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Women In The Tequila Industry: Ana Valenzuela by M.A. “Mike” Morales

We continue our Women In The Tequila Industry series with arguably the most recognizable Tequila Boss Lady in the business–

Dr. Ana Valenzuela.

Apart from her many accomplishments (briefly summarized in our article, Tequila Boss Ladies), Ana is also the founder of Signo Tequila, a non-profit organization established in 2007 and dedicated to educating the public about tequila, agave conservation and Mexican cultural  products.

Encompassing nearly 20 years of her personal research, Signo Tequila encourages agave plant conservation projects in Mexico and sustainable agricultural training.  Blue agave genetic research and resources are the most important projects in development with the aid of participating agave farmers in Mexico.

In sharp contrast to Ana Maria Romero Mena, and similar to Cecilia Norman, Dr. Valenzuela pulls no punches when it comes to voicing her opinions about her concerns on the Tequila Industry.

 

[Editor’s note:  For the convenience of our interviewee and our Spanish speaking audience, this article is in both English and Spanish.]

***

TA:  How would you describe your experiences as a high ranking woman in your position in a primarily male dominated industry?

(¿Cómo describiría sus experiencias como una mujer de alto rango en su posición en una industria dominada principalmente masculina?)

AV:  My experiences in the industry have been favorable [enough] to spur me onto the challenge.  This has helped me to have great dedication, discipline and concentration in my scientific work, in my career and in the advances I’ve obtained in the conservation of the genetic resources of blue agave, my greatest dream that I have yet to realize.

The majority of the agriculturalists [agave growers] have been my greatest allies.  The misogynistic attitudes are probably more observed in middle and upper levels of tequila organizations with a large lag [gap] like modern organizations in which women are treated equally.  No doubt, other industries in different sectors of Mexico and in other countries are inequitable [unfair].  The Tequila Industry isn’t the only one with this unfavorable characteristic.

La Diosa Mayahuel (Photo by Alberto Ramirez)

La Diosa Mayahuel (Photo by Alberto Ramirez)

(Mis experiencias en la industria han sido favorables para incitarme al reto.  Eso me ha ayudado a tener una gran dedicación, disciplina y concentración en mi trabajo científico, en mi carrera y en los avances que he obtenido en la conservación de recursos genéticos de agaves azules, mi gran sueño a realizar.

(La mayoría de los agricultores han sido mis grandes aliados.  Las actitudes misóginas probablemente se observan entre los mandos altos e intermedios de los organismos del tequila, con un gran rezago como organizaciones modernas en las que se traten igualitariamente a las mujeres.  Sin duda otras industrias en otros sectores de México y en otros países son inequitativos, no solamente la Industria del Tequila tiene esta característica desfavorable.)

TA:  How have you been able to change things within your industry?

(¿Cómo han sido capaces de cambiar las cosas dentro de su industria?)

AV:  My work with agaves is my religion, my diversion [enjoyment] and my science.  The first book of blue agave and its agriculture, as well as the knowledge [awareness] of agaves tequileros, among others, are my contributions that have yet to change many things.  In the near future, the great change to promote will be the planting of my hybrids of the blue agave variants that will change the negative history of genetic erosion.  This change has required more than 20 years of constant work.

(Mi trabajo con agaves es mi religión, mi diversión y mi ciencia.  El primer libro de agave azul y su agricultura, asi como el conocimiento de los agaves tequileros -entre otros- son mis aportes que aun están por cambiar muchas cosas…  En el futuro cercano el gran cambio a promover es la plantación de mis híbridos de las variantes de agave azul que cambiará la historia negativa de la erosión genética.  Este cambio ha requerido mas de 20 años de trabajo constante.)

TA:  What do you see as the future of women working within the Tequila Industry?

(¿Qué ves como el futuro de las mujeres que trabajan en la industria del Tequila?)

AV:  I see a future that is more equitable in the professional scope.  For the future of women in the tequila industry to be egalitarian [equal] in opportunities, there has to be congruent [consistent] actions of solidarity among vulnerable groups of women in the industry.

