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Latino Daily News

Saturday February 5, 2011

Agave Plant Helps Indigenous Women Become Entrepreneurs

Agave Plant Helps Indigenous Women Become Entrepreneurs

Photo: Otomí indigenous Women

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Agave plant products have become the leading source of income for the Otomí indigenous peoples in the central Mexican state of Hidalgo.

“It has been a long process and they have learned about many areas. They have received training and have strengthened the organization. The women themselves do the marketing,” said Jocelyne Soto, delegate of the non-governmental organization Enlace Rural Regional (Regional Rural Link, ERRAC), founded in 1988 to promote productive initiatives in impoverished areas.

The juice can be extracted from the plant after 10 years of growth. Each plant can then be scraped to extract the juice twice a day. The nectar recovered in the morning is made into syrup and the afternoon nectar is made into pulque. Pulque is the alcoholic beverage made by fermenting the juice.

“It has to reach a heavy boil so that the water evaporates, leaving the syrup,” Rómulo, 45, an indigenous Otomí woman, told Tierramérica, explaining the process for turning the nectar of the maguey, or pulque agave plant (Agave atrovirens), into something the consistency of honey.

The maguey nectar, made with the “aguamiel” (honey water) extracted from the plant, is a sweetener 1.4 times stronger than refined sugar and is rich in fiber and proteins. In addition, the plant’s fructose does not stimulate insulin production like other sweeteners do.

Incorporated since 2000 the 22 women and one man women operate a plant with the capacity to produce one ton per week, with stoves run on solar energy and natural gas.