I have begun to think of the towns we work in as being sisters. Teotitlán is the big sister; with growing experience, and confidence in her stride. Diaz Ordaz is the middle sister; the one you might have expected to follow exactly in the older’s footsteps, but of course walks her very own path with pride and resolve. And so, I introduce Tlacochahuaya, the newest addition to the En Via family, as the little sister; full of potential, and hope, and the courage to join us in solidarity…
There was a breeze blowing a little dust about in the warm sun drenched streets when I first arrived in the town of San Jerónimo Tlacochahuaya, and this made me smile to myself, as I’d recently read that in the Náhuatl language, Tlacochahuaya describes a place of damp or wet soil, or of the swamp or marsh. Located just 25 kilometres from the city of Oaxaca, it is said that the town was founded in the year 1100 by a Zapotec warrior by the name of Cochicahuala, “el que pelea de noche”. I absolutely love that. “He who fights the night”. In 1566, the town was officially brought under the Spanish Crown and, under order of Hernán Cortés himself, work began on the construction of the Dominican Convent of San Jeronimo that still occupies a stately position in the centre of town. People come from all over the region to climb the narrow, winding stairs to reach the chamber that holds the ancient German made organ, said to be one of the finest examples of its kind in the world.
I want to introduce you to one of these women; Aurora Sanchez Angeles. Out of all the women in the room, she seemed to me to be the oldest in years. I gravitated towards her, perhaps seeking wisdom, perhaps invited by her young laughing eyes. Aurora. That’s a beautiful name I said, and meant it. “You think so? I don’t really like it”, she teased me. In Roman mythology Aurora is the Goddess that personifies the dawn. She comes across the heavens each morning to announce the arrival of the sun. This Aurora, of Tlacochahuaya, is 65 years old, and to me she suddenly represented all the new beginnings and relationships that were coming to light within this new extension of the program.
Aurora heard about En Via’s work from her niece who is one of our current borrowers in Teotitlan, and she and her family were interested in involving their own projects and businesses. At this point in our conversation Aurora brought out an armful of rustling garlic cloves, and as well as the familiar aroma, I imagined I could smell the very sun that had dried them in the field. Her and her husband, Manuel, have been growing and selling garlic and beans together since they married 46 years ago, and with this first loan with En Via she plans to buy fertilisers for the soil in order to boost their crops.
Her borrowing group of three will be made up of her, her daughter Jacelina and her daughter in law, Alma. The two younger women have started businesses selling Tupperware, clothes, perfume, and other gifts in the town. As we spoke, they were looking over at as affectionately and making welcome all the women who came to the house that afternoon to learn more about the program.
It seems that in even in such a small time, a matter of weeks, the women of Tlacochahuaya have reached out to us with such warmth. They express it in many ways; with open doors, smiles, jokes, and steaming hot bowls of coffee and bead. As I talk with them I can sense their excitement. The have received their first loans and now they will take up the challenge of investing them and using them as tools to make their own projects grow and create their own successes.
I am proud of the way that En Via’s program has expanded in this natural and meaningful way. We are now reaching more women and families and sharing and developing more than we ever imagined we could. And we are able to do this only by the support we have received from you all, our tour alumni, our friends, our followers and valued companions on the common road. I promise to share with you, the news of Aurora and all our new sisters in Tlacochahuaya as they experience these new challenges and new beginnings.