Words and photographs by Ehren Seeland
A late afternoon wind breathes over mountain peaks as our van of tour participants slows to a stop in front of a bakery in Santo Domingo Tomaltepec – a small community of roughly 2,800 people that sits 10km east of the city of Oaxaca. A woman dressed in navy and pink motions from a doorway, and we are ushered into a tidy kitchen flanked by turquoise ovens.
Angélica is an entrepreneur, baker, mother of two and active borrower in the Fundación En Vía interest-free microlending program. As we move through her kitchen to a back area that houses a tangerine delivery bike, Angélica laces her fingers together and shares highlights from her life.
With her early years often spent outside, Angélica would regularly gather flowers and sticks to decorate an ongoing series of handmade mud cakes. The ultimate childhood fantasy was to open her own bakery – a dream that came to fruition through concise planning, a free 10-hour baking class, dedication to her craft and access to microloans.
Angélica started her business with only two baking pans and one home oven. More kitchen supplies were purchased with her first round of loan money, which in turn increased production and coinciding sales. With the following loan for a larger sum and another subsequent increase in sales, Angélica was able to invest in a second oven and additional supplies, along with an umbrella-topped delivery bike to showcase her wares in a portable display case. Given that this shop is on wheels, she is able to ensure that she is strategically placed at various times of the day to encourage maximum sales. She also completes special orders for cakes and sweets for holidays, birthdays and other events.
Plans are now in the works to open a café in another location in the community that regularly sees more traffic. With this new addition, Angélica plans to offer hot drinks, tortas and a variety of baked goods, including the irresistible ‘little kiss’ cookies that are coated with cinnamon, sugar and a delicate sliver of fruit jam. At one peso a piece, our group loads up on cookies for the short ride back to the city. “I’m saving these ones for later,” a tour participant from California says, her little brown bag of cookies folded neatly in her lap.
Upon our return to the city of Oaxaca, all that remain are cinnamon crumbs and the story of a little girl with entrepreneurial dreams realized.