Women In The Bacanora Industry: Laura Espinoza Alonso

Laura Espinoza Alonso is currently the president of the Association of Women of Bacanora and Mexican Maguey in the state of Sonora, Mexico.  With more than 30 female members from all levels of business, she is charged with overseeing the bright future of the burgeoning Bacanora Industry.

Educated in both the United States and Mexico, Espinoza Alonso returned to her hometown and was inspired to preserve its nearly lost culture.

The magic and rich history of Sonora’s cladestine distillate, along with its obscure vinatas (distilleries), were in need of attention in order to thrive not just nationally, but internationally, too.  But first, Laura had to earn the trust of the producers, themselves.

Here’s where Laura Espinoza Alonso’s story begins with her enlightening answers to our questionnaire.

 

Questions for Women In Tequila/Mezcal/Bacanora Series

 

–How would you describe your experiences as a woman in a primarily male dominated industry?  (What are the challenges you face when dealing with the male dominated Tequila/Mezcal/Bacanora Industries?)

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

En la historia de la industria de los destilados de Agave en México, es bien sabido que  ha sido dominada por los hombres a través de los años. Aunque en los años recientes los roles de la mujer han avanzado en la brecha de género, específicamente en  esta agroindustria, la incursión de la mujeres ha sido poca.

 

[Over the years it has been well documented that the Mexican Agave Distillate Industries have been historically dominated by men.  Even though in recent years the roles of women have advanced in the gender gap, the incursion of women, specifically in agroindustry, has been few.]

Un ejemplo claro es la participación de la mujer en la industria tequilera, que a pesar que ya llevan 45 años con la declaratoria de Denominación de Origen, únicamente un 5% de las microempresas están en manos de mujeres.  De igual manera sucede en la industria del mezcal, aunque considero mayor participación de la mujer en esta industria.

[One clear example is the participation of women in the Tequila Industry.  Despite having the declaration of the Denomination of Origin for 45 years, only 5% of micro-distilleries are in the hands of women.  The same has ocurred in mezcal, although it is considered to have more female participation in that industry.]

Ahora, mi experiencia como mujer  en la industria del bacanora ha sido un gran aprendizaje pero a la vez todo un reto. Empezó cuando regresé a mi pueblo llamado Bacanora en Sonora de Estados Unidos hace poco más de 15 años con la intención de conocer las tradiciones y cultura de mi pueblo me encontré con el bacanora, una bebida artesanal, emblemática del estado de Sonora y que además lleva el nombre de mi municipio lo que me generó un gran interés y el compromiso  de promoverla para que sea conocida en todo el mundo.

[

Now, my experience as a woman in the Bacanora Industry has been a great learning experience, while at the same time, challenging.  It all started when I returned to my hometown of Bacanora in Sonora from the United States, just over 15 years ago.  With the intent of learning the traditions and culture of my hometown, I encountered Bacanora, an artisanal beverage that is emblematic of the state of Sonora, and named after my municipality.  It generated a great interest and commitment within me to promote it to the entire world.]

Reitero, no fue nada fácil como Mujer ganarme la confianza de los vinateros que destilaban bacanora para que compartieran sus  conocimientos conmigo y me hablaron de sus historias de las cuales me fui interesando cada vez más. Me llevo tiempo entender como 77 años de prohibición por parte del gobierno no permitió el desarrollo de esta industria del bacanora y que a pesar de ello logró subsistir. Desde entonces me he dedicado a impulsar esta industria para que logremos cruzar las fronteras y que en México y el extranjero tengan la oportunidad de degustar una bebida exquisita artesanal.

[To reiterate, as a woman it wasn’t easy gaining the confidence of the vinateros (bacanora producers) to share their knowledge with me.  Each time they told me their stories and histories, I became even more interested.  It took me time to understand how 77 years of prohibition by the government prevented the development of the bacanora industry.  Despite that, it still managed to survive.  Since then, I’ve dedicated myself to propel this industry forward across borders so that in Mexico, as well as abroad, others may have the opportunity to taste this exquisite artisanal beverage.]

 

Women In The Bacanora Industry: Laura Espinoza Alonso

–How have you been able to change things within the Tequila/Mezcal/Bacanora Industries?