(Yo veo un futuro mas equitativo en el ámbito profesional.  Para que el futuro de las mujeres en la industria del tequila sea igualitario en oportunidades, hay que tener acciones congruentes de solidaridad con grupos vulnerables de mujeres en la industria.)

TA:  What things would you like to see changed?

(¿Qué cosas gustaría cambiado?)

AV:  Less industrial mass production and less contamination.

(Menos producción masiva e industrial y menos contaminación.)

TA:  Is there anything you’d like to say to women who may be contemplating entering and working in the Tequila Industry in one form or another?

(¿Existe algo que le gustaría decir a las mujeres que pueden estar contemplando entrar y trabajar en la industria del Tequila en una forma u otra?)

AV:  Intergenerational solidarity [of gender] and to take great challenges [risks] to realize great achievements not just in favor of the industry, but for Mexico.

(Solidaridad intergeneracional de género y tomar grandes retos para realizar grandes proezas, no solamente a favor de la industria sino de México.)

 

Follow Ana Valenzuela on Facebook.  See also Tequila Heritage on Facebook.

Follow Signo Tequila on Twitter @SignoTequila.

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Women In The Tequila Industry: Ana Maria Romero Mena by M.A. “Mike” Morales

Tequila Appreciation, 2010

Tequila Appreciation, 2010

In the 2010 industry classic special report entitled Tequila Appreciation for USA Today, it listed five tequila trends to watch.  Here, we’re focusing on one of them…

The role of women in the tequila industry.

The report predicted that more women, in particular Latina/Hispanic women with family ties to agave growers and tequila producers, would join the ranks of tequila brand owners and also become influential in other areas of this traditionally male dominated industry.

Current numbers suggest that 70 percent of new businesses are started by women and that 20 percent of new home sales are driven by single women.  It’s no secret that Hispanics and Latinos are also the largest US minority, either.

Up to 85 percent of the buying market is women.  This translates to $5-$7 trillion dollars every year!  It’s no wonder that the Spirits Industry, and particularly the tequila segment, is finally taking notice.

Statue of Mayahuel in Tequila.

Statue of Mayahuel in Tequila.

We asked a short list of five questions to prominent women leading the charge for change in the Tequila Industry and beyond.  As you’ll read, it hasn’t been all margaritas and roses for these tequila boss ladies.

We begin our series of Women In The Tequila Industry with Maestra Tequilera, Ana Maria Romero Mena.  You can read a brief summary of her accomplishments in our earlier article on Tequila Boss Ladies.

[Editor’s note:  For the convenience of our interviewee and our Spanish speaking audience, this article is in both English and Spanish.]

***

Maestra Tequilera, Ana Maria Romero Mena.

Maestra Tequilera, Ana Maria Romero Mena.

TA:  How would you describe your experiences as a high ranking woman in your position in a primarily male dominated industry?

(¿Cómo describiría sus experiencias como una mujer de alto rango en su posición en una industria dominada principalmente masculina?)

ARM:  [My experiences have been]  dynamic, enriching, and in constant evolution despite the tequila industry having a long history and a bright future.  There’s lots to do in the arena of research and innovation.

(Dinámicas, enriquecedoras y en  constante evolución, a pesar de ser una industria con un largo pasado y un gran futuro; hay mucho que hacer en el campo de la investigación y de la innovación.)

The dynamic experience [has been] because it’s an industry in expansion in that the study of new forms of interpreting tequila by the [olfactory] senses are different due to culture, age and sex [of the individual]; enriching because there’s so much to learn from those men who are behind every bottle, from the [brand] owner to the jimador, have been generous in imparting their experiences [to me]; and in constant evolution because the markets have globalized and they permit the generation of new strategies for the positioning of Tequila.  Finally, I’d like to say that [the industry] is male dominated but not male chauvinistic.

Romero Mena and actor, Patrick Dempsey of Grey's Anatomy.

