Empowering Women in San Cristóbal

Bernal visited Cultivating for Community along with representatives from the USDA, the Chicopee and Springfield school districts, and Food Bank staff.

This past October The Food Bank was honored to host Luisa Escobar Bernal from San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas Mexico. An entrepreneur and community organizer, Bernal was in the United States to study the strategies of small businesses, agriculture, and nonprofits. Her goal is to adapt some of these strategies to strengthen economic stability in her home city by creating a collective of women entrepreneurs to share resources and knowledge.

A brightly painted neighborhood in San Cristóbal de Las Casas.

Women are leading the charge in Mexico, making up 65% of the country’s successful entrepreneurs. As to why so many women see success in their ventures, Bernal explains, “We as women have always been self-managed. We work with what we have.”

However there are still considerable barriers preventing many from finding the success they need to support themselves and their families. The most common reasons reported by women in Bernal’s research are a lack of knowledge of the market and a lack of time.

Through the creation of a collective of women entrepreneurs, Bernal hopes to address both through mentoring, peer support, formal training, and the informal sharing of knowledge and resources.

Luisa Escobar Bernal

The breadth of knowledge available in her own community is vast, with hopeful participants from lawyers and accountants to teachers, nutritionists and engineers. Many are hoping to revive the communities dwindling agricultural sector, pushing back against tourist motivated development to preserve centuries old growing spaces and methods.

Bernal plans to officially launch the collective in March of 2024 with a group of 20 or so women, a mix of current and aspiring entrepreneurs. “Women are stronger together,” Bernal explains “not only in San Cristóbal but everywhere.”