 

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

 

Tuve la oportunidad de incursionar en la política y participar en propuestas de reforma de leyes que ayudarán a los productores de mi municipio y todos los de la Denominación de Origen a formalizar sus fábricas de bacanora (Vinatas), trabajé en áreas donde llevamos capacitación en plantaciones y también buscar recursos para infraestructura y equipamiento para sus fábricas con el fin de que mejoraran sus procesos de tal manera que puedan comercializar sus productos.

 

[I had the opportunity to venture into politics and to participate in the proposing of legal reforms that would help the producers of my municipality, and throughout the Denomination of Origin, to formalize their bacanora factories (vinatas).  I worked in areas where we brought training in planting, and found resources for infrastructure and equipment for their factories so that they could improve their procedures in order to comercialize their products.]

 

 

–What do you see as the future of women working within the Tequila/Mezcal/Bacanora Industries?

 

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

 

Considero que las mujeres tenemos una gran oportunidad de crecer dentro de la industria del bacanora. Aunque el bacanora obtuvo su declaratoria de Denominación de Origen hace ya 18 años, es hasta hoy que realmente se está dando a conocer en el mercado y gracias también a mujeres que han trabajado arduamente en la comercialización. Prueba de ello, es nuestra Asociación de Mujeres del Bacanora y Maguey de México en Sonora con más de 30 mujeres involucradas en los diferentes eslabones de la cadena y   de la cual soy Presidenta.

 

[I consider that women have a great opportunity to grow within the Bacanora Industry.  Even though bacanora’s Denomination of Origin was declared 18 years ago, it is only just now being recognized in the marketplace thanks to women who have worked arduously to commercialize it.  Proof of this is our Association of Women of Bacanora and Mexican Maguey in Sonora with more than 30 women involved in different links of the supply chain, and of which I am the president.]

 

What facets of the Tequila/Mezcal/Bacanora Industries would you like to see change?

 

(¿Qué cosas gustaría cambiado?)

 

Definitivamente me gustaría tener más participación de mujeres en la industria del bacanora; pero además quiero que esta industria sea sustentable con el medio ambiente, crear la cultura de la plantación de agave de tal manera que podamos tener la materia prima suficiente para salir al extranjero con nuestro producto artesanal pero con calidad.

 

[I’d definitely like to see more participation by women in the Bacanora Industry.  In addition, I want this industry to be environmentally sustainable.  To create a culture of agave planting in such a way that there is always enough prime material so that we can export our quality artisanal product abroad.]

 

–Do you approve of how Tequila/Mezcal brands are currently marketing themselves?

(Esta Ud de acuerdo con la comercialización de marcas de tequilas o mezcales, hoy en dia?)

 

Si, definitivamente el tequila y el mezcal están comercializando de una manera excelente sus productos que el nivel de crecimiento anual es sorprendente. Por lo que, nosotros debemos aprender de sus aciertos y también de sus fracasos. Trabajaremos para sentar las bases y no ser víctimas del propio éxito como le ha pasado el mezcal.

 

[Yes, Tequila and Mezcal are definitely marketing their products in an excellent manner that the level of annual growth is surprising. This is why we should learn from their wise moves, as well as their failures. We will lay the groundwork so as not to become victims of our success like mezcal has.]

 

–Is there anything you’d like to say to women who may be contemplating entering and working in the Tequila/Mezcal/Bacanora Industries 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, Mezcal o Bacanora en una forma u otra?)

 

Si, de no tener miedo de ser parte de una industria donde predominan los  hombres. También nosotras podemos aportar mucho para sacar adelante los destilados y podemos pertenecer a cualquier eslabón de la cadena o todos. Destilamos tradición, es nuestra cultura y también nuestro orgullo.

 

[Yes, not to be afraid to be part of an industry dominated by men.  We can contribute a lot to getting these distillates off the ground, and to be a part of any link of the supply chain, or all of them.  We distill tradition; it’s our culture and our pride.]

Learn all about tequila from field to glass and then get paid to share your love of agave spirits with others! Buy Them Both Now!

Women In The Bacanora Industry: Adriana Torres

Women In The Bacanora Industry: Adriana Torres https://wp.me/p3u1xi-5OU

We first encountered Adriana Torres through Novel Spirits Collection, the US importer of her flagship bacanora brand, Pascola Bacanora.

The more we heard about her from Connie and Mel Abert, the owners of Novel Spirits, the more intrigued we became with her background.

You can read about her herculean efforts to revitalize Sonora, Mexico’s once thriving bacanora industry in her own words here.

