Greetings from Zacatecas, capital city of the state of Zacatecas, Mexico!
I have spent the better part of the week camped out in this fine colonial city to continue to bring ADMIC journal updates to Kiva lenders. Yesterday, I met Maria de la Luz and learned about her family’s potato chip making business.
This should have been a fantastic journal update for some Kiva lender but sometimes the great work of a microfinance institution (mfi) like Mexico’s ADMIC is not funded by Kiva dollars. As I am sure has happened to other fellows, the microfinance partner staff are so excited to introduce you to one of their most interesting and industrious clients that you are swept up in the moment only to return to your laptop after lots of walking, two buses and a taxi to discover (gasp!) of the 18 Maria de la Luz’s using ADMIC/Kiva funds for their business, the Maria de la Luz who makes potato chips in Zacatecas is not one of them. So in honor of all of ADMIC’s work, this a Kiva fellows blog entry. Not to mention I will take advantage of more room for pictures to share the story.
Six years ago Maria de la Luz, her parents and her brother began a potato chip making business. Her brother had worked for another person making the chips and convinced the family to get involved. The brother is no longer a part of the business but Maria de la Luz and her parents are still doing the daily labor of making the chips. For those of you have traveled in Mexico, you have likely seen folks selling chips in clear brand-free plastic bags, on the side of the road, in front of schools, on the bus, in the market. I always just thought folks bought huge bags of Lay’s and broke them down into smaller bags for re-sale. Maybe that happens, but I may have just been missing some of the finest potato chips Mexico has to offer.
Maria de la Luz and her family buy potatoes by the ton- typically six tons- to last them just about two months. The process is reasonably simple using only potatoes, oil and salt, but incredibly labor intensive. It sounds like simple but check out these pictures to get an idea of the work.
Every morning her parents are up by 7am cleaning the potatoes and removing the skins. I got there in the afternoon, so missed this step. Here are the potatoes they keep for the process.
The potatoes are put into a slicer for…slicing. The pieces fall into a vat where they are cleaned.
From there the slices are poured into a huge vat of boiling oil presided over by her mom. The oil is changed a couple times a day to ensure it is fresh and the flavor consistent. When the color is right, Maria de la Luz’s mom sweeps them out of the fryer and sets them aside for cooling, a dash of salt and ole! potato chips!
Maria de la Luz then takes the boxes to the shop and bags them up for distribution.
I hope the scrappy pics do some justice to the work that I got to see. This family barely breaks even if the cost of potatoes or oil gets to high. They appreciate the loans from ADMIC. It has allowed them to purchase potatoes when times are rough and the equipment they needed to get the business started. ADMIC has been providing microloans in Mexico for over thirty years. They have branch offices throughout the country. ADMIC is one of Kiva’s long standing partners for the last 2.5 years.