Posts tagged ‘Mexico City’

Update from the Field: Life as a Fellow in San Francisco, a walk through an art fair + becoming part of a winning soccer team

Compiled by Isabel Balderrama | KF17 + KF18 | Bolivia

On this week’s update we have a great collection of posts describing some of our Kiva Fellows’ Class 18 arrival to their new and exciting field assignments. But first, we are treated to an article from an out-going fellow who takes us on a visually-pleasing journey through Mexico’s largest artisan fair. This week’s journey also takes us to Kosovo and to its capital Pristina, where we will learn more about this small new state in the Balkans. Then its off to Peru, where we are given the opportunity to learn more about Kiva’s goal of creating a global link between lenders and borrowers by examining one example: promoting community development through team sports. Yey for soccer! Finally, the narrative wouldn’t be complete without a Kiva’d up take on The Real World which you should read if you have always wondered what the famed week of fellows’ training in Kiva Headquarters, San Francisco is like. Enjoy!

Continue Reading 25 June 2012 at 09:00 6 comments

Hello Spring: It’s Time to Celebrate

Compiled by Kiyomi Beach | KF17 | Mexico

Whether shaking off the chill of winter, welcoming the rainy season, or experiencing any other climate change, the spring can definitely be a time to celebrate. Some countries celebrate big which can mean local business owners have a surge in income from selling items related to the festivities. Sales for new clothes, fabrics for costumes, candies, and specialty foods increase, which give some Kiva borrowers an extra reason to celebrate.

While we may all be familiar with some holidays or festivals, each culture celebrates what may seam like a familiar holiday differently. Some countries have celebrations that are uniquely their own, with the common threads being are family and fun. Lets see how a few of the fellows celebrated.

Continue Reading 20 April 2012 at 09:00 4 comments

The Subway Show

So this morning I get on the northbound subway leaving Ermita, heading to Chabacano. This is the Blue Line, heading from middle-class southern part of town toward the bustling center of Mexico City. There’s one seat, but the people around it are sort of spilling into it, so I stand.

Less than a minute into my ride, it starts — the beggars and vendors. The show can be pretty entertaining. In the first act, an indigenous woman walks through the car with a bunch of little cards, each one saying something to the effect of “Please help out by giving me a few coins.” She places them in people’s laps or in the hands of those that accept. I’m about two feet taller than she is, so I look straight ahead and pretend not to see her. After they’ve had time to read and consider, a girl who looks ten but is probably sixteen collects the cards and any change that people give. Not everyone is heartless — some give.

Next I hear percussion: one-two, one-two — a blind man is shaking a bucket with a few coins and shuffling very slowly down the aisle. A few more are added to his collection, and I ponder the precision of his pace. Faster, and people wouldn’t have time to feel the need, dig into their purse or pocket, and toss the coins into his bucket.

Continue Reading 19 April 2011 at 19:00 2 comments

A Post about Nothing

What’s up with blog posts? Why do they always have to be about something?  A post should be just like life. You know, nothing happens — you get up, you eat, you go shopping.

I asked myself, “John, what did you do today in Mexico City?”

My reply: “I got up and went to work.”

There’s a post!

You’re still with me? Impressive! Then on to the details, or rather, the non-details, of a day in the life of a regular everyday normal Kiva Fellow.

One thing I really like about Mexico is the food. Grasshoppers go very well with mescal!

I met up with CrediComún’s Kiva Coordinator (my KC) at the Observatorio metro station and we hopped the bus to Toluca. This smog-capped industrial city of about a million people is historically famous for producing chorizo, or Mexican sausage. It’s also surrounded by mountains — it’s beautifugly! The bus was plodding along a crowded frontage road next to a busy highway. We got off, walked under a bridge, passed a few rows of shops and found our CrediComún subsidiary.

After chatting for an hour, four of us (including two branch office managers) got into a car and drove off to visit some Kiva Entrepreneurs. First, a young woman with three small children. All have striking ojos chinos, or Asian eyes, a very photogenic family. The two year-old was sitting on a bucket on a chair eating pasta soup. I started my interview with her, asking about the soup. She was incredibly bright and cute and not shy at all. We moved on to talking about shoes — hers came from the shoes her mother sells out of their home. The line of credit her mother receives (yes, I had moved on from interviewing the little girl to the mother around this point) allow her to earn a decent living while being with her children. Before, she borrowed from another microlender. For a six-month loan, she paid 100% interest. Not 100% annualized, but over the six months she pays back twice as much as she borrowed. That’s around a 300% APR! With CrediComún she pays about 15% interest on a four-month loan, or around 70% APR. We did not want her to be late for her appointment to have her children vaccinated, so we didn’t stay too long.

