Words and photographs by Ehren Seeland
Folded hands rest on an oilcloth-covered table as a bouquet of chopped cilantro, onion and fresh tortillas fill our collective sniffers. Our Fundación En Vía tour group anxiously awaits the upcoming delicacies in Comedor Sn. Antonio – a restaurant and taqueria that sits just across from the market in Santo Domingo Tomaltepec.
Silvia and Marcelina serve as our vivacious hosts for the meal. Both share information around their family business as they assemble an infantry of tacos, complete with wedges of fresh limón. The sisters are two of the seven women that make up their siblings, with five of the seven actively taking part in the En Vía interest-free loan program. The pair have been in the taco business for over 30 years, however it was not until completing the comprehensive En Vía business classes that they began to see a growth in profit. Prior to the course, Silvia and Marcelina were not taking all areas of their business into consideration, including supplies, utilities and other aspects. Once the final numbers were calculated, it was evident that little to no profit was being made. With this in mind, they raised their taco prices from five to seven pesos each, ensuring that the costs are covered, but that they also pay themselves for their time and effort.
Comedor Sn. Antonio is open seven days a week from 8am to 6pm for comida and again from 8pm – 12am for tacos. The microloans have allowed the sisters to purchase a table and chairs, along with a tiled counter space and a new bathroom, which was installed in July 2015. Prior to this, clients used the bathroom in the family home, which is attached to the comedor. New plans are in the works for the purchase of a flat screen television so that customers can enjoy soccer matches and movies while noshing on everything from tylayudas to chiles rellenos. While operating as a dining establishment, the venue also acts as a social venue, with many young couples visiting for romantic time together. Business is steady and on a busy Saturday night, Marcelina notes that they normally sell upwards of 300 tacos.
In addition to her work with the eatery, Marcelina also makes decorations and crafts for various holidays, and has become well-known for this in their town of roughly 2,800 people. As most know in the pueblos, fiestas often call for a pretty frock, so Marcelina also sews dresses, which are on offer via an illustrated catalog for clients to peruse.
Bellies full and check paid, our group rises from the table and ambles down the street past shops of brightly colored toys and informative hand-painted murals. We continue en route to the tienda of Marina, another En Vía borrower and sister to Silvia and Marcelina. Our group is greeted with an amiable visage and additional evidence that family and business can indeed be a harmonious combination.