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Funding Our Futures: Cristina Flores

Advocating for more financial support for White Center businesses.

Cristina Flores in front of her store, Za-Za Boutique.

“Hello everyone, good afternoon, my name is María Cristina Flores Fuentes.”

On Tuesday, May 18, Cristine Flores unmuted her microphone and gave testimony to the King County Council in support of $5 million in economic development funding as part of the Unincorporated Black, Indigenous, People Of Color (BIPOC) Economic Alliance. She began by introducing herself as María Cristina Flores Fuentes, the owner of a small business called Za-Za Boutique located in White Center. Her testimony to Council was presented in Spanish and translated by Comunidad de la Vashon organizer, Cynthia Ramos.

“I am a mother of two girls who attend Mountain View Elementary School,” Flores said. “I live in White Center, and I love helping my community.”

With the ongoing pandemic, not only is she taking care of the store every day, but Flores also has to help her daughters while they attend their classes online at the boutique. As expected, it has proven to be difficult and different. 

Flores grew up in Michoacan, Mexico and has worked in customer service while there. Currently, this would be Flores’ 12th year living in White Center. Za-Za boutique is famous for their special undergarments for women, Colombian jeans, men's and women’s clothing, accessories, and toys.

This year for Flores’ business did not qualify for State or County COVID-19 funds because she didn't meet the required years for the grant. She was short of owning the business by a few months.  Flores added, “My business needs more help. I have a family and a community to support, so I invite you to support the $5 million alliance proposal.”

Her involvement goes beyond her children's education and her store. Flores takes on roles such as volunteering in the classroom to being Vice President of the local elementary PTA. Outside of that work, she is an ambassador in White Center. She attends many community events such as the White Center Business Alliance meetings.  

The WCCDA Economic Development Team and participating White Center businesses in the Business Alliance have been meeting and leading the work behind this petition and call to action. Participating businesses include Za-Za Boutique, MYNT Salon, Macadons, Dalat Quan Restaurant, Habib Discount, New Golden Village, Salvadorean bakery, Huong Xua Deli, Sloth Acupuncture, Sala de Belleza Garcia, Crawfish house, Seattle Lotus, El Melecon Mexican Food, Rey’s Towing, and Cat Tuong Herbs.

Flores has worked alongside the White Center CDA staff members such as Helen Shor-Wong and Elsa Benavides. She feels strongly about getting the help that White Center businesses need.

“Support them [White Center CDA] so that they can support us, our community, and White Center businesses grow to have a better economy,” Flores said.

The White Center neighborhood has been unincorporated since its creation. The White Center CDA was formed in 2002 from the resolution of resident leaders to address the increasing concerns of the community, which included businesses moving away to declining affordable quality housing. The White Center CDA is a people-of-color led organization and cultivates community leaders like Flores to our community's health, wealth, and wellbeing.

“Economic Development will continue to put community organizing at the center, building upon our community brilliance and power, expanding our community's ability to own and develop land and our ability to build our local economy for our collective health and well-being,” Shor-Wong said. “We will build alliances across unincorporated areas, magnifying and moving beyond the marginalization of our community by government, building our BIPOC power and ability to stay and grow in our homes, schools, businesses, gardens, and waterways.”

As the meeting comes to a close, the County Council made a final decision to allocate $5.25 million for all Black, Indigenous, and Refugee families and businesses in Unincorporated King County, including those in White Center, Vashon, and Skyway. Flores represents the invaluable work that she, Benavides, Ramos, and many other community members needed for BIPOC communities. She reiterates the importance of representation,

“Don’t forget about our beautiful and diverse White Center community.”

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