Family Portrait | An Interview with Cynthia Cervantes & Travis Gumbs
For the second interview in our regular series Family Portrait, we look to Mexico to find out what drew creative New York couple Cynthia Cervantes and Travis Gumbs to the country’s buzzing capital, Mexico City and discover how they’ve formed a close-knit circle of friends they now call family.
“When you live far away from your family, your chosen family becomes so important,” Cynthia tells us. Giving us a window into their Christmas Day celebrations the couple invited us into their home for a festive shoot, starring their three-year-old son Tenoch and his trusty crew of best friends who ran riot in fabulous style.
Often described as a creative power couple, Travis and Cynthia produce impactful film and photography, working with major brands and on their own passion projects through their studio Maroon World, which was set up to amplify the voices of people of colour. One thing all their projects have in common is an uncanny knack for capturing the beauty of fleeting moments. Looking at their work there is a shared reverence for the everyday that feels almost childlike in its wonder, a gift that has informed their way of parenting.
"I think our work has always touched on how beautiful the mundane is,” explains Cynthia. “Having a child only magnifies that because there are moments of absolute tenderness that are so inspiring. The other day I took a photo of Tenoch’s foot sitting on Travis’s feet, because he was using Travis as a footrest, and I found that so beautiful – just a tender moment between a son and his father.”
"He has his own style – he knows exactly what he wants to wear. From the moment he could express himself in that way, he’s been like that" - Travis
When we ask Travis and Cynthia if their son has inherited their love of style, they both laugh. “From day one,” says Travis. “It wasn’t even us! It’s all him. He has his own sense of style – he knows exactly what he wants to wear and from the moment that he could express himself in that way, he’s been like that. Now he’s just obsessed with wearing blue – I mean, we don’t even want to put him in blue. That’s how we know it’s not us. Now I’ve got to go and get him all this blue stuff because that’s all he wants to wear."
"We picked his Childrensalon clothes with his taste in mind,” Cynthia explains. “The pyjamas with the little bears because he loves animals, and the jacket with the green and blue because I knew he’d love that. He loves dressing up. Last Christmas he had a little tuxedo suit, and he just didn’t want to take it off. Oh, and he tells us which shoes to put on when we’re getting dressed, and he also tells us if he doesn’t like something we’re wearing,” she laughs.
Sustainability also figures highly on this family’s agenda. “We both buy a lot of vintage and a lot of Tenoch’s wardrobe is secondhand. We try to buy locally and from brands that are invested in sustainable practices, to make sure we’re investing in the right things. ”And what about passing things down? “Yes, absolutely,” they agree. “So many of our friends have had babies after us so we’ve given a lot away, but we also have a little stash of baby clothes in case there’s another one coming. I’ve held on to the things that are handmade – sweaters, shirts, hats and bibs that friends made for him, in beautiful hand dyes.”
For the shoot, Tenoch and the children of Cynthia and Travis’s closest family friends all got together for a Christmas Day dress rehearsal, complete with pyjamas, party outfits, presents under the tree and a beautiful table set with handmade Mexican decorations, cakes and flowers. Needless to say, this festive warm-up went down a storm with all the little ones. “The kids were so excited. Logan and Lumen did not want to take their outfits off after the shoot!” says Cynthia of the day. “They were both so happy and twirling a lot."
"Tenoch is a huge Christmas fan, and he has been watching Christmas cartoons since last time,” Cynthia continues. “He loves the Mickey Mouse Christmas Special and obviously we’ve watched Elf. He loves that – he thinks it’s so funny.”
“Tenoch and Logan are very similar, they’re both like balls of fire - they’re partners in crime." - Travis
"Lumen is fun-loving and thoughtful. He's the philosopher of the group - always asking questions, figuring out how things work on his own." - Travis
Destination: Mexico City
It’s hard to think of a more cosmopolitan couple than Travis and Cynthia. While Travis hails from the Caribbean island of St Kitts and was brought up in The Bronx area of New York, Cynthia is the daughter of Mexican immigrants who moved to LA. The couple met in New York and have since set up home in Mexico City.
“We fell in love with Mexico when we got married here,” explains Travis. Looking at their wedding photographs that were featured by Vogue in 2018, it’s easy to see what drew them to this vibrant country.
"Excited by the culture, diversity, and sense of community in Mexico City, the couple felt it would be a great place to raise a family - an intuition that proved right. "Tenoch has a very diverse crew that he hangs out with," Cynthia says. "A lot of his friends are from school, or the local parks he plays in, so they're Mexican or born and raised in Mexico City.
"We also have a number of friends who are immigrants to Mexico, either from the States or the UK, whose children are being raised here speaking two or three languages, and all of them fluent in Spanish. And while the city is growing and becoming a global destination for many, it still offers the community and intimacy we were initially drawn to, especially given that we're able to spend time outside the city, in Michoacán, on my family's ranch. So, we feel that he's getting the best of both worlds. In fact, I don't even want to say both worlds - there is so much more than that here."
"As the eldest, Cici guides everyone in how to interact kindly. She has a unique sense of style, and is not afraid to say what she thinks" - Travis
“Our parenting style is really similar,” shares Travis. “We’re firm but forgiving. We try to keep the space open for our son to experiment and find himself, but at the same time we try to guide him through it safely.” Cynthia agrees. “We both firmly believe in the importance of a routine,” she says. “Obviously that lends itself to gentle boundaries and because he knows what to expect, he can guide himself."
Reassuring routine is key, but there is plenty of excitement to be found in the Cervantes-Gumbs household when it comes to thoughtful touches around their home. Climbing the walls is actively encouraged with wall-mounted gym bars, there is a soft and cosy reading corner for chilling out in and there is even a slide attached to their couch.
Travis laughs at the mention of the slide. “It’s all about finding that sweet spot that works for all of us, but even though we are keeping him in mind with every decision, we are also keeping ourselves in mind. So even with Cynthia saying we have a slide on the couch, it’s a slide that is also aesthetically pleasing, because she’s very design minded,” he says with a smile. “It’s all about ultimate collaboration.”