In a sea of uniform graduation robes, caps have become ways for graduates to show off their personalities, shout out their families, and honor their cultures. Alexandra Del Salto, 24, masterfully did all three when she decorated her cap with pupusas for her May 12 graduation. It’s not her first time winning graduation, either. For undergrad, Del Salto recreated a duel between Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker on her cap, so she knew she couldn’t do anything basic now that she was graduating with a Master of Science in Digital Social Media from the University of Southern California. “I feel like since graduation is such a major milestone in one’s life, your cap has to play true to who you are 1,000 percent,” she told me in an email.
But she struggled to come up with what that would look like for a while. For weeks, she felt uninspired. The day before graduation, she randomly remembered the one time she hilariously envisioned a cap with a stack of pupusas on it. She then told her brother about it, and he encouraged her to go for it. The next day, she found herself at her local pupuseria in Chino ordering revueltas for her cap. Using tons of hot glue, pins, and safety pins, she secured the delicious treats to her cap, and she couldn’t have been happier with the result.
“There are three things that matter most to me in terms of personality/interests: My roots/heritage, Beyoncé, and Star Wars. I had done a Star Wars cap already for my undergrad, so that idea was crossed off of my list,” she said. “And honestly, I don’t think anything else could really represent me best than showing off my heritage, especially at USC. I’m one of the first ones to receive any sort of degree in my family. Coming from an immigrant family, and most especially considering where everything is standing politically right now in terms of race and being Latinx in this day and age, the idea of sticking pupusas on my grad cap was perfect. The cap is literally me in graduation cap form. Salvi, and lots of sparkles.”
The cap is also decorated with Loteria cards, but her friends probably hardly noticed them with delicious pupusa smells – which Del Salto jokes is her signature scent – in the air. The pupusas didn’t stick on her cap the whole time, though the people around her who kept trying to break off little pieces of the food may have had something to do with that.
Despite the minor setbacks, Del Salto – who’s also part Ecuadorean and Guatemalan – posted an image of her genius creation on Instagram. “You bet UR ass I put pupusas on my graduation cap,” she wrote in all caps. Her mom also posted the unconventional headwear online. “[My mom] was 1,000 percent into it!” she said. “We’re both very proud of who we are and where we come from. We both want to show as much love as possible to where we came from and to the Latino culture in general. She raised me to be the proudest Latina ever.”
Now, Del Salto is taking her good humor to the job market. Her dream job is working for NASA’s social media team. And if they’re as smart as we think they are, they’ll call her up.