Launching what we hope to be the first in a long list of Bacanora Boss Ladies, we induct Adriana Torres into our gallery of Women In the Tequila/Mezcal/Bacanora Industry series.

What follows are her answers to our customary handful of questions.

[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 woman in a primarily male dominated industry?  (What are the challenges you face when dealing with the male dominated Tequila/Mezcal/Bacanora Industries?)

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

AT:  My experiences were difficult, primarily because when we began, we were the first to formalize a female owned company in the bacanora industry.

But, truthfully, in all this time, I’ve received lots of support from great men in the industry.

Women In The Bacanora Industry: Adriana Torres https://wp.me/p3u1xi-5OU

(Dificiles, principalmente porque cuando yo inicie en la industria del Bacanora, fuimos de las primeras en formalizarnos y era de mujeres.

Pero la verdad he que en todo este tiempo he recibido muchísimo apoyo por parte de grandes hombres relacionados con la industria.)

TA:  How have you been able to change things within the Tequila/Mezcal/Bacanora Industries?

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

AT:  The truth is, just doing the work.

Doing things right and being loyal to our principles and values.  Being consistent in what we say and do.

And, above all else, taking care of the little details.

(La verdad, solo con trabajo, haciendo las cosas bien y siendo leal a nuestros principios y valores. Ser coherentes en lo que se dice y se hace, y sobre todo cuidando los pequeños detalles.)

 TA:  What do you see as the future of women working within the Tequila/Mezcal/Bacanora Industries?

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

AT:  We’re growing.

It’s been 12 years since I became involved in this industry and my company was the only one that considered [employed] women.

Over time, many more businesses have incorporated women intoWomen In The Bacanora Industry: Adriana Torres https://wp.me/p3u1xi-5OU their processes [like] wives and daughters, as well as contracting women in the areas of design, management and sales.

We ourselves will be working with female vinateras (bacanora distillers).  The wife of one of our producers will begin to distill one of our own brands.

(Vamos en crecimiento, hace 12 años que me incorpore a esta industria mi empresa era la única que consideraba mujeres, al paso del tiempo varias de las empresas han ido incorporando mujeres dentro de sus procesos, a las esposas, las hijas, contratando mujeres en el área de diseño, gestión y ventas.

Incluso nosotras empezaremos a trabajar con mujeres vinateras, la esposa de uno de nuestros productores empezara a producir una de nuestras marcas.)

 TA:  What facets of the Tequila/Mezcal/Bacanora Industries would you like to see change?

(¿Qué cosas gustaría cambiado? )

AT:  To stop looking at the [bacanora] industry as just another source for profits.

We should value what the industry really stands for.

That bacanora won’t become like tequila or mezcal, but continues being an exclusive product, based on supply and not demand.

That bacanora truly becomes a driving force for the economy, the environment, and the culture of Sonora, Mexico and the world.

That is what we are striving for.

(Dejar de ver la industria como una Fuente de ingresos unicamente, valorar todo lo que la industria realmente representa, que el Bacanora no sea como el tequila ni el mescal, que siga siendo un product exclusivo, basado en la oferta y no la demanda, que realmente el bacanora se convierta en un motor de la economia, medio ambiente y cultura de Sonora, Mexico y el mundo.

Nosotros en eso estamos trabajando.)

TA:  Do you approve of how Tequila/Mezcal brands are currently marketing themselves?

(Esta Ud de acuerdo con la comercialización de marcas de tequilas o mezcales, hoy en dia?)

AT:  Of course!

They are ancestral distillates that represent us.  They are spirits with the flavor of Mexico from distinct regions of the country.

We must preserve the tradition.

(Claro, son destilados ancestrales, que nos representan. Son bebidas espirituosas con sabor a Mexico, de las distintas regiones del país.

Necesitamos conservar la tradicion.)

TA:  Is there anything you’d like to say to women who may be contemplating entering and working in the Tequila/Mezcal/Bacanora Industries 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, Mezcal o Bacanora en una forma u otra?)

AT:  We need to work in a united way.  We should care for the tradition, history, and culture of Sonora.

We should guarantee quality products, and motivate our producers to make their products like we care for our families.

Bacanora is a noble spirit.  It is a product that would allow us to recuperate many lost aspects in our state, from social, cultural, economic and environmental.

