Traditional chocolate helps Mexico's poorest region

Many think big cities provide the heartbeat for modern-day business.

But there’s money to be made in small towns, too.

In the poorest region of Mexico, one business has found success by tapping into a local tradition and helping workers out of poverty along the way.

CGTN’s Alasdair Baverstock reports.

The Sierra Mixteca in Southern Mexico, home to indigenous tribes for thousands of years.

Steeped in tradition and culture, this is also Mexico’s most impoverished region, with few employment opportunities and high rates of outbound migration among its young people.

But one local business has a solution: Chocolate.

By commercializing traditional chocolate-making methods, ‘Oaxacanita’, founded by German Santillan.

“People have been making chocolate in this region for many years in a very delicious way. So we decided to found a chocolate company and hire the traditional chocolate cooks from the town,” said German Santillan of Oaxacanita Chocolate.

Mary Avellanas and twelve other local women now have full-time jobs, a rare thing in this region.

“It has helped the economic development of our community a great deal because it has become nationally and internationally recognized. So it’s great that a Mixtec company has been able to help its own people,” said Mary Avellanas a Mixteca Chocolatier.

Beyond employing locals, German also helped regional farmers – by encouraging them to produce cacao – and then buying their entire harvest.

Launched in 2015, the company’s chocolate has grown popular across Mexico and is now being exported to Europe and China.

“We’re talking about an ancient tradition here, and I think we can offer a really professional product. That’s why we’d always rather employ a person, than buy a machine that can do the same job. We believe that manpower is very important,” said German Santillan of Oaxacanita Chocolate.

As the Mixteca’s newest industry grows, its founder’s ultimate goal is to preserve the ancient traditions that have turned it into a 21st century business success.