Maria Fernanda del Monte

Fernanda next to her celular equipment stand in Xochimilco, Mexico.
Fernanda next to her celular equipment stand in Xochimilco, Mexico.

When Maria Fernanda first came to Pro Mujer a year ago, the 22-year-old was recovering from a long period of indebtedness. Fer, as her loved ones call her, had fallen prey to several lending institutions, taking out loans she wasn’t able to repay. She and her husband rode a bici taxi, or pedicab, for a living, which they lost when they defaulted on their loans.

When Fer first heard about Pro Mujer through her aunt, also a Pro Mujer client, she wanted to invest in her and her husband’s new business, a sidewalk stand that sells cell phones and cell phone accessories. Since taking out her first Pro Mujer loan of nearly $400, Fer says the business has tripled.

“This used to be a three-square-foot stand. Today, it’s twice as big, and now we offer repairs, too,” she says proudly.

Fer dreams of one day owning a shop with her husband to sell their products and offer repair services. Today, their repair workshop is a tiny section of their bedroom separated by a wooden board and shielded from the elements by cardboard sheets.

Fer and her family live in the Mexico City borough of Xochimilco, best known for its network of canals and artificial islands. Their home, a very short raft ride away from the mainland, is a series of makeshift rooms housing a family of 15 — parents, grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews.

In addition to owning a shop, Fer also dreams of building a cement home that she can call her own. “Right now, I don’t have the resources,” she says. “I hope that it won’t be more than two years before I can make the first payment toward buying a piece of land.”