Irene´s Example of How Mano Vuelta Works

Maria Suarez Toro
Posted May 17, 2020 from Costa Rica
Irma and her granddaughter María
Read the story of Doña Irene's participation in reactivating economies while "sistering" in support
Irene's son and wife making family tamales
Irene's son and wife making family tamales (1/2)

The Mano Vuelta Campaign is a unique community response to the coronavirus crisis to collect and distribute food to people who have lost their livelihoods during this time.  It is also targeted at fostering a regeneration of historical/cultural strategies of subsistence amongst  elders and their families who need help in finding food, while rethinking their production alternatives. 

Doña Irene was one of the first participants in the initial campaign for food donations on the 2nd of April in Cahuita. 

Doña Irene is a 96-year-old lady who has lived on the outskirts of Cahuita since she was born. She raised her children by making the best tamales in the area, according to many residents. All of her children learned how to make this traditional food which is a key source of sustenance in the southern Caribbean and beyond. She raised her children on the back of her tamales.

However, eventually her kids followed their own paths in life, given the opportunities they had -- thanks to their mother’s tamales, combined with the opportunities offered by the public educational system and the arrival of tourism in the area.

Now that they have lost their jobs, Doña Irene and her family of children and grandchildren find themselves in the same critical situation as many elderly people in the area. 

At the launching of the Mano Vuelta Campaign, activists who collaborated with the [email protected] del Mar brought this family the first bag of food; the whole family took a breath of relief, knowing that they would now have food on the table for two months, thanks to another family who donated the C25,000 (about $45 U.S.) that each weekly bag costs.

The donors, who live in San José and belong to an international organization, made their donation deposit directly into the account of the local food bank in Cahuita, which then brings food to Doña Mercedes and her family.

The [email protected] del Mar and their collaborators, together with the census people in the food banks, created and now monitor a system whereby “the distribution of food flows almost without us touching either money or food, but only the hearts, conscience and the enormous flow of living culture in the Southern Caribbean and the indigeous territories of Talamanca,” according to a press release from the Mano Vuelta initiative.

The donation distributors raised the question: “And if we get any additional help so that you can go back to making your tamales and sell them to the community?” The most palpable result of this is that the family started to dream of reactivating their traditional way of life, during this crisis.

And so the [email protected] and their collaborators got involved with seeking further support, with a small fund to revive the family's tamale business. In less than two days, a group of students from Universidad Nacional de Heredia (UNA), which collaborates with the [email protected] del Mar, appeared and said that they will commit to contribute what is necessary for Doña Mercedes’ family to reactivate a way of living which enables them survive based on an element of the living culture of the area.

They are aiming to make 50 tamales, costing C2,500 (approx. $4.50 U.S.) each, with the donation for the dough, pork, fat, cumin, garlic, achiote, etc. 

“We already have our clientele and now with this situation we think there will be more,” said the Doña Irene's oldest daughter, who lost her job at a hotel in Cahuita and now is engaged in organizing the sale of the tamales and to keep generating resources to multiply the relaunching of the business.

These first food donations of the Mano Vuelta Campaign served to revive living culture, always localized, and provide evidence of what we in the Southern Caribbean have always known: The Southern Caribbean is not a tourist destination to exploit, it is a coastal community which lives off tourism, combined with other activities - old and current.  These have been revived in the face of  - this the coronavirus emergency, because these traditional endeavours have and still are the source of life for a sustainable and regenerative family economy.

And this is what it’s been like during these first days of the campaign Mano Vuelta, with every family of adults and elderly who already form part of the initiative, from the first donation during Easter Week.

Comments 10

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Jill Langhus
May 18
May 18

Hi Maria,

Thanks for sharing more of your Mano Vuelta story, and Irene's amazing story, too. I hope it works out that they are able to reboot this old custom and be able to create a sustainable living for themselves and their families.

Maria Suarez Toro
May 19
May 19

That is what it s all about!

Jill Langhus
May 20
May 20

Yes:-)

Anita Shrestha
May 19
May 19

Thank you for sharing .

Maria Suarez Toro
May 19
May 19

ok

Chi8629
May 20
May 20

Thank you for sharing.

magg6789
May 21
May 21

Dear Maria,
Thank you for telling us a bit about Mano Vuelta! This is an incredible initiative that hopefully flourishes and aids the community even more! It;'s great to here how many contributions are being made from within the community and how much it takes to serve those in it.

Maria Suarez Toro
May 21
May 21

Thank you

Paulina Nayra
Oct 20
Oct 20

Interesting Maria. The generosity of Mano Vuelta is making an impact in the livelihoods of its recipient. And your story makes me crave for tamales. And do you know that the plant in the picture is a craze in the Philippines. Many wanted to collect caladium as houseplants.
Share more and take care.
Huggs.

Urmila Chanam
Nov 25
Nov 25

Deasrest Maria,
Thanks for sharing the inspiring story of Doña Irene and her contribution to Mano Vuelta Campaign. During these unprecedented times, food and showing you care can be the biggest life- saving gifts to humanity.
Love and prayers,
Urmila Chanam