San Marcos de Cutris is a rural town in the Northern Zone of Costa Rica. Located 30 kilometers down a long, winding dirt road, the village is unmistakably an agricultural community. Most of the 400 people who live there work on family farms or at local pineapple plantations. Days are either long and hot or wet and rainy in this beautiful blend of abundant farms and rain forests. The Northern Zone is one of the most impoverished regions of Costa Rica, with few opportunities for women to support their families.
Prior to 2012, Pérez matriarch Cristina raised chickens and ducks to sell their eggs and meat. When a large industry moved in and sold animals and eggs at a lower price, Cristina and her family’s well-being suffered. At the same time, her husband, Perez, lost his job. Two of their sons began putting in long hours at pineapple plantations to make ends meet and their daughter, Laura, left her job to come home to help her family.
With the completion of their oven, Cristina and Laura began to prepare and sell hundreds of baked goods. They make over 800 empanadas, cinnamon and pineapple rolls, corn bizcochos and other basic breads at a time. They take special orders for pizzas, cakes, doughnuts and specialty breads. With a 50% profit margin, they earn roughly $50-70 each time they bake. In addition to its practical use, the Pérez oven has become a community gathering point. Every Christmas, Cristina and Laura host the children in the community. Since 2012, Laura has served as one of Bricks to Bread’s In-Country Coordinators, providing guidance to other oven recipients. She hosts Bread Baking Retreats and helps build new ovens and teaches women her delicious recipes. Long term, Cristina and Laura wish to sell and distribute even more broadly as demand is high enough to bake at least three times a week ($7,700 annually). With the average income in San Marcos being $3.00 an hour, earning more than $6,500/year would be a considerable achievement. Without this opportunity it is hard to say how the Pérez family would make ends meet.