Friday, February 18, 2011

Teotitlan and the En Via Microfinance Project

Today may be the best thing we'll do while we are here. We signed up for a tour of the weavers in Teotitlan who are participating in a micro finance project sponsored by En Via. Actually it was not only weavers, but also a dress maker, a restaurant owner and a poultry vendor. The cost of the day is $50 US and all of the funds go directly into loans to be given out to entrepreneurial women in the village with whom we visited. Part of the agreement to participate in this program is that the women be willing to give two presentations to the En Via tourists about their work and what their loan will be used for. They receive their loan the following Tuesday and the Tuesday after that must begin to pay it back. The interest rate is zero percent.

Our first stop was at a restaurant in Teotitlan. The woman who made our lunch, Conception, explained that the money form her loan would be used to fix the leaky roof on her restaurant. This will be her third loan from En Via. Most of us ordered a local specialty called a tlayuda ... in this instance a sort of folded Mexican pizza. We pronounced Conception's tlyaudas the best in all of Oaxaca.After lunch we headed for the church in the center of the village. The Spaniards built the church on top of an old Zapotec pilgrimage site. Stones from the old Zapotec temple were used to build the church and are revealed in openings in the white stucco. The Zapotec design patterns of the rugs have their origin in these carvings.

It was here at the church that we met our next host, Eulalia, who guided our van up to her very small home in the hills above Teotitlan. Here in this small room this weaver lives and works. The huge wooden loom and spinning wheel take up most of the room in her home, but she made us feel cozy and welcome as she explained her craft to our group of 8. The dyes are all natural ... the brownish yellows from the skins of pomegranates, the brilliant reds from the cochinilla a parasitic worm of the prickly pear cactus. Eulalia explained to us that this was her third loan from En Via and that she would be using part of it to purchase chochinilla which is very expensive and part of it to purchase a water tank for her roof. Until recently she would have to carry her water up from the river, but now there is town water that runs in pipes along the street next to her house, but she must have a water tank to make it accessible to her home.All in all we visited the home of 6 women all in various stages of growing their businesses. We appreciated their hospitality and their warmth in welcoming us into their homes. Because of this extra margin of money, some women are able to pay for the uniforms to send their children to school, an option not open to them before. The money to fund these women comes directly from the money we paid for our tour.

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