Community Voices in 2017
Our Puente community, from board members to strategic partners to community allies to staff members and volunteers, makes our work possible and helps us to strengthen our work and extend our reach. Here are some of their voices:
Puente Board Member
Puente is attentive and responsive to the needs of the families and communities they serve.
I am honored to be a member of Puente’s Board of Directors and have found that this is one of the best ways that I can give back to this innovative initiative and their hard-working staff.
We’ve found that having more board members on the ground in Mexico offers the organization further strategic support from folks who are more familiar with the local context. I personally have enjoyed deepening my relationships with the Puente staff, new and old, over the past three years. We are also lucky to have a diverse group of individuals from the U.S. and other Latin American countries offering their ongoing strategic guidance as an active and engaged Board. One of the most interesting aspects of Puente’s history is the way that they have been attentive to the needs of their partners in the communities they work with.
While the organization continues to work to decrease malnutrition and poor health, particularly in children, they have also initiated programs related to sustainable agriculture and collective economies to better the lives of the individuals and families that they collaborate with. One of the places that I offer my learnings and skills to the organization is by working together with the team to strengthen and deepen their relationships with one another and improve communication and listening. I look forward to seeing how Puente will continue to learn and grow as an organization and in relationship with the networks and community groups they partner with in the coming year.
Project Leader, Eco-
We progressed from an abandoned plot of land to a thriving eco-center.
I have been collaborating with Puente since June 2016, and am originally from the United Kingdom. My role has been to help develop Puente’s sustainable eco-center in Rojas de Cuauhtémoc, and it has been a truly fantastic experience.
When I first arrived at the land Puente hoped to develop, it had been left abandoned for about twenty years, and even to enter the terrain was a challenge due to all the thorny bushes awaiting us. Eighteen months later the land is completely different. Using a low impact approach we have managed to form an organic space which we hope will become the
building a new structure which will become our welcome center, a space where we can share our experiences with people from near and far, whether it be about organic agricultural practices, ecological construction or rainwater harvesting.
I have been lucky in this time to have been supported by some very wonderful people from all over the world. We have had volunteers from around twenty different countries, and they stay at the eco-center from two weeks and sometimes up to a few months, we live and work as a community, sharing chores, living quarters and food.
We also have a strong presence here in the community, we gave classes this summer in the village library, I play on one of the communities soccer teams and we are often invited to family parties, and as time goes by more and more people are spending time with us at the eco-center. This cultural exchange is an essential part of the work we do, and I believe that in the long run it will bear fruit so that we will be able to offer people a practical and environmentally friendly vision of the world we live in.
I’m inspired by the grassroots work Puente does of promoting the production, consumption and commercialization in the Mixteca Alta and Central Valleys of Oaxaca.
Chef of Restaurant Origen, Winner Top Chef Mexico
Amaranth is an innovative ingredient, we will keep using this innovative and socially conscious grain in our recipes.
Oaxaca is distinguished in its culinary traditions for many reasons; there are unique flavors that come from ingredients only available here in Oaxaca, such as chiles, herbs, heirloom corn, and cacao that are endemic to this area. This culinary diversity is what differentiates Oaxaca from every other state in Mexico. At our restaurant, Origen, our philosophy is using local and endemic products to emphasize the flavors of these ingredients.
Cooking with amaranth was a great experience because it is an innovative ingredient, it has a neutral flavor so it can be combined in almost any dish. I was impressed that we could substitute amaranth for other proteins such as meat.
We learned that by using amaranth as a main ingredient we did not lose any nutritional value. Our cooks experimented with a number of recipes, and I especially loved the aguas frescas. We make amaranth hochata frequently. Another interesting recipe was a chocolate cake with amaranth our instead of wheat our, we made an amaranth cake with amaranth ice cream and an amaranth bar. Amaranth is a versatile ingredient with special properties. You can play with it in sweet and salty preparations; it combines well in desserts, aguas frescas, mole, and more.
It is also very low cost, which is important so that people can afford to incorporate it into their daily cooking. In addition, we were motivated to experiment with amaranth because we know that Puente is helping to create jobs, sustain families, and build a stronger Oaxaca.
We want to keep using this sustainable and socially conscious grain in our recipes. I would recommend experimenting with amaranth in the kitchen just as you do with lentils and potatoes, the flavor is in your hands to create.
After farmers in our community got sick using chemicals to grow crops, we started growing amaranth using organic methods with Puente’s help.
My husband and I have been growing amaranth for three years now, and we have taught many other farmers in my community about amaranth and organic growing methods.
My husband was an agronomist for a long time, and so when the government started a program for senior citizens to grow tomatoes he was elected to be in charge. The problem was the growing methods involved a lot of chemicals, and a lot of the farmers got sick. So after that, we decided to start working with Puente.
Puente has taught us different organic growing methods which we much prefer, from bio- pest control to using bocachi and other compost that we make.
Based on our success growing amaranth, I decided to start growing amaranth leaves for sale this year. We saw an opportunity because no one else was selling these leaves, and they are a miracle with plenty of iron and calcium, I cook them in soup and all kinds of different recipes and we are both healthy.
Together with Puente’s help, we sold our amaranth leaves in different restaurants in Oaxaca. It was exciting to see how the chefs were happy about the quality of the product, and earned us some extra income. I even had the chance to speak at a Slow Food event organized to spread the word about amaranth leaves.
This project has helped me grow my leadership, but most importantly, I feel it is contributing to my family’s health and the health of my community.