by Julie Pachico, KF9 Mexico

It’s business as usual here in Mexico after “dia del pavo” (turkey day). My tummy is a little upset right now from copious amounts of lip and cheek meat tacos and shrimp soup lunches, not typical Thanksgiving fare but so it goes (goodbye vegetarianism, hello flexibility!). For now here are two very simple videos of being out and about here in the charming border town of Nuevo Laredo, where I’ve been working with Kiva’s partner microfinance institution, Fundación para la Vivienda Progresiva (FVP). Video #1 is of an ordinary day out and about visiting clients with Tere, a loan officer from FVP. Video #2 (behind the cut) is of an intriguing (can’t think of a better word) clip from a Lucha Libre fight that I attended last week.

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I think any Kiva Fellow would agree that the coolest part of this job is getting to go out with the loan officers and meet clients, usually to do journals, or updates about how a Kiva client has used their loan. The loan officers at FVP are VERY busy, each with over 200 clients to attend to, and sometimes it can be difficult finding a way for them to make time for you. I’ve found that the best way to do this is to just tag along with them as they go about their day and try to squeeze in some visits to Kiva clients along the way.

Making personal visits to a client’s house is a standard step of the loan application process at FVP. A lot of the time clients just don’t have time to come to the office because they only have a short space of time between their overnight shift at a maquiladora (foreign-owned assembly plants) and when they have to take their kids to school, visit an ailing family member, start work at their self-owned grocery or stationary store, etc. So the loan officers visit them personally. Pretty different from a bank, huh?

The most interesting part of the loan application process at FVP (in my humble opinion) is the analysis of a client’s profits and expenditures each month. Here’s a sample of a typical conversation:

Loan Officer: How much do you make per day from your TV repair business?
Client: On a good day, I’ll make 500 pesos.
Loan Officer: How much do you make on a bad day?
Client: Hmm… I’d say 100 pesos.
Loan Officer: How many good days do you have in a week verses how many bad days?
Client: It depends on the season.
Loan Officer: What season is your busy season?

And so on and on until a number is agreed upon. I’ve seen so many clients whose eyes light up with understanding after this process, sometimes even exclaiming “Oh! So that’s why it’s so hard to get by from month to month!” This analysis with the loan officer is an essential step, because for many clients it’s the first time that they’ve actually sat down and calculated their monthly net profit. Sometimes I get really anxious, like OH my goodness we are never going to figure out if this person is making a profit or a loss with their business!! But the loan officers always seem to know the right questions to ask, and more importantly how to be as empathetic as possible, especially in regards to subject matters that may be uncomfortable for some clients to talk about (such as marriage status and past loans that maybe didn’t go so well). It’s not so much an interrogation or Q&A session as it is a conversation. It really reinforces how a lot of the day-to-day work of microfinance is about personal connections (that sounds like a really cheesy quote from the Tom Cruise movie Jerry  Maguire… but it really feels true!).

The second video is a brief clip of a lucha libre fight I went to last Monday with some friends. OK, this is not microfinance related at all but it is definitely a very interesting example of colorful local culture. For those of you who don’t know, lucha libre is a style of free-form wrestling where the fighters wear colorful, unique masks (don’t click on the wikipedia link unless you’re prepared to lose many minutes reading the intricate details of lucha libra history, it’s pretty fascinating!). My friend told me that there are two different types of luchadores: los tecnicos (the “technical” ones, or the good guys) and los rudos (the “rude ones,” or the bad guys). The “technical” luchadores focus more on formal techniques and acrobatics, while the “rude” luchadores are all about playing dirty and breaking the rules, often right in front of the referee (the referee at the fight I attended seemed pretty indifferent, and sometimes even joined the fight, holding down the other fighters for the “rude ones” to beat up!). Anyway it was a pretty memorable evening, especially the last fight. I for one was not expecting the grand finale to involve luchadores dressed up as women; if I remember correctly their names were Pimpinella and Happy Flowers. Anyway, enjoy!

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(For high quality lucha libre, check out Rey Misterioso vs. El Mistico!)

FVP has 18 clients (!!) fundraising on Kiva right now; be sure to check them out and make a loan! You can also turn your Black Friday a cool Kiva Green by purchasing a gift certificate for a loved one.

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