It's the smell of warm corn, which mostly reminds me of my time in Oaxaca, Mexico. Corn is actually woven into the structure of Mexican culture and everyday life. In rural areas of Mexico, this relationship is even stronger. Originally cultivated 10,000 years ago, indigenous cultures maintain a link to their past, such as growing herbaceous varieties and maintaining a diet full of corn in every form. Although I spent a lot of time in the past in Mexico, only when I volunteered in the Oaxaca Valley, I found out what corn is tasting as if it were fresh every day, and then pushed it into a variety of delicious meals. Tortillas were the most common, but I also eaten thrown out of the tap and even dense and warm in a chocolate drink called champurrado. But this is not the story of corn, though it has been so long with the women I met. Instead, it is the story of microfinance and the impact one organization has on empowering women to build strong businesses and prosperous communities.
Let's start at the beginning. The city of Oaxaca is a popular tourist destination and is also a Mexican state with the highest concentration of native cultures. Poverty in the country is higher than in other Mexican states, and tourism is mostly concentrated on the coast and in the city of Oaxaca itself. In recent years, many cities have begun to introduce ecotourism programs as a way to get tourism deeper into the valley – that extends tourism revenue to rural towns, towns and villages. In practice, this means that even remote villages often have clean, furnished cabanas and guide services ready to take hikes along the dry, rolled Sierra Norte Mountains. In addition to ecotourism, cultural tourism is growing. Trends change. Responsible tourism is a viable, growing industry. And travelers are now looking for ways to enjoy their vacation, but also to experience regional culture and languages.
The En Vita Tourism Model allows organizations to use resources from tourism to steer them in communities, while at the same time bringing people together with the ideas, strength and strength of women who are trying to improve their future.
Through friends and readers, I found the Fundación En Viva before I arrived in Oaxaca. And when I understood the goal and goals of the organization, I decided to dedicate myself to the work of an organization that supports education and microfinance for women in the Oaxaca Valley. More than just loving my work, I loved her Model uses microfinance and touring programs to implement. Oaxac's year-round tourism allows the foundation to use cultural tours as a source of financing interest-free microcredit for women in six municipalities east of Oaxaca. Tours take place several times a week in communities, and these tours provide credit for more than 300 women. Without En Vita, other credit programs account for up to 200 percent of interest – impossible amounts in areas affected by poverty. And yet, even just $ 80 to $ 200 of foregone money provides women with the necessary capital to expand their business, purchase items with a mass discount or even take on the risk of a new business. In addition to microcredit, women participate in seminars on various topics and have the support of their colleagues and the small En Vita team at every stage.
I loved the structure and the idea of using tourism as a force for sustainable social change. So there was a way to support the mission's mission. Happy was on my side. When I came, two volunteer photographers were leaving. This allowed me to fill the gap. Once a woman borrows money, a photographer visits her to photograph her with her recent purchases. These photographs serve three purposes: provide permanent proof of how women spent a loan, provide feed for marketing and promotional materials, and photos allow organizations to remain present in these women's lives.
I spent six months in Oaxaca and during that time I dared to join the community once or twice a week. These communities are primarily Zapotec, a pre-Columbian civilization that dates back more than 2500 years (many archaeological sites remain scattered throughout the region). And although Zapotec is the first language for most of the woman I met, they all talked to me in Spanish. My job was to photograph women, but I listened to their stories even more, I crazed home-made ice cream with my children, and I laughed at my dirty Spanish. Over the weeks and months, I was deeply aware of their ambition and perseverance. Several of these women functioned as community ambassadors who welcomed me to their homes when I visited them and walked through my pipes with hot tortillas, mosquito.
Below are the stories of these female lives. When you read about purchasing microfinance and fair trade, your purchasing power affects the lives of women, such as the profiles below. I have a deep respect for the work that En Vida is doing to support women in these communities. And even more, I love how the organization offers a responsible way for tourists to learn about the fascinating native cultures and customs of Mexico.
Over the many months I have spent in Oaxaca, my time with women is in the En Viva microfinance program that most deeply shapes my memories of this beautiful part of southern Mexico. I traveled through many other parts of Mexico, from Yucatan to my small beach town on the west coast. This time, however, I left Mexico with a gentle look at peoples and cultures. It's through a deep connection with other people I found in the most transformative way. These women have welcomed me to their homes. They shared food, stories and laughter. I can only hope I could come back the same way they offered me.
Visit En Vina in Oaxaca, Mexico
What: Fundación En Vita offers tours for visitors who are interested in having a look at rural life in Oaxaca, Mexico. Tours last most of the day, and each tour deals with four women in several communities supported by Eniva's microfinance program. At each stop, tourists chat with one of the borrowers, get acquainted with her craft, trade, or traditional food preparation. The whole a travel fee is used 2.5 times to finance micro-loans for women. Once it is borrowed and repaid twice, for the first time 50% of the fee goes back to the loan and 50% is paid for a handful of staff who run the foundation.
Where: En Vita's main office is located in the central part of Oaxaca. If you book a tour, you can travel from Oaxaca to the Tlacolula Valley where women live.
When: The organization operates guided tours twice a year all year round and offers extraordinary trips during the high season.
Volunteer: En Viva accepts long-term volunteers in a number of specializations. Those who fluent in Spanish can act as guides. Basic knowledge of Spanish is required for volunteers in the field of photography. The foundation runs English language courses for children in two cities and always needs teachers. And those who have other skills can e-mail and discuss whether there is a chance to work with a special capacity program (I've met volunteers with specializations in health, construction, computers, etc.).
This Travel Story (Small Portrait … Microfinance Stories from Women in Oaxaca Valley, Mexico) first appeared on Travel with little enemies
Blog, thank you for the trip. 🙂