En Via Events, Indigenous Culture

What does an interest-free microloan mean to a borrower and her community?

The_view_of_the_valley_from_the_ancient_ruins_of_yagul

The town of Diaz Ordaz is located several kilometers east of Teotitlán del Valle, in the Tlacolula district. It is near the infamous Sunday Tlacolula market and within the sights of the Fortaleza of Yagul (the fortress of the ancient ruins of Yagul). Fundación En Vía is working with nine women in Diaz Ordaz, each of whom are trying to either expand existing or provide new businesses, and support their families, all while using resources and assets they already have. The descriptions of the three women that follow demonstrate the ingenuity that our borrowers display again and again.

Maria Jesus is a young mother making pizzas and selling them both in Diaz Ordaz and in Tlacolula on Sundays. She makes the pizzas by hand, baking them one at a time in her mother-in-law’s oven. While the pizza bakes on the top rack, a chicken marinated in one of Oaxaca’s delicious moles simmers below. Maria used her first loan to purchase ingredients for making pizza dough, sauces, and toppings. With a second loan, she would like to buy a microwave so that she can make several pizzas, freeze them, and then sell them from her mother’s house which is in the center of the village and where there are more passerby. She will use the microwave to reheat the frozen pizzas, so clients can purchase freshly warmed slices. She offers Hawaiian and chorizo varieties, and proudly told me that she created the recipes herself based on her clients’ tastes. In addition to the pizzas, she sells roast chickens and cupcakes on Saturdays, when people receive their weekly paychecks. Maria has discovered how to use her own skills and resources, a long with some interest-free loans to provide a steady cash income and tap into the pizza market in Diaz Ordaz.

Herlinda, who lives with her husband on a hillside farm, has used her loans to purchase young lambs and raise them to maturity. When they have fattened themselves on a diet of a bamboo-like crop that grows in the river ways in Diaz Ordaz, she takes them to Tlacolula and sells them for a profit. This has been a successful project for Herlinda because she and her husband already have several animal pens and experience with raising livestock. It takes about three months for Herlinda to raise two or three lambs into sizable sheep. Upon the sale, she recovers her loan and also a profit. Their primary source of income is cultivating crops. Raising livestock is a second source of income. Sheep are always in demand in Santa Ana de Valle, where they are both a source of wool for the artisans and also a source of meat.

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Ameli, who is full of energy and always ready to greet visitors, has a storefront on one of the main streets in Diaz Ordaz. She has used her first loan to purchase an old-fashioned popcorn maker. She also makes fresh potato chips, which she plans to sell with the popcorn during the weekends at the town’s festivals. With her location, it is easy to sell fresh snacks to passersby, and also easy to carry them to the town center, where families gather to enjoy sunny afternoons.

These women understand the local market and the challenges of operating a business in a small economy. Using assets they already have, whether they are land, a knack for creating new recipes, or knowing that locals are looking for fresh fare on an afternoon stroll, these three women are creating niches for their businesses in Diaz Ordaz. Interest-free microloans are helping Maria Jesus, Herlinda, and Ameli use their big ideas to turn their resources into sustainable income flows and create new markets for goods and services in their community.

Amelis_brand_new_popcorn_makerAmelis_storefront
Story and photos by Julia Turnbull
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