjoy this. I hope so because this is a much better mic. And so I hope it makes a difference in the audio. And you hear less and less airplanes or my dog barking. Let me know. Let me know if you hear a difference. That's what I actually am curious if you hear a difference or if it's just me like, oh, I bought, you know, a semi-pro mic and now I feel like I'm semi-pro, but really you're like, "Pam you sound the same". I would love to know.

All right, listeners, I won't keep you much longer. I am so grateful that you are here. If I owe you stickers, ping me, please. What I realized is that in my travels, you send me the messages and I'm like, yes, I'm going to send you the stickers when I get home. Obviously those who ordered stickers, those got the stickers. But if you want a sticker from the episode word, I guess that I've been sharing, if you want a sticker set and you didn't receive it, please ping me. I won't get mad. I'll just be like, oh my gosh, I wasn't home when I read your message and then when I got home, I didn't read your message. Therefore it got lost in the ethers and I didn't write it down, so I won't get mad. I also would love to know if you want to do some in-person stuff. Actually. That's what I've been thinking about. That's what's been on my mind. I had an opportunity to have a conversation with my friend, Ruiz. You do know Ruiz, and we were talking about doing something together and he was like, it needs to be an event, an in-person event. And I was like, is it? Is it so? Are people ready? So do let me know, send me a DM or join Discord and add it to the Cafe con Pam Challenge. Like, "Hey, I heard you say this and potentially I'm interested" or potentially slow your roll. Wait another year. I dunno. Maybe some Cafe con Pam meetups, that would be fun. But I'm talking specifically for like an event, like a business event, because that's what I'm like so excited about. Like there's so many businesses existing and, and, and being born. And what I don't want is to, for people to continue to perpetuate the same programming that's so exploitative. 

All right. I'll stop for reals now, I'm done now. Sending you so, so much love. I love you all for listening. If you're here still. Oh my gosh. Super trooper, super trooper, and the word for this episode is going to lemonade. So when I promote this episode on social media, if you're the first comment to write the word "lemonade" and tell me what you like about that episode, then I'm going to send you something. Also, if I responded and I said, send me your address and you didn't send me your address, please send me your address because I will send you something. And it's my pleasure to send you something. I hope you have a great rest of your day. Make sure you take a nap. If you can, or take a deep breath that could work. Honor your body. Honor yourself. You're worth it. And stay shining!