By Susan Bean Aycock • Photos by Kim Groves
Dreams come in all sizes. In the newest coffee shop in Teotitán del Valle, the space may be small but the dreams behind it are huge.
Enter Fundación En Vía. As one of the program’s first borrowers nearly four years ago, Teresa (Tere to her friends and family) received four successively larger loans to grow the family weaving business. Wanting to set herself apart from other vendors who sold virtually the same products, she began buying diversified inventory on trips to visit her father in San Miguel de Allende.
Then came the leap of faith to realize her long-time dream open a café – and two more En Vía loans to help make that a reality.
Like nearly three quarters of the 6,000 or so people who live in Teotitlán, Tere became a weaver by virtue of being born into a family of weavers. So was her husband, whose family owns the house where four generations of artisans live and work – and which now features a coffee shop up front.
In this Zapotec town, weaving has been the town’s primary business since well before the Spanish came with their large treadle looms that quickly replaced the inhabitants’ traditional backstrap looms. Children here begin weaving at an early age, learning the ins and outs of fiber, dye and complicated patterns at the feet of their parents and grandparents.
Even with En Vía loans to carve out and paint part of the family home to create the café, it hasn’t been easy to open a new business. Said Tere on grand opening day April 18, bustling to make coffee in her yellow plaid apron, “We’ve learned by making mistakes. I even used my own dishes at first before I realized we’d have to buy coffee cups and things just for the café.
“And the coffeemaker, that’s a whole other story. We bought a regular home coffeemaker but it just wasn’t made for use all day, and it burned up the first week we were open.
People were already coming in for business, though, and we thought, ‘We can’t close already; we’ve just opened!’ But we also didn’t know how we would buy a new one. In the end, we arranged a family loan to buy an industrial coffeemaker”.
Tere’s dedication to her dream and persistence to make it work, despite setbacks such as the coffeemaker, have earned her admiration from both the community and from En Vía. “Teresa has done an excellent job transitioning from weaving to opening a café,” says En Vía founder and Executive Director Carlos Hernandez Topete.
Indeed. In this town which has no movie theatre, shopping mall or night club (or bank or fabric store for that matter), there’s now a place to relax with a friend or date. A cup of coffee at Dalízùn costs 17 pesos (about $1.40), a cappuccino 22 pesos (about $1.75) and a fruit frappé of lime, cucumber and crushed ice is made one at a time in a blender. Tere also serves up tortas (sandwiches) of cheese, spicy pork, sausage or turkey ham, as well as Oaxacan favourites, tlayudas and quesadillas.
Juggling finances is a constant concern as the family struggles to keep the new business going – and most supplies are available only in Oaxaca City, an hour bus ride away. Tere’s husband, Manuel, weaves in the family business, works part-time as a taxi driver and occasionally gets to indulge in his passion of playing percussion with a local band.
“We have many worries about money,” says Tere, who someday would like to expand the family besides their one son Manuel, 4, but wants to wait until income is a little more stable. “Still, being able to have this cafe is a dream come true.”
Today, Dalízùn has two tables. Tomorrow? It may still have only two tables. But then, dreams come in all sizes. After all, even Starbucks started somewhere.*
* The first Starbucks was opened in 1971 to sell coffee beans in Seattle’s Pike Place Market by two teachers and a writer. Later bought out by an entrepreneur who wanted to offer a European-style café experience to Americans, it is the largest coffee house company in the world, with nearly 20,000 stores in 58 countries.