On International Women’s Day, here is a look at three remarkable female entrepreneurs who came to Yucatán challenging the meaning of “women’s work” in a socially conservative society.
Tatiana Echcheverría Delgado, a Cuban immigrant’s success story
Born and raised in Santa Clara, Cuba, Tatiana Echcheverría Delgado obtained a bachelor’s degree in economics. But given the lack of work in her field in her home country, she decided to embrace her artistic side and open a shop selling ceramics, wood carvings, paintings, and other crafts.
Struggling to make ends meet, and chafing under Cuba’s totalitarian system, Tatiana and her family decided to leave the country with their son.
“We wanted something better for our son and for ourselves. Making a dignified living in Cuba is virtually impossible, so we decided to take the plunge,” said Tatiana.
The young family emigrated to Mexico in 2019 via Central America as undocumented migrants, but have since been able to legalize their status.
Once they arrived in Mérida, Tatiana and her husband, Urbi, found it hard to find meaningful employment, so they decided to start businesses of their own.
“In early 2020 I talked my husband into the idea of starting up an ironwork shop and investing what little money we had in tools,” recalls Tatiana.
Tatiana and her husband, who is also an artist, got to work and began marketing their work online. Especially popular were Tatiana’s decorative iron plant holders designed to resemble animals, stars, and the moon — as well as one resembling Frida Kahlo.
“We have by no means made ourselves rich, but the business has grown and we are very happy to be in Mérida and have the opportunity to work to get ahead,” said Tatiana.
Martha Correa, a Tabasqueña in Mérida who started her business ‘from scratch’
Originally from Tabasco, Martha has lived in Yucatán since she was a teenager when she came to study in Mérida.
She worked as an administrator at a local business for 15 years until she lost her job as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I was extremely worried. I had always been very focused on work, and then, all of a sudden I was unemployed,” said Martha.
Having long been an animal rescuer, Martha turned to her furry pals for inspiration. Eventually, she hit on the idea of using her creativity to build and design cat scratchers and multi-level “trees” out of high-quality materials.
“I knew from experience that stuff made for cats was getting extremely expensive and was of very poor quality, so I decided I could do better,” said Martha.
She began building cat toys and multi-level platforms to market online, and after just a couple of weeks, orders began to flood in.
“It is extremely gratifying to go out on a limb and have it work out,” said Martha. “These days I am barely keeping up with all of the orders I am receiving. I am just thrilled.”
Martha does not yet have a social media presence, but her creations can be found on Facebook Market Place.
Marlene Collí Diaz, revitalizing the family business
Born in Muna, Yucatán, near the ancient city of Uxmal, Marlene Collí Diaz has always had a knack for plants.
She spent much of her childhood in the fields around her home, in the company of her parents, grandparents, and great-grandmother, who was a well-known X’men — a traditional Maya healer who uses plant-based remedies as a main tool.
Marlene studied marketing in Mérida and currently has two jobs, one with the state agriculture commission, and another at her family’s business — an enormous greenhouse begun by her father on the outskirts of Valladolid.
“I have four daughters and am extremely proud of each and every one of them, they are amazing women,” said Guadalupe Collí, Marlene’s father.
Many in the community told Don Guadalupe that having no boys in the family would likely mean the end of the business. This however could not have been further from the truth. Thanks to the work of Marlene and her three sisters, the business has been doing better than ever before.
“The greenhouse has always been a wonderful place, but my sisters and I brought in some fresh ideas. We started to do way more marketing online and in the real world. We started to get more landscaping projects for hotels in Valladolid and Tulum, as well as selling other products such as decorative pots,” said Marlene.
When asked if anyone has ever given her a hard time for the type of work she is doing, which involves more than a fair bit of heavy grubby labor, Marlene responds with a smile, “a woman’s place and work are wherever the heck she wants it to be.”
Thanks to Yesica Benitez Chan for her assistance in researching this article.