Romero Mena and actor, Patrick Dempsey of Grey’s Anatomy.

(La experiencia dinámica es porque es una industria en expansión en la que el estudio de nuevas formas de interpretar al tequila desde los sentidos son diferentes debido a la cultura, la edad y el sexo; enriquecedoras porque hay mucho que aprehender de esos hombres que están detrás de cada botella, desde el dueño hasta el jimador, han sido generosos en compartir sus experiencias y en constante evolución porque los mercados se globalizan y nos permiten generar nuevas estrategias para el posicionamiento del Tequila, para finalizar me gustaría decir que es masculina pero no machista.)

TA:  How have you been able to change things within your industry?

(¿Cómo han sido capaces de cambiar las cosas dentro de su industria?)

ARM:  By studying the behavior of the industry in all its arenas, detecting areas of opportunity, completing the research of that opportunity and presenting it for the betterment of the industry as in the case [of the investigation] of the aromas of tequila, where its source was placed in accordance with its behavior in the development of the sensorial profiles of tequila and then delivered to the mind of the consumer by means of the cata (tasting).

Romero Mena in the agave fields.

Romero Mena in the agave fields.

(Estudiando el comportamiento de la industria en todas sus aéreas, detectando aéreas de oportunidad, realizando la investigación de esa oportunidad y presentándola para el mejoramiento de la industria, como lo fue la investigación de los aromas del tequila, su procedencia  para  ubicarlos de acuerdo a su comportamiento en el desarrollo de perfiles sensoriales del tequila y llevarlos a la mente de los consumidores por medio de la cata.)

TA:  What do you see as the future of women working within the Tequila Industry?

(¿Qué ves como el futuro de las mujeres que trabajan en la industria del Tequila?)

ARM:  It is a full future that allows us to not only grow personally and professionally, but to also leave a legacy for the new generations of women in which innovation will be the key [word].

(Es un futuro pleno, que nos permitirá  no solo desarrollarnos personalmente y  profesionalmente, si no dejar un legado para las nuevas generaciones de mujeres en las que la innovación será la palabra clave.)

TA:  What things would you like to see changed?

(¿Qué cosas gustaría cambiado? )

ARM:  To give women more opportunities in positions of higher responsibility and decision making [since] we still share only a minimal portion of those positions.

(Darles mayores oportunidades en puestos de gran responsabilidad y toma de decisiones a las mujeres, todavía compartimos  en un porcentaje mínimo en esos puestos.)

Maestra Tequilera, Ana Maria Romero Mena

Maestra Tequilera, Ana Maria Romero Mena

TA:  Is there anything you’d like to say to women who may be contemplating entering and working in the Tequila Industry in one form or another?

(¿Existe algo que le gustaría decir a las mujeres que pueden estar contemplando entrar y trabajar en la industria del Tequila en una forma u otra?)

ARM:  It’s a fascinating industry [and] one must get to know it in all its facets, visit and study the different distilleries, the Consejo Regulador del Tequila (CRT) and the National Chamber of the Tequila Industry (CNIT); get to know its regulations (normas), certify yourself in the desired area of opportunity, e.g.:  Maestra Tequilera, Maestra Destiladora; to be at the forefront [vanguard] of the advances and news that generates its dynamism and above all, to be passionate about your work.  Knowledge is the key that opens all the doors to opportunities.

(Es una industria fascinante, hay que conocerla en todas sus variables, visitar  y estudiar las diferentes destilerías,  el Consejo Regulador del Tequila y La Cámara Nacional de la Industria Tequilera, conocer su normatividad, certificarse en el área de oportunidad deseada, por ejemplo Maestra Tequilera, Maestra Destiladora, estar a la vanguardia de los avances y noticias que genera su dinamismo y sobre todo apasionarse por su trabajo.  Ya que el conocimiento es la llave que abre todas las oportunidades.)

Follow Ana Maria Romero Mena on Facebook and Twitter @Amrcreativa.

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