Ada Nieves wants to take over the world, one Chihuahua at a time. Since 2004, the New York-based pet fashion designer has served as the organizer of the New York chapter of the Chihuahua Nation, an umbrella term for a network of Chihuahua meet-ups across the United States, ranging everywhere from Beverly Hills to Orlando, Florida. The New York chapter was founded in 2002, and today boasts over 900 human members.
"It's true that Chihuahuas are like potato chips, you cannot just have one," Nieves, who has dressed everything from rats to chickens, told me over email. "They are the perfect companion."
Nieves grew up with a family Chihuahua, so it was natural for her to buy her own pups. (Her four Chihuahuas are currently paid actors with agents.) When her husband was deployed to Iraq, he gave her Vanilla, a white Chihuahua, to keep her company as he fought overseas. It was not her first Chihuahua, but shortly after, Chihuahua Nation was born.
Every month, the Chihuahua owners meet monthly to host "pawties," ice cream socials, "Chi-lloween" events, picnics, and other activities. It's as much of a social calendar for the dogs as it is for humans. Although Nieves remains the reigning queen of Chihuahuas, co-organizers help facilitate the communities across the United States. When these members aren't socializing with pooches, they help coordinate foster homes for Chihuahuas in need.
On a recent warm day in Central Park, I met with the Chihuahua Nation for a puppy picnic. "Look past the pilgrim statue. You won't miss us," Nieves told me. From a distance I saw a sea of blankets and humans in the shade, resembling every other group in Central Park. As I got closer and closer, I finally understood what Nieves meant. Situated on a blue blanket in Central Park were nearly 20 Chihuahuas (some wore dresses and sun hats), plus two chickens named Beyoncé and Lady Gaga, who I later learned were the honorary Chihuahuas of the day. For solidarity purposes, I brought along Sasha, my Pomeranian-Chihuahua mix, as my guest to the picnic. At a whopping 18 pounds, she was the largest creature in attendance.
From my time spent with the New York chapter, I could sense that this was very much a clique. Attendees from every borough laughed, feasted on cheese and crackers, and caught up with one another from their last meeting. While humans socialized, the Chihuahuas took their turns seeking approval from Beyoncé and Lady Gaga.
As we bid adieu to warm days, let us remember summer and fall fondly with photos of Chihuahuas picnicking in Central Park.