I invite them to conscientiously participate in the development of the industry.  That Bacanora achieves for Sonora what Tequila is for Jalisco, and Mezcal is for Oaxaca.

Women In The Bacanora Industry: Adriana Torres https://wp.me/p3u1xi-5OU

(Necesitamos trabajar de manera unida, debemos cuidar la tradición, la historia y la cultura de Sonora. Debemos garantizar productos de calidad, debemos motivar a nuestros productores a que realicen su producto como nosotras cuidamos a nuestras familias. El bacanora es un producto noble, un producto que nos puede permitir recuperar muchos aspectos perdidos en nuestro estado, desde aspectos sociales, culturales, económicos como los de medio ambiente.

Las invito a participar de una manera consiente en el desarrollo de la industria, lograr que el Bacanora se convierta para Sonora, en lo que el Tequila es para Jalisco y el Mezcal para Oaxaca.)

Learn all about tequila from field to glass and then get paid to share your love of agave spirits with others! Buy Them Both Now!

A Bacanora Boss Lady Tells All: Adriana Torres

Adriana Torres:  Bacanora Boss Lady

A Bacanora Boss Lady Tells All: Adriana Torres https://wp.me/p3u1xi-5MZSo, how does a well-educated, forty-something mother of three get deeply involved in the remote bacanora-distilling communities of rural Sonora?

For this “Bacanora Boss Lady,” it began as a university school project.

We’ll let Adriana tell you her amazing and life-changing journey–in her own words–but first…

Meet Bacanora

Mezcal is all the craze these days.

But, as the legendary Martin Grassl so aptly pointed out, knowledgeable consumers continue to move away from the bland, cookie-cutter flavor profiles of most mass market tequilas.

In their quest to challenge their taste buds even further, more and more are turning to other luscious Mexican agave spirits like sotol, raicilla and bacanora.

A Troubled Past

Made using Sonora’s native Angustifolia Haw plant (Agave Pacifica), the production of Bacanora was banned in 1915 by the powerful, post-revolutionary Governor of Sonora, Plutarco Elias Calles.

According to leading bacanora expert and historian, Dr. Luis Núñez Noriega:

“Bacanora consumption had become so widespread throughout the state, the intolerant government banned the spirit, and severely punished anyone caught drinking or making it – sometimes by imprisonment, sometimes by death!”

A Bacanora Boss Lady Tells All: Adriana Torres https://wp.me/p3u1xi-5MZ

This Prohibition-style ban forced vinateros (bacanora distillers) into the hills to continue making the spirit in secret, much like American moonshiners and bootleggers.

Bacanora production was illegal until 1992, and in 2005 was issued a Denomination of Origin, but claims an existence of 300 years, mas o menos.

A Bacanora Boss Lady Tells All

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

***

[English]

Maria Adriana Torres de la Huerta, 46 years old, mother of 3 children, divorced.  Professional career as an Industrial Engineer and Systems Manager, with a Master’s Degree in Agribusiness and a truncated doctorate in Strategic Planning for the Improvement of Human Performance and Development.

Since the age of 24, my professional development is in the agro-A Bacanora Boss Lady Tells All: Adriana Torres https://wp.me/p3u1xi-5MZindustrial segment despite not being raised in the countryside.

The love I have for it and its activities were instilled in me by my father who is a medical veterinary zootechnician and a docent at the Technological Institute of Sonora, Mexico.

My experience began at the Rural Bank in the area of strategic projects like aquaculture, protected agriculture and agro-industries, working in the countryside [in the field], and for the countryside.

In 2006, as destiny would have it, I began my studies at the university school of business at the Technological Institute of Sonora.

One of the principal requirements [by the rector] was to find projects that enabled regional, sustainable development.

The businesses that were created or supported had to provide [aggregated] value to Sonora, as well as to allow for the development of its most vulnerable [overlooked] communities.

It was in that search, at the end of 2007, that I met my founding partner of the brand, Pascola Bacanora.

Alma Lourdes Peña Gomez introduced me to Bacanora, and that was when I knew this was a project worth pursuing.

We began working on formalizing the spirit.  It allowed me to become an associate of the business to obtain the commercialization authorizations, production license, and exportation permits.

That’s when I began to understand the real significance of Bacanora production to the state of Sonora.

I began visiting these communities, listening to the stories told by the producers [distillers], the majority of whom were men already advanced in age.

