Oaxaca life

Meet Sisters Silvia and Marcelina!


Silvia and Marcelina may look familiar to some of you who have been on tours with us to Santo Domingo Tomaltepec. Or maybe you just remember the incredible meal they made for lunch – perhaps you tried chile de agua stuffed with vegetables, cheese, chicken and nuts with Jamaica water to drink?

You can find Silvia and her business partner and sister Marcelina in their little cafe opposite the central market, and just down from the church. They open for business at 8am and don’t close again until around 11pm, 6 days a week – making the cafe an integral part of local life, and an essential stop for young couples to share tacos before heading home.

Silvia works with her sister and borrowing partner Marcelina. There are another 6 sisters in the family – no brothers. Of the eight sisters, five of them are active in the En Via microfinance programme, so we at En Via also feel part of the family! Silvia entered the program first and so far has received three interest-free loans, Marcelina has received two loans, and the two sisters have big plans for the future!

Silvia has used one of her interest-free loans to make block-work kitchen bench with a cooktop in her cafe so she has somewhere central to cook and prepare the taco ingredients. The sisters pride themselves on their taco fillings – they offer (among other things) chorizo, tinga de pollo and even braised pig’s brains (sesos) which is considered a delicacy in Mexico – and is also thought to help cure hangovers! 
Marcelina has over 35 years experience in making and selling tacos, so you can be sure this business has a fantastic reputation in Santo Domingo Tomaltepec.

silvia grupo 4 tomal

The sisters have also used their loans to purchase a long table and chairs – so more customers can sit down inside to enjoy a nice meal – and another gas cylinder. They used to have just one cylinder and so when they ran out of gas, not only did they had to shut down for the day, but they would lose whatever food they were cooking at the time. One time they ran out of gas when they were preparing rice, and they had to throw away the whole pot. Now that they have two gas cylinders they will always have a backup.

After taking our business classes Silvia also worked out that she wasn’t making any money on her tacos after all the costs had been added up. She then raised the cost of a taco to 6 pesos, instead of 5, so as to include her time in the price. She has told us this small change has allowed them to do other things within the business.

The sisters are also working on a side business in decorations – which makes sense when you realize just how many celebrations there are in the Mexican calendar!!

Recently Marcelina has been busy making vestidos for Niño Dios so he looked his best when he was taken to church to be blessed on February 2nd. Families could choose the style of garment from a catalog the sisters have, and then material from stock on hand. Several days later, their new garments would be ready.
The next decorations the sisters will make are for Valentines Day, which is especially important to the young people of the community. After that they will start preparing for Easter. In Mexico, there is always a festival or celebration to look forward to.
There is no doubt about it, Silvia and Marcelina are incredibly hard-working, and they have big plans for their En Via loans. Meeting these women is so inspirational and watching their businesses go from strength to strength has been fantastic to watch. So, if you are ever in Santo Domingo Tomaltepec, drop in to say hi to Silvia and Marcelina –  you now know where to get the best tacos around!


Written by Jodi Fleming
Jodi has been volunteering for several months at En Via – you may meet her leading a tour to visit our women borrowers in the different communities surrounding Oaxaca

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