“My grandfather…he was a resinero. When I started working for Ejido Verde we had this moment - he was so proud of me. He said ‘you’re a resinero now, too.’” Leticia is a biologist at Ejido Verde and a member of the Cherán indigenous community in Michoacán, where over 800 hectares of pine trees have been planted to date. You can usually find her disassembling pinecones or studying young trees at the organization’s headquarters in Morelia. “To do work that impacts my community - it’s incredible.”
Xavier Amayo, Don Amado Mezcal
You’d be hard pressed to find Xavier Amayo, or “Xavi,” without a smile on his face. And what’s not to smile about? This 29-year-old Puebla native is the fresh face of Don Amado, an artesenal mezcal crafted in the small Oaxacan town of Santa Catarina Minas, about 25 miles south of Oaxaca City. The Don Amado palenque, or distillery, uses stone pits, clay stills, and a recipe passed down through 11 generations to produce the high-octane Mexican spirit. And we mean high-octane. With a lineup of offerings coming in at just under 100-proof, it’s no wonder Mexicans say, “if you kiss it, it will kiss you back. If you hit it, it will hit you back.” But for Xavi, it’s all the former. He claims to have worked his way up from washing dishes in New York City to craft distribution simply by…talking to people. Though, with a personality to match his love for mezcal, it’s tough to be skeptic. When Xavi isn’t winning over booze and poultry lovers with Don Amado’s pechuga mezcal, which is distilled with chicken breast, he’s busy working on plans for his new restaurant, La Paloma. The establishment is set to serve up a variety of Mexican fare from Guerrero, Michoacán, Jalisco, and, of course, a healthy selection of mezcal. La Paloma will open its doors in February 2018 to a crowded market of mezcalerias and Mexican food. But for the self-proclaimed father of mezcal cocktails, no task is too tall.
Amy, international manager of Future Shorts
When someone tells us they’d rather spend a beach day wrapped in wool blankets than bathing in salt water, it’s an automatic disqualifier. Except for Amy. Although this Brit is so cool you think she’d want to bake in the equatorial sun, Amy much prefers a crisp ocean breeze. That, and a good short film. She is the front-woman of Future Shorts, Secret Cinema’s short film appendage designed to deliver motion pictures to the masses. The company selects a handful of films from hundreds of submissions to package into it’s 90-minute seasonal program, which can be bought by anyone, and screened anywhere, at anytime. At Future Shorts, they believe access to short film shouldn’t require a festival ticket. For Amy, the premise is about more than a viewing experience - it’s about reaching untapped communities full of creative capacity to make film. So far, so good. Future Shorts is inspiring audiences in over 100 cities across the globe. Which means at some point, Amy will have to leave the leg warmers at home.
Anna Bruce, photographer of Oaxacan mezcal
Anna is more than a banana. But she can be awfully sweet. The professional mezcal photographer - you read correctly - let us tag along on for one of her assignments at the Don Amado distillery in Santa Catarina Minas. And you could tell she’d done this before. The British-born-come-Oaxaca-resident masterfully summited brick ovens, crouched atop stone pits, and orchestrated inebriated subjects en route to a catalog that would make L.L. Bean proud. Anna got her start in photography by following the old “you don’t get what you don’t ask for” adage. After trying mezcal for the first time at a Mexico City bar in 2008, Anna knew she needed to reconnect with the elixir and it’s birthplace. So she did what anyone would do - pitched the Mexican Embassy in London. And it worked. Her grant from the Mexican Foreign Ministry supported seven weeks of photo documentation at a small distillery in Oaxaca that exported a brand called El Mero Mero. Apparently those were taxpayer dollars well spent. Anna’s exhibition from that summer went on to garner attention from mezcal brands, publications, and even the London School of Economics, and has earned her features in Culture Trip, Time Out, and Tom Bullock’s, The Mezcal Experience. So, remember, sometimes all you have to do is ask.
Don’t let her soothing vocals fool you - Sofía Vitola can kick your ass. And she’ll do it in a red snakeskin skirt with a seductive smile on her face. This one-woman locomotive hailing from Buenos Aires is better known by her stage name, Potra, which means “a wild horse that is difficult to tame.” Luckily, we caught her on a good day. With one full-length album under her belt, Sofía has spent the last month touring Mexico, picking up guitarists, drummers, and guest vocalists along the way. And if they aren’t having the time of their lives, nobody is. Sofía’s boot-stomping, hair-flipping, stop-drop-and-roll style could move a Quaker to shake. Even if she’s kicking your ass.
Alejandro, founder of Pixza
Hidden in Mexico City’s Roma Norte neighborhood, a revolution is rising…from a 500 degree oven. Alejandro Souza, founder of Pixza, isn’t just baking pizza’s that are good for you - they’re good for the world. The recipe calls for one part blue corn based, grasshopper-topped pizza slices, and one part community empowerment. The end result is simply, delicious. After working with homeless communities in New York during graduate school, Alejandro decided it was time to develop a program for people in his home country. Pixza works with shelters to redignify Mexico City's homeless youth through professional coaching and gainful employment at the pizza shop. Though the idea wasn’t delivered by a Burning Bush. Alejandro spent time interviewing Mexico City’s affected youth about what they wanted and needed - tomorrow, a week from now, a year from now. For Alejandro, this interactive, empathetic approach is paramount to a successful social enterprise. When you show up to work on a black motorcycle sporting tortoise Ray-Bans and an ear-to-ear grin, it’s easy to see why people might want to stop and chat.
Charlotte, short film director
If you’ve ever watched a press-conference, round-table, or 10 minutes of C-SPAN, and thought, “I wish someone would just speak their fucking mind,” then Charlotte Scott-Wilson is your muse. The Scottish-born director has an unapologetic hubris, and it’s working. Her film, Hold On, won Best Narrative Short Film at the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival, and her 2014 production, After All, was selected for competition at the Palm Springs Shortfest, among others. Her films are a self-reflection about fear, anxiety, doubt, and a head-on collision with life, which makes the viewing experience a little more…human. That and the fact that she can’t get through a post-screening interview without uttering a four-letter word. But when sandwiched between transformative visions for short-film and anecdotes of success and failure, it’s easy to forgive. Actually, it’s pretty inspiring.
Chema, the textile creator
“Rug designer” just doesn’t have a sexy ring to it. Instead, Chema Balmaceda prefers “textile creator.” To him, it better captures the creative genius hidden behind wire-framed glasses. And we don’t necessarily disagree, though he is a good salesman. In the last year, Chema traded in his slacks for a pair of chinos, design studios in New York for a textile mill in Nepal, and ballpoint pen for a watercolor palette - all in the name of…alebrijes. Well, sort of. When plans to start a joint rug design venture fell through, Chema turned to these mythological Mexican creatures for inspiration - and they rewarded him. What start as colorful notepad sketches eventually transform into asymmetrical silk and wool home furnishings, each of which represents the story of a slain alebrije. To Chema, it’s an allegory for conquering the monsters in your own life. Who knew rugs could be so complex?