En Vía is foundation that provides interest free micro loans to women in the small pueblos(villages) that surround Oaxaca. It’s amazing the impact 1,500 pesos or 81 U.S dollars can have for a woman and her small business. To learn more we went on a tour with En Vía to meet some of the women involved in the program and to see first hand the opportunities that are created by this foundation. On our journey, we visited two pueblos. The name of the first town was Tlacochahuaya where we met Cleotilde and her two daughters. Cleotilde sold garlic “ajos” in the local supermarket. Her two daughters aided her along with running their own catalogue business for shoes and perfumes.
Between visits to local businesses funded by En Vía, our tour group visited a local church in Tlacochahuaya named El Templo Parro Quial. Its construction began in the 16th century and was not completed until the 18th century. Spanish influences built this church with their primarily Zapotec audience in mind. As the native people were used to worshipping outside, the space allotted to the church courtyard was expansive, allowing space for hundreds if not thousands of worshippers to hear the Catholic sermons.
Inside the massive doors, walls and domed ceilings were adorned with art painstakingly painted by the Zapotec people.
Ascending a tight spiral staircase, we saw a beautiful German organ which had been partially melted down to make bullets and later restored.
After going to the church, we went to a restaurant that was funded by En Vía. Teresa was the owner of the restaurant and used the funding provided by En Vía to help defray the costs of creating a closed comal. There were a couple of dining options which were tlayudas or taco enchiladas with squash blossoms, mushrooms, quesillo, or chicken. After our quick lunch break, we visited a local seamstress in San Miguel whose name was Slyvia. Slyvia had used En Vía funding to help maintain more inventory and obtain more materials. We were shown a set of dresses that are unique to the women of San Miguel. This included wearing a specific embroidered apron on top of the traditional outfits.
The last two stops on the tour were both to weavers, both of whom sold rugs and table runners. The first weaver was a woman named Enedína, we were led to a darker, windowless room, where pieces of her work were laid out on a wide table or hung up on the wall behind her(pictured below).
Group discussion and questions tended to revolve around the natural and artificial dyes she used, and she showed us some of the materials she used to make her dyes, pointing out one of the pale yellows as derivative of the marigolds she picked and another of the yellows as coming from a sort of fibrous plant. We could not figure out what it was called in English though, but we were told that it grew naturally around the area. She boiled these materials in water for a while before removing them and submerging her uncolored yarn. Simply from looking around her work space, we saw long lengths of a plethora of color choices, though what created them was left unanswered.
Questions were asked about the content of her pieces. She pointed out one mat depicting a tree full of birds engaged in various activities(The tree of life), stating that it was among the more difficult ones to make, but were also more rewarding to create, especially because she created the design herself.
Afterwards, we were given a demonstration of how she worked the loom to create her designs and were even given the opportunity to try it out ourselves. Though she was polite and applauded our efforts, it was difficult to say exactly how well we actually did, especially since we noticed the grandmother carefully taking apart the extra lines of string we added after we were preparing to leave.
The second weaver,Honorina, also sold pillows and purses in addition to rugs and table runners, and the tour group decided on making a few purchases after our visit. Discussion turned towards how she sold her wares. Though she does not get a lot of visitors walking through her door, she and a few other weavers tended to get occasional orders of multiple large rugs, and she sold some of her wares in the market. Though there were a few tourists coming through to hike, she told us that they did not come into the town. Apparently, there was going to be a gathering of the town’s weavers as to how to drum up more business, perhaps finding a better method of displaying their wares to more potential paying customers.
The interest free loans provided by En Vía allow these women a better chance of providing for themselves and their families. The micro loans allow women to increase their inventory, work solely for themselves,obtain work spaces, and expand their businesses and ultimately increase their profits. For more information on En Vía and to donate go to http://www.envia.org
By: Subodh, Sidd, Steven, Keely, and Amanda