Last week, 9 women in the town of Santo Domingo Tamaltepec graduated from the business classes and received their first loans with En Via. We are delighted to welcome these women into the program and are looking forward to getting to know them and their community in the coming months.
The word Tomaltepec means “On the hill of tomatoes” in Náhuatl, and apart from tomatoes, this town of a population of 2,061 also enjoys the production of corn and beans. And while half of this population dedicates itself to agriculture, we learnt the other 50% are dedicated to making bread or working leather. In fact, in April the town enjoys a festival, la Feria del Pan y Talabarteria, to honour these two industries and to give the producers a chance to showcase their talents. “Oh, so the bread and tamales are like the ones from Tule?” Carlos asked, casually referring to a neighbouring town. “They are much better than those!” Said one woman, Florina, with a smile and obvious pride.
When they came to receive their loans, Carlos spoke to the group. All eyes were on him, and apart from his voice it was so quiet that I could hear the crickets in the patio. I felt immediately that this group was entering the program with all seriousness as well as enthusiasm. Carlos spoke about the importance of collective solidarity and efforts, as they move through this new process and experience together, and I saw a few warmly encouraging looks exchanged amongst the group members.
After saying our goodbyes, it took us a half hour to walk back to the car because everyone we met on the corners wanted a chat. My first impressions of the town were of these kind women. I noted the narrow unpaved streets, swept clean, with rusty old bicycles, crossing at every angle. Fertile fields were in the foreground and the city lights of Oaxaca in the valley beyond.
We were invited to a town party that was held last week to honour their patron Saint. At this event the women of Santo Domingo shared a unique tradition with us. Imagine 40 honoured women waltzing through town holding small structures called castillos (castles) above their heads from which large amounts of fireworks shoot off in all directions. Quite a dangerous, but I image, exhilarating responsibility. En Via’s very own Armando attended the festivities, and will forever be marked by Santo Domingo, after a large firework ember fell on his shoulder!
We look forward to learning more about the town's traditions and the community as we begin this relationship with its businesswomen. I have no doubt that their participation will bring about unique developments and new potential for everyone involved. I will keep you updated, friends and supporters, as we break bread with the women of Santo Domingo Tamaltapec.