“Colorful yoga mat. Eye-catching home décor. Bohemian table runner. Comfy beach blanket. Each purchase provides a homemade Christmas meal for an impoverished family in Mexico.” – Siestas for Fiestas
Many people travel to enjoy the gorgeous beaches and resorts of Cancun, Mexico however few people think about the other side of Mexico often unseen behind the luxury. The countless number of Mexicans living in poverty, lacking opportunity to find sustainable employment, feed their families, and send their children to school. For Chris and Jesenia, a husband and wife team from Los Angeles, it took an unexpected and serendipitous move to Cancun to realize how much need there was in the community and how passionate they were to make a difference.
It was there in Cancun where Chris and Jesenia met Pastor Arturo Guzman and his congregation at Fe, Amor y Esperanza whose passion for helping the community changed Chris and Jesenia’s life. Upon returning to the US, Chris and Jesenia founded Siestas for Fiestas, a boutique blanket shop that sources textiles directly from Mexico and handcrafts all products in Los Angeles, CA. For each one sold a Christmas meal is provided to a family living in poverty in Cancun, Mexico.
I had the opportunity to speak with Jesenia and learn more about the inspiration behind their company and what their vision is for the future. Here is what she had to say.
Me: Why did you and Chris move to Cancun?
Jesenia: We were leading busy lives working in LA and had always wanted to live in another country. I was working in the wedding planning industry when a short-term position opened up for me to work in Cancun, Mexico with a California-based company who wanted to expand internationally. Since both Chris and I are native Spanish speakers and had been to Cancun before and loved it, it sounded like the perfect opportunity to try something new. We moved to Cancun in January 2015 and stayed for about six months. While we were there we met a Pastor that was working on an amazing project to help feed his congregation and we wanted to help.
Me: How did you meet Pastor Arturo Guzman and get connected with church?
Jesenia: Chris and I had a woman taking care of my grandpa in LA and when I told her we were moving to Cancun, she asked me to deliver some things to her nephew, Pastor Arturo Guzman, who lived there and was a Pastor at Fe, Amor y Esperanza. We met him and told him that we wanted to find a church to attend. We started going to Fe, Amor y Esperanza that very first Sunday and continued to go the entire time we were in Cancun. Pastor Arturo and his family became our family. We were so incredibly inspired by him and the work he was doing to help others.
What inspired you to start Siestas for Fiestas?
Jesenia: Pastor Arturo shared with us an especially personal and heartfelt mission: The church’s ongoing Christmas project to feed families living in poverty. We were inspired by his heart for this project and began brainstorming ideas on how we could help. One day we were out shopping and saw beautiful Mexican textiles and I thought “Why not use the colorful textiles of Mexico to make and sell blankets?” I bought some materials and made 16 blankets thinking I would sell them to friends to raise money for the project. I ended up selling all the blankets instantly and little by little, kept making and selling more. Before I knew it, Siestas for Fiestas was launched and we have been making blankets ever since.
Me: What is your vision and mission?Jesenia: Each blanket purchased provides a family with a Christmas dinner. The dinners were designed to be packaged in a way that families could easily pick it up at the local church and take it back home to enjoy as a family on Christmas Eve. The meal includes a rotisserie chicken, 2 pounds of soup, 2 pounds of salad, 4 dinner rolls, and paper goods (utensils, plates, napkins). All is packed inside a reusable container.
Our hope is to end poverty in the areas surrounding Cancun, Mexico, and our long-term mission is to create opportunities for those living in poverty so that they may provide for themselves and their families.
Me: Why did you decide to provide Christmas meals?
Jesenia: Everyday is hard for individuals living in poverty, but holidays bring an extra challenge. Most of the recipients live in homes that don’t have electricity or access to water, making it hard for them to have a hot, homemade meal. Christmas is usually spent like any other day. By providing a family meal for Christmas, it allows these families to enjoy a very special time of year together as a family and also provides extra food for a few days after.
Me: How are they delivered?
Jesenia: Pastor Arturo arranges the deliveries months before with a local church located in the selected towns. This year 8 towns will receive meals. Each church receives 100 tickets to distribute to the community. It’s not required that the families attend the church. On Christmas Eve each container is packed with food by volunteers from the church and loaded onto the trucks. The trucks then make their way to feed the awaiting families who pick up the meals and bring them home.
What kind of impact have you made?
Jesenia: Last year, 150 meals were donated and this year our goal is to feed 1,000 families for Christmas meals. So far have funded 600 meals.
Me: What are you future goals?
Jesenia: We are amazed by the support we have received by our friends and family, and the impact we have made. In the future, we hope to find a storage place for our products, and to keep growing and feed more families. We would also like to be in Cancan more so they can be more involved with community and help with other areas. For example, many of the children don’t have transportation to school so don’t go. There may be a way to help provide transportation to get the kids in school. Long term, our vision is to not only provide Christmas meals, but make a lasting impact on the quality of life for individuals living in the Cancun community and beyond.
To learn more and get your own colorful blanket check out Siestas for Fiestas at www.siestasforfiestas.com.