We had the good fortune of connecting with Raynie Castaneda and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Raynie, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
I am nuero-divergent and am on the Autism Spectrum. I’m also ADHD. I’ve never worked well in a traditional work environment, or in school for that matter. It ate me up that I spent most of my life working for someone else, doing something I wasn’t passionate about or cared about, making money that wasn’t near enough to actually support myself. I grew up poor, am poor, have been poor my whole life. I finally decided that I would rather live broke and work for myself, serve my community and do what I LIKE to do. Whatever that is, that week. I hate confines, and that’s what working for someone else was to me. My very last job, I worked in an office setting for a “small business.” I thought that working for someone and not something would be better, but no. That was the final straw, I’d rather go hungry and be happy.

Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I don’t know that my work sets me apart from others, as the community that I am apart of fights daily for their equality and visibility. I will say, I am most proud that I have been able to help organize the Pagan, LGBTQIA+, and activism communities in my area to create actual, tangible, change in East Texas. I am proud of the many safe and accessible spaces that I work so hard to create for the many diverse and varied communities of East Texas that do not fit into a mold or check every box on the status quo.
The work we do is NOT easy. We receive death threats, are physically assaulted, are harassed by locals, broadcasted as evil on local television, and so much more. For simply daring to gather or live openly. We overcome this by simply continuing to gather and live authentically, and openly, in Tyler. In East Texas. We refuse to be bullied into further silence or be complicit to our own degradation.
I was not always like this and I think that’s what I want people to know the most. I haven’t always been this adamant or vocal or loud.
I let other people define me. Most especially the people I was with. I did zero work on myself and let other people lead me wherever because it was easier than taking control of my own decisions and forging change in my life, I was angry but I wasn’t outraged. I was docile.
I apologize for that. I apologize for any moment I spent not using my voice to fight for change in the life I was given.
I want people to know that you can change at any moment. You can be different whenever you choose. You are not stuck with a version of yourself that you don’t love. You can either learn to love yourself or change what you don’t.

Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
First stop is Mexico Lindo over on Gentry in the East End. Best food of your life. We’re stopping at the Tortilla Factory on the way home, too, for lunch the next day. Tamales that will make you never want to eat any other kind of tamale ever again. We’re going to Hillside Park on Friday and Saturday night to watch the soccer game, and then we’re going to Green Acres bowling to play the arcade.
We’ll stop by the Crystal Rock Shop on Saturday too and look at the new rock formations and handmade goodies.
Then we’ll go by Moss and I have GOT TO SHOW YOU my New Moon Market, to look at pretty plants and things!
Gotta get coffee and play scrabble at Boards N Bites and then have breakfast over at Mamas on fifth st.
Then we’ll go across the street to Lost Boys Tattoo so we can get some amazing art by Layzie and then Tyler Thrift down the road to donate some things to a really excellent cause.
We’ll visit East Texas Outlaw Athletics and see if you’re any good at tumbling or dance, too.

Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
My Ancestors were muckrakers, expose journalists, freedom fighters, professors, composers, and entrepreneurs. The Flowers family fought for their own personal freedoms, for the freedoms of others, and for the betterment and progress of every one and every thing around them. They created an entire city where any one could come and have a bountiful and joyful life, and they defended that territory with their last breath. I practice Ancestor Veneration. These are the head strong, stubborn, and forward thinking people that I draw inspiration and strength from.
I also want to shout-out my partner, Fidel Castaneda, for giving me the space and the time to figure out so much of what I am now and who always melds to me no matter what state I’m in.
My mother, for giving me the childhood only meant for drama movies and dramedies, whose complexity and willingness to love has taught me so much more than she thinks.

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Image Credits
Photo Credits: Tyler Morning Telegraph Chris French Raynie Castaneda Amber Pickle – Smith Amy Trammel

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