We met Alejandra a few months ago when we were on the Investours microfinance tour. Investours is a non-profit organization that leverages the resources generated by tourism to promote economic development in the communities surrounding Puerto Vallarta (and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania). Here in Bucerias visitors are taken to meet the local artisans who have applied for micro-loans to develop their small business projects, and Alejandra was one of the applicants. There are further details regarding the Investours operation on this site under Volunteering.
Where are you from originally?
I am from Mexico City.
When did you come to Bucerias?
I first came to Bucerias about 25 years ago because I had family members living here who could help me find work. I grew up in the home of a third-generation baker and have always had a love for cooking and baking. I worked in my family’s bakery, as well as a cook in many different types of restaurants.
Are you married, and any children?
Yes I am married, and I have 4 daughters and – 9 grandchildren!
Which colonia do you live in?
I’m in Colonia Lomos Bonita, I’m on Calle Juan Escutia #8, and this is also where I work. This street is just after the bus station on the northbound lateral, and it is pretty steep!
Tell us what you do there.
I bake breads in the wood-burning oven which I had built outside of my home. I sell this bread from home and also from a basket I carry on my arm as I walk through Bucerias centro. In addition, I often make and sells tamales, and flan, and cake and I can cater for private events. I am a trained cook and can prepare a wide variety of cuisines for individuals or parties.
How did you learn about Investours?
I met Investours staff members at a loan disbursement meeting with a microfinance organization called Sé Más – which no longer exists. Elly Rohrer, the Director of Investours, was working in collaboration with Sé Más and discovered I was a small business owner, so invited me to be featured on one of their tours. They said I had a big personality!
In what way did you want them to help you?
Well I know my bread and everything I make is really good! But there’s only me in this business. So all the time I’m baking, I can’t be out selling my products. I don’t have a car so I can only cover a limited area walking around, and of course that takes a lot of time. I felt I needed help reaching a bigger number of people to sell to, but I didn’t know how to begin.
So what happened next?
I became one of the places, the businesses, that Investours would bring groups of visitors to. I think in the past 2 years I’ve participated in approximately 30 tours. I have shown people from all over the world how to make traditional Mexican breads step-by-step. I am very meticulous to demonstrate all components of my recipes. Visitors say I should have my own cooking show!
Have you seen a big increase in clients, and therefore profit, in your business?
Yes. I now have a lot more customers for my daily baking, I have repeat customers, plus the opportunity to cater large events for people I’ve met on the tours.
It’s obviously more work – Are you happy with the changes?
Oh yes! It is an honor to me that people who are not Mexican can taste and fall in love with authentic Mexican foods, and I am thankful to be able to share my recipes. I don’t mind the extra work because I am very happy with the increase in sales!
What about the future: will you expand/take on someone to help/use the money for your kids’ education?
All of my children are already adults, but I am in charge of raising one of my grandsons, he is 6 years old. I am proud that I am able to support my family with the money I make through my own business. And of course I re-invest in my baking materials. One day, I would like to own my own home and have a professional-standard bakery. At that time of course then I would need to take on someone to help me.
We are very impressed with your oven – and even more so with the story behind it! Please tell us.
Since I grew up in a family of bakers, I had always used a certain type of oven, one that I could not find when I arrived here in Bucerias. So I hired a man to build this oven from scratch. The square base of the oven is made with bricks, sand, glass and salt, layered to retain heat. On top of this base is a dome made of specialty bricks, sugar, clay and sawdust. These materials keep the dome from cracking and help regulate the heat. This oven looks like an igloo and has a small door, through which I add the logs. The man who made the oven made it from the inside and then had to get out through that small door – and he was in his 80s ! And when I had to move house, to here, he took it all down from the other place and reassembled it here. I hope he’ll be round for my next move!
So your source of heat is from the cut wood only?
Yes – I bake complex breads and pastries using only heat from the wood fire. I used to always place my breads on baking trays because the base of the oven was unfinished. On one of the tours, I said that I’d like to finish the oven so that I could bake things like pizzas right on the floor of the oven. One of the tour participants generously made a donation to cover this cost – it turns out she too is a baker! She has become a good friend and we share meals and recipes whenever she is in town.
How can we get in touch with you to place our orders?
I will be selling traditional breads from my home here on Juan Escutia between 2 – 5pm every weekday this fall. I welcome anyone who is interested to stop by. I am also happy to cater events and take orders for meals and desserts, and I make excellent birthday cake too! So please call me, my cell: 322 294 6813.
Thank you Dona Alejandra and we wish you every continued success.