Luz Maria Gastilum is one of nine women who gather in Hacienda’s kitchen to make tamales for sale at farmer’s markets. // Photo by Teresa Meier
Despite the benefits, working co-operatively can be a challenge. “It’s all about trust,” says Alvarado. “Some women say: ‘I’m working more than she is.’” When the co-op launched, one woman donated napkins and plates she had purchased for her own tamale operation, then later decided she wanted to be paid for the donations. Biweekly meetings help resolve these and other problems.
Hacienda’s microenterprise program, which serves residents of the nonprofit’s affordable rental housing communities, has already seeded a green landscaping business. Although Hacienda currently pays for the tamale vendors’ farmer’s market licenses, the goal is for the co-op to become completely independent.
The co-op structure is a “big change” for the women, and Hacienda, says Alvarado. But as the tamale vendors segue from sole proprietors to group ownership, one benefit of the Micro Mercantes program has stayed the same. Says Lopez: “We show our families that we can bring money into the family and be examples for our daughters.”