LIFE STORY: RITA DE LUNA CALDERÓN
I was born into a humble and hard working family. I am the oldest of five siblings. My parents were born in communities and families poorer than my own. This meant that they did not have the opportunity to go to school and have a better quality of life but only to live out in the field, working hard, sometimes feeling hungry and cold, having to endure the difficulties caused by harsh weather.
Thanks to them, who thought of their children and did not want us to live as they did, we were provided more opportunities in life when they decided to move to a nearby town to offer us something better so that as my father said “we didn’t have to suffer as much as they did”.
Nevertheless, being the oldest child I was not allowed to go to school because I had to help my mother with household chores. I have always been an entrepreneur, I say this with pride because since I was a little girl I worked not only in what I was made to do but also I looked for other work and did not give up just because I wasn’t allowed to go to school. I would sneak behind my fathers back to go school and he would find me and bring me back home to help my mom, but by persistently sneaking back I managed attend classes until the end of fifth grade.
As I grew up I became quite embarrassed, I was thirteen years old and still in elementary school so I decided to quit. At fifteen I managed to get my elementary school diploma through an open program that lasted three months. I enrolled in nighttime high school meant for working students and finished at nineteen. I then completed a technical degree. It was at this point when I decided to go out make a life for myself since by then we were doing alright, my parents had a business and home of their own so all our basic needs were met. I wanted to know what I was capable of doing so I decided to go to another city and fight for something, though at the time I didn’t know exactly what that was.
A lot of doors opened for me, from my first day of work. At six months I was promoted and I lasted ten years at that company. I got married and had two children; both my husband and I worked a lot and had little free time to spend with our family. That was when I decided to look for other opportunities. I moved back to my hometown where I started to work for my parents. When I realized that this is not was I wanted, I decided to start a business of my own.
That was how I decided to make my own products; the first one was “pinole” (a typical pre-Hispanic drink made of toasted ground corn, cocoa, sugar and cinnamon), which I began selling to family and friends. The product was well liked and I was receiving orders periodically. I saw the opportunity to expand the business and began looking for clients in corner shops, street markets, butcher shops and cheese shops. Something very important happened then: I was invited to send my product to an exposition in Mexico City, it was sold out in only a day! That’s when I knew what I wanted: to start a family business though which we could all make a living but most importantly to preserve Mexican traditions. Almost nobody was making pinole anymore, this rarity made it very well liked.
It hasn’t been easy. I’ve run into a lot of walls and have had to overcome many difficulties. The first was when I became a widow, left to care for three young girls on my own. Additionally, it’s hard to find financial aid since as sad as it is to admit you have to have contacts, be acquainted with the right people to have access to these opportunities. Nevertheless, my project has grown, my daughters help me but I’ve also managed to provide employment for others both directly and indirectly.
Nowadays we are a company chain that has come together thanks to our dedication and commitment to keep this company afloat. With time we have innovated and expanded our product line, our new products have been accepted very well by our clients. Production remains artisanal, our products are made of 100% natural ingredients with no preservatives. We’ve also though of people with diabetes and developed products catered to their needs. We’re moving forward. We’re constantly trying to stay competitive by offering better products, keeping in mind of course that their originality and success is tied to their traditional origins. I want my products to continue to awaken people’s desire for traditional tastes and to be known by the emerging generation.
There is still a lot left to accomplish. I’d like for the business to keep growing, to rescue other traditional products by commercializing them and having them known by people in faraway places. I believe that I have not given up trying and never will. There is a lot to do; it is my ambition to prove that just because we are a family of woman we don’t have to leave our home and our children to go out to work. We can do this here at home, and do it well; we can set an example for many women who have the need to go out to work but are not allowed to do so by their husbands. I would like for those women to look at us and see that it can be done, that even though we’ve has a lot of stumbles and falls we always get up and move forward. I’ve been working from home for over ten years now. I like my job; it has given me a great deal of satisfaction and allowed me to accomplish many goals, I know that I’ll accomplish many more because I have the will to move forward. I hope that my work will help more women decide to change their lives and though hard work provide better opportunities for their children, to feel empowered, important and valued…. but most of all to feel proud to be women.
I started making 20 to 40 pounds of pinole, now I make half to one ton of pinole. I also make pipían powder and paste, horchata and metate chocolate. Everything is offered in different presentations to attend meet the diverse needs and budgets of our target market. I am well established, even though my workshop is small my products are exported and that drives me to never stop moving forward.
Rita De Luna Calderón