They related how, in the post-revolutionary time, La Acordada (that’s what the authorities were called in those days) destroyed the bacanora vinatas [distilleries] and lynched many of the producers of this alcoholic beverage.

As time passed, and the more we became involved, I understood and observed why so many of the vinatas we located in ravines and in the most remote places of the mountain range.

I concluded that thanks to the fortunate stubbornness of those producers, this activity [of distilling bacanora] that has so much cultural significance and connotation to the citizens of Sonora, didn’t disappear.

Since 2007 until now, the business has undergone many changes, but definitely persistence and commitment have allowed me to keep working with this brand and my own private labels, adding to my team people with the same focus.

I continue working towards positioning bacanora as one of the best distillates in the world.  And Bacanora Pascola as one of the pioneer brands that opened the breach between an artisanal bacanora and a 100% quality artisanal bacanora.

I am a bacanora producer.

[Spanish]

MAA Adriana Torres de la Huerta, 46 años, madre de 3 hijos, divorciada, profesionista con la carrera de Ingeniero Industrial y de Sistemas, Maestria en Administración de Agronegocios y doctorado trunco en Planeacion Estrategica para la mejora del Desempeño humano.

Mi desarrollo profesional se da en el área agroindustrial desde los 24 años de edad, a pesar de no haber crecido en el campo, el amor por él y sus actividades fueron inculcadas por mi padre que es Medico Veterinario Zootecnista y ademas docente en el Instituto Tecnologico de Sonora.

Mi desarrollo inicio en el Banco Rural en el área de proyectos estratégicos como lo era la acuacultura, agricultura protegida y agroindustrias, trabajando por el campo y para el campo.

Pero es en el año 2006 cuando por azares del destino inicio mi labor en la universidad dentro de la Incubadora de Empresas del ITSON y donde una de las principales encomiendas del Rector fue la de buscar proyectos que permitieran el desarrollo regional sustentable, que las empresas que se crearan o se apoyaran en su desarrollo fueran empresa que dieran valor agregado al Estado y que permitieran el desarrollo de las comunidades mas vulnerables del estado.

En esa búsqueda, a finales de 2007 se acerca a mi la socia fundadora de la marca Bacanora Pascola Alma Lourdes Peña Gomez, la cual me dio a conocer lo que era el Bacanora, y en ese momento supe que este era el proyecto por el cual debería luchar.

A Bacanora Boss Lady Tells All: Adriana Torres https://wp.me/p3u1xi-5MZ

Empezamos a trabajar en la formalidad de la bebida, lo que permitío hacerme socia de la empresa al lograr los permisos para la comercialización, la licencia de producción y los permisos de exportación.

Asi comencé a conocer lo que realmente significaba la producción de bacanora para el Estado, empece a realizar visitas a las comunidades, escuchar las historias de los productores, los cuales en su mayoría eran hombres ya entrados en años, nos relataban cómo en los tiempos postrevolucionarios, La Acordada (como le llamaban a la justicia en esa época) destruía las vinatas de bacanora y ahorcaban a muchos de los que producian esta bebida alcohólica.

Con el tiempo y entre mas nos adentrábamos, empece a entender y a observar porque muchas de las vinatas se encuentran en las cañadas y en los lugares mas recónditos de la sierra.

Pude concluir que gracias a la afortunada terquedad de esos productores que permitieron que no desapareciera esta actividad de tanta connotación y pertenencia cultural para los sonorenses.

Desde 2007 a la fecha la empresa ha sufrido muchos cambios pero definitivamente la terquedad y el compromiso han permitido que yo siga trabajando con esta marca y mis marcas propias, sumando a mi equipo personas con el mismo fin.

Y continuo trabajando en pro de que el bacanora se posicione como uno de los mejores destilados del mundo y Bacanora Pascola como una de las marcas pioneras que abrió la brecha entre un bacanora artesanal y un bacanora artesanal 100% de calidad.

Soy Productora de Bacanora.

More on Bacanora

In this short interview, Adriana Torres explains more of the bacanora distilling process to the Spanish speaking audience.

 

Learn all about tequila from field to glass and then get paid to share your love of agave spirits with others! Buy Them Both Now!

How to Get Paid to Drink Tequila:

How you can turn your passion into profits and get paid to drink tequila as a blogger, vlogger, podcaster or author

 

Salud!!