We first discovered Sarah Miramontes’ line of Mexican cold-processed soaps, Paca Botánica, when she applied for our first-ever Daydreamer Contest…a few hours before submissions closed. “By the time I saw a post about the contest, it was the end of the last day for entries,” she laughs. “If that’s not a sign for the next round of applicants to take a chance on themselves, I don’t know what is.”
While beautiful, it wasn’t Sarah’s soaps or branding that made her the perfect encapsulation of a Daydreamer. She represents what it means to connect with your heritage, to give a second life to what was once put on a shelf, and to own your story and share it with the world.
As told to SeaVees. Photography by Andrew Garcia and Justyn Wolf.
“I became an aesthetician about eight years ago, but a week after I got my license, I heard about some Disney Cruise Line auditions. I didn’t even know Disney had cruise ships, but I’d always had a love for performing so I showed up, sang a Pocahontas song and booked the gig. I’d spend the next six years singing on the ships as different princesses. I think my favorites were probably Jasmine and, of course, Pocahontas [laughs].
“I didn’t even know Disney had cruise ships, but I’d always had a love for performing. I showed up, sang a Pocahontas song and booked the gig.”
I’d stay in New York during the three months I had off between contracts and started auditioning for different shows—I kept coming really close to some big performing dreams I had, but then I’d disappear to sea again because the cruise-ship work and travel was so appealing. I got to a point where I knew I was too comfortable and if I didn’t make a move, I’d never take a chance on myself.
Shortly after my last contract, COVID hit, so stage productions were all shut down. I went to visit my parents who were living in Mexico at the time. My mom had started soap making as a hobby and she asked me to make a batch with her. We spent the day together just making soap—this is when nothing was open, so we were honestly just trying to find things to do to pass the time! But after my first batch I had a very clear vision of what I would want to do if I had my own line of soap.
I came home and started experimenting right away. I would be searching online and on the phone with my mom trying to troubleshoot my first failed batches like, “This batch has weird spots, what did I do wrong?” I started looking into Mexican botanicals and the more I dug, I realized there really wasn’t a lot out there about them. I mean who has heard of tepezcohuite? Yet it’s literally known as the ‘skin tree’ because of its wound healing and antimicrobial properties.
I was inspired by an article I read on ancient Egyptians and how they’d make soap from animal fat and wood ash. I asked myself, “Well, what did my ancestors use?” I found there was a native Mexican plant called amole with roots that were rich in saponins. The Aztecs would take the roots to the river, agitate them with water, and the saponins would create a soap-like substance. They were cleansing their skin with one ingredient straight from the earth and that inspired me to create a product line that goes back to the basics. Being a first generation Mexican-American, I was born into a home filled with immigrant adults, speaking only Spanish until the age of three or four. But the older I got, the more I felt I was losing touch with my culture. I always wanted to learn and connect with Mexico more and I realized this was a good way to do it and just dove into learning.
My logo is inspired by the Aztec symbol for ‘flower,’ and ‘paca’ in the Aztec language, Nahuatl, means ‘to wash.’ The cube shape is inspired by Mexican Pyramids and by French Marseille soaps as a nod to my great great-grandmother, who immigrated from France to Mexico and fought as a ‘soldadera,’ a female soldier in the Mexican Revolution, after falling in love with my indigenous Oaxacan great great-grandfather. Part of my dream is to create really beautiful skincare products that are kind to the body and the earth, but it’s also to keep traditions and ancient knowledge alive. I only have one living grandmother left—when she’s gone, so is all the knowledge she carries with her. I hope to preserve some of it for the next generations to come.
I’m the whole company [laughs]. I’m the only one formulating, handling production, popping up at markets, answering emails, branding, and packing and shipping orders. I started out just doing markets—I’m talking three to four maker's markets in one week at times. It was really helpful with my visibility and getting immediate feedback from customers but also wasn’t very sustainable for me. I didn’t know what I was doing—I still don’t always know what I’m doing, but I do know I’m doing my best.
“I still don’t always know what I’m doing, but I do know I’m doing my best.”
I was winding down from a long day working on Paca Botánica when I saw the call for submissions for the SeaVees Daydreamer Contest, so I didn’t even draft anything out—I filled in the questions in one shot and hit the ‘submit’ button. I really didn’t think I’d win, so I used the application as more of an exercise in reminding myself of who I am and what’s important to me. Sometimes you get so caught up in the day-to-day tasks you forget to check in on your goals and why you started in the first place. My first clue was when I saw SeaVees follow me on Instagram. I was like, ‘Oop! Hello!’ I got the email saying I won a few hours later and the way I lost my mind, I can’t even tell you.
It was important to me to honor the gift in a responsible way so it took me a while to start investing with my grant money, if I’m totally honest. So far I’ve used it to buy equipment that’s going to help me with production and very soon it will help me create a run of new packaging. I have so many plans for it. My dream for Paca Botanica is to collaborate with a different Latinx artist a couple of times a year, whether they be a painter, a woodmaker, a ceramicist, or a musician. I think it would be such a special way to champion each other and get creative together while paying homage to our heritage.
“The more we can tap back into and understand what makes us us, the happier we’ll be.”
I think everyone should apply to the SeaVees Daydreamer Contest! I really loved filling out the questions because it taught me so much about myself and allowed me to open up and dream a little bigger—there was no pressure to be anything but me. My advice to other Daydreamers is to use applying to the contest as an exercise in getting to know yourself and your business or passion a little better. To find your path forward you really have to constantly reconnect with yourself. I think we’re all struggling with feeling disconnected to our families, our friends, our work, ourselves, and the more we can tap back into and understand what makes us us, the happier we’ll be.”