Next we visited a woman in her fifties who sews out of her home and her mother’s home across the alley. The cameras were obviously making her nervous as she told us about how the loans had helped her situation. Then her eyes teared up as she spoke about her daughter who had left her baby with her a few years ago. The four-year old was crawling all over his grandmother throughout the interview. The cameras went off and we prepared to leave, and she showed us the jeans and industrial towels she makes. She waxed enthusiastic as she talked about the order for 30,000 towels she received from a nearby factory, and how she contracts another woman to help out and may be hiring others soon. If only we’d filmed that part!

The final visit was to a poor-looking house on a dead-end lane with what used to be a truck sitting out front. Chickens were clucking and a hateful dog on a short tether was barking and struggling violently to get at us. A preteen girl gave him a kick as we were invited into the house.

This client sells plates and cups and so forth out of her home. She didn’t want us to videotape the interview out of fear for her children. I explained that we would not upload photos of anyone but her, and never give her full name or her location, and that there already is a photo of her on Kiva’s site and that she had agreed to have it posted. She didn’t budge, and we proceeded with the interview. Her twelve-year old daughter had just begun sixth grade. The girl talked about how she wanted to be a doctor and planned to finish high school. I let her know she’d probably have to study a bit longer than that.

The dog barked the whole time, so it was just as well we didn’t record the interview. We had two great videos already and dozens of photos.

Next the four of us went to eat pozole (a hominy-based soup, as in “No pozole for you!”) at a successful-looking restaurant. One of the branch office managers told me that the owner is another CrediComún borrower, but because she has become so successful, the amounts she can borrow are too high to qualify as a Kiva borrower. At lunch we reviewed our amazing collection of videos and photos.

My KC and I walked back to the highway, were soon on the bus and I threw my backpack in the rack above our heads. Because she’s one of those people who have a lot to say, the time went by quickly. I told her about my late night of shooting pool and drinking mescal and eating chapulines (crunchy grasshoppers served with sliced oranges).

We looked out at the beautiful mountains and pine forests, and before I knew it we were on the subway heading back to the office. I realized something was wrong with my backpack – my flipcam was not there. Nor was my camera. We returned to the bus station to see if perhaps they had fallen out, and an hour later, the infinitesimal hope I held had gone to zero. After years of never having been a victim in Latin America (true, I’ve been overcharged!), I had finally been robbed. And the worst part by far, was the loss of all that precious data.

I felt like a jerk (in fact, the jerk store called and they are not running out of me!) because of the sheer carelessness on my part. Not only were those images perfect and meant so much to me and would have made this post so much better, but could the data in the wrong hands put those families at risk? Fortunately none gave their full names or neighborhoods and we didn’t take any outdoor shots, but the truth is, yes, it could.

So there it is. There’s a post. Just a bunch of people doing their day-to-day routines.

You can help by making a loan to a CrediComún client, joining Friends of CrediComún, or spreading the word about Kiva.

John Farmer is a Kiva Fellow working in Mexico City. He has watched way too many Seinfeld reruns in the past.

15 February 2011 at 15:00 4 comments

Bright Lights, Big City (Mexico City)

Imagine life as a Kiva Fellow. Imagine living in some remote location far removed from the distractions and temptations of modern city life. Imagine struggling with slow internet connections and power outages. Imagine rustic housing and domestic compromises. Imagine a life not unlike what you have been living for the past year in Timor-Leste, the young half-island nation still struggling with the challenges of post-conflict development.

Instead, you find yourself in Mexico City, a grand swirling explosion of a metropolis. Or perhaps even a megalopolis, a word you learned in seventh grade geography and have not had a chance to use nearly as often as you would have liked.

Continue Reading 5 May 2010 at 19:45 11 comments

How much is too much?

A lot of Kiva blogs have discussed the issue of interest rates and how much interest should be paid on a microfinance loan. But what about the size of the loan itself? It’s actually not that easy for an MFI to decide how much to lend to a client – if they lend too much, they fear the client won’t be able to pay back the loan, but if they lend too little, the client may not be able to achieve their business goals. For CrediComun, my MFI in Mexico, ensuring that their clients are not over-indebted is a major priority – they want to help their clients, not make their lives harder, and so they take loan size very seriously.

While visiting CrediComun clients this week, I met two that I think show how tricky this issue can be…

Continue Reading 9 April 2010 at 06:42 1 comment

Healthy Lending

By Julia Kastner, KF10 Mexico

Mexico shares a major problem with its northern neighbor.  No, I’m not referring to the drug trade, which has left 18,000 Mexicans dead since 2006 (see for more), although this is obviously Mexico’s biggest problem both socially and economically. In this case, I’m referring to obesity. According to a study by the OECD, 24.2% of Mexico’s population is obese, which makes Mexico the second-most obese country in the world, second only to the United States at 30.6%.


24 March 2010 at 16:10 2 comments

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