A young entrepreneur has found the Mexican dream after homesickness forced him to abandon seeking the American version and return home from the United States.
Today, Leobardo Téllez Pérez is selling 20,000 bags of corn chips a month in Puebla and Mexico City.
As a student at the Technological University of Huejotzingo he had planned a rabbit project but that didn’t work for lack of financing. Facing a dearth of employment opportunities after graduating, he decided to emigrate to the United States.
“I left because I had a family, and they’re my responsibility,” he told the newspaper Excélsior.
Téllez, now 28, washed dishes and built artificial reefs in Philadelphia to support his siblings from afar, but his experience was far from fulfilling.
“I missed the community, working in the fields, the family. You’re alone most of the time [in the United States].”
After two years and four months, Téllez decided it was time to go back home to the Puebla town of San Mateo Ozolco, situated on the slopes of the Popocatépetl and Iztaccíhuatl volcanoes.
There, for generations, his family has been dedicated to farming corn, particularly the “blue” variety, also known as Hopi maize.
“I returned because I love the fields, but it’s hard to make a living out of it,” he recalled.
But along with several partners Téllez figured out a way to add value to their community’s staple crop: they made oven-baked tostadas and totopos, or corn chips.
In addition to its sharply different color, blue corn has several nutritional advantages over other varieties. It contains 20% more protein, has a lower glycemic index and is a more complete protein source, with a sweeter and nuttier taste.
“We Náhuatl-speakers have many traditions, and harvesting blue corn is one of them,” said Téllez, who with his product wants to promote those traditions, along with his community’s farm work.
Five years after returning from the U.S., Téllez’s Mazolco brand employs 10 people and produces 20,000 bags of blue corn tostadas and totopos per month. His product is currently distributed in Mexico City and the Puebla town of Cholula but he has his sights set on New York City.
“We’ve sent samples to New York but there are still some requirements we must meet. The situation’s complicated because we need money, which we don’t have right now,” he said.
Téllez’ project, which promotes self-employment among local farming families, has been recognized by the University of the Valley of Mexico (UVM) with a social development award.
“I have relatives, friends, neighbors living in the United States, and we don’t know what’s going to happen to them. I know they are good at what they do, they’re restaurateurs, chefs, but it is hard for them to find employment here in Mexico,” said Téllez.
Perhaps, though, his business will help.
“If they make them return we’ll find a way to make them part of the community through Mazolco,” he declared.
Philadelphia was a popular destination 10 years ago for many residents of Téllez’ community of San Mateo Ozolco, according to Wikipedia. The neighborhood where many settled became known as Puebladelfia.
Source: Excélsior (sp)