The Cultural Brand project emerged from what was observed during our visit to 20 de Noviembre last year. Our very first contact with the artisans was during a meeting they held with a representative of the state’s tourism. The lady was there to explore ways to collaborate with them and improve their sales. The artisans told the lady that they needed to have a fund; they could not afford giving anyone their crafts to be paid afterwards. Right after this meeting, we had the chance to talk to the artisans.
We met various groups of artisans who passionately love to make their crafts. They don’t earn much from it, and most of that money is reinvested in their craft making process: they buy materials to make more crafts (of course, this is not the case for all, some have sustained their kids while studying in cities with that money). Most of the artisans declared not to rely on this money for their living, that it was difficult for them to sell because not many tourists visit them and that it was difficult to get the raw materials for the textiles and spare parts for the machines (carpenters).
One of the main concepts that was introduced to the people of 20 Nov, was the creation of a Community Brand (CB) that would allow them share logistics (materials acquisition and distribution of their crafts) and reduce costs. The CB would also intertwine the different artisan groups which were already related (leftover material of the carpenters is useful for wood artisans, and all wood product is finished with wax) and allow the creation of mixed products (a wooden box could contain soap and an embroidered towel).
In work made after the fieldtrip, we imagined an ideal scenario for 20 Nov, and we envisioned a time when they gain access to a social security system, a proper education system and communication network (as we were told in an interview that these are fields in which they have been left behind). And so, this year’s CB project starts with the challenge of linking the artisan’s production and a health care system. If their craft production management was improved, would they be enabled and gain that access?
There were many questions to be answered first, like how does the National Social Security System work in Mexico and what are their choices to gain access to it? What is the least expensive way? Do they get any benefits for being acknowledged as an indigenous community?
The Social Security System in Mexico is so complicated that we won’t be able to fully understand it, but we know some things now, and we are able to frame the project more properly.
There are many possible figures in which people can constitute themselves in order to manage their economic activity. They can become an enterprise, a Social Civil Organization, a Cooperative and a Society of Rural Producers, among others. However, none of those give them immediate access to the Social Security System (SSS). If they seek access to the SSS through their constitutive figure, the employer should pay the greatest share of a monthly or yearly fee and the rest is taken from each worker’s salary. The direct implication is that the ‘business’ must have a stable income to be able to cover the fees; not the case in 20 Nov. However, a positive factor we learned is that by being formally constituted, the artisans group gain access to different governmental programs; each type gets different types of support based on a specific calendar (*it would be very useful to map this information for people from 20 Nov).
The voluntary affiliation option is a more suitable choice for the people in 20 Nov. There are two institutions to which people can subscribe themselves: the Popular Insurance and the Mexican Institute of Social Security (IMSS). The first one is much cheaper, but the combination of both seems more convenient as they cover different matters. The sum of the two yearly fees already show how much each artisan should make a year; it is a great starting point.
Therefore, the CB concept has evolved. We know that we are dealing with at least two things that are or can be connected: the brand in itself and health. The CB can be rethought as a “health stamp”: all the artisans can sell their products with the stamp; the stamp increases the price of the products, but that money is dedicated either to a personal or communal health fund. In that manner, there is no need to worry about different products and diverse quality among similar products. This idea could actually be co-funded by some NGO working with health matters.
Additionally, we believe that the artisans should subscribe themselves to the Popular insurance first (the least expensive), and they should implement some technique to increase their profits (each artisan could apply the one they find more convenient: improving marketing, branding, business, quality, services for tourists, sharing logistics, selling and producing together, etc.); and seek manners to get governmental support and buy a stock of raw materials for their crafts (gain liquidity). Once they gather enough money (from these actions plus what is gathered through the Health Stamp), they should voluntarily subscribe to IMSS. After a year, each group can evaluate how the system is working and make a decision if it is time to subscribe to IMSS through their constitutional figure; otherwise, they can continue to do it voluntarily.
Perhaps our ideas can be mapped into a program, where different actions should be performed at different times.
Some issues are still confusing us
We already questioned the role of money. We do not know if it is right to make money more important in the community by linking it to the health care system. Would be pushing them towards consumption? Would money usage change the power structure?
The discussions we have had with experts in Mexico and in Finland has helped us to state that money is really about value. From interviews made in the field, we deduce that health is valued in the community; while money seems to be the easiest means to access a health care system, we wonder if there could be an alternative manner to gain the same while taking money out of the equation.
It seems that we need to understand better two things: the cultural role of money and what they value the most in 20 Nov.
Should we talk about health, or should we talk of wellbeing instead? Health might be limited to the physiological health and neglects the psychological and emotional spheres among others. If we talk of wellbeing, what other factors should be considered within the system?
As for the role of money, we could conduct a qualitative and quantitative small research in 20 Nov. We could ask what they use money for and things like the number of light bulbs, TV’s and other electronics at their homes, how much they spend in school, for buying soda, or making parties. We could ask them to tell us what they consider to be expensive or inexpensive, where they believe that spending money is good or bad.
This task might now seem overwhelming to the LABBERS, but they should not worry, the Health Stamp concept is an excellent following step, and regardless of what we find out in relation to the value of money and the meaning of wellbeing, it is a plan that caters health emergency, which is a matter of great concern.
By Claudia based on work done by LABBERS in 2012 and on talks with Susu, Hei, Sofia, Sharoon, Lucero, Theresa, Suvi, Alastair, Irma, Lilia, Gaby, Irene, Juan Manuel and Oscar Person.