During our trips to Oaxaca we have the opportunity of meeting groups of hard-working female entrepreneurs. Women who give there all to build a business from the ground up to provide better lives for their families. This would not be possible without the support of a non-profit organization called En Via. Here, a short recap of this foundation, some of the women we met this time around, and the talents that help sustain their families.
We were picked up early one morning at our hotel by Sarah, one of Fundación En Via’s volunteers and our guide for the day. Many of our Oaxaca guests had no idea what the day had in store for us, but as the tour went along, they knew it would be a life-changing experience.
As we drove throughout the back-roads of Oaxaca City, leading us to our first stop, San Miguel del Valle, Sarah explained the intention of Fundación En Via: to provide interest-free loans and educational programs to entrepreneurial women using funds generated through responsible tourism*.
With the help of various day and multi-day tour programs lead by their volunteers and on-going collection of donations, Fundación En Via provides many educational programs including business courses, workshops, and English classes in order for the female entrepreneurs to be able to develop as the matriarchs of their families through their businesses. With a 99% pay-back rate of these no-interest micro-loans, En Via gives access to services these women would not otherwise have access to through the usual socio-economic spaces.
Through winding roads and past a group of children playing on the street during recess, our first stop was Maria Linda. Her business: colorfully-embroidered aprons—the same ones they use as daily attire. She shared how from a young age she taught herself to embroider to help make ends meet. Now as a mother and wife, she has also taught her husband to use the sewing machines, ones he helped buy, so they, as a partnership, can invest in their business and the support of their family.
The second stop was with Albina, Maria Linda’s mother-in-law. Her business: a small store-front where she grinds various beans and grains to sell and for the community. She explained how she also produces hand-made chocolate discs used in the famous Oaxacan agua de chocolate, and how she grinds the grains to powder-like consistency for making atole with said chocolate discs, as well.
After our first two visits, we enjoyed a delicious typical Oaxacan black mole lunch at the home of another micro-loan recipient. Sitting in the courtyard of their home, we all contemplated what we’d just learned from Maria Linda and Albina, as we enjoyed a refreshing home-made agua fresca.
With the yummy taste of chicken with mole sauce still in our mouth’s, we made our way to our third stop with Ludivina. Her business: weaving the most beautiful rugs you’ve ever seen. She, along with her brothers and sisters, pull and dye the yarn, design, and weave rugs on their large looms that sit in various nooks surrounding their home’s courtyard. Ludivina explained the extensive process of carding and spooling the yarn with a hand-cranked wheel, how they dye the wool into various colors using only natural pigments, and also showcased the many designs of rugs they had available, from small coaster-sized to large full-room sized.
Sofia & Sara
Our fourth and last stop was with Sofia, Ludivina’s sister. Her business: candle-making in the most hands-on manner we’ve ever seen. Sofia shared that while her grandmother never taught them the craft of candle-making, it being a trade passed down from mother to daughter, and Sofia’s mother being the daughter-in-law, she learned by watching from a very young age. On her grandmother’s death-bed, Sofia promised her she’d continue her tradition and would complete a service to the church in her name, even if the grandmother had not directly showed her how—she innately knew.
We visited the businesses and homes of 5 beautiful women who welcomed us as if we were long-time friends. While each woman explained what their business and talent was, they taught us so much more than weaving, embroidery, and candle-making. Each story was unique. Each story was heart-felt. And each story told of family traditions of many generations—past and future.
If you’d like more information on how you can help these and other women reach their goal of establishing their business, visit Fundación En Via’s website.