In my town, from an early age, mothers teach you the basics, like washing and cooking. It is an essential survival skill. We didn’t have the resources to hire someone, nor did my mother have time to do it, so we had to learn to do it ourselves. I found a passion for cooking and have taken courses since, but I’ve learned the most at the university of life.

I’m from Chocó, the Pacific of Colombia. I came to Bogotá for a job opportunity to care for the Caja Agraria President’s kids. My dream was always to have a restaurant that serves food from the pacific in “The Big City.” I found a place close to the food market where I used to do my groceries and began thinking of how nice it would be to work there next to all those fresh ingredients.

My friend told me the girl who’d taken the kitchen at the Plaza needed a lady to help her, so I came. The first two kitchen owners didn’t last, and eventually, the owner of the Plaza offered me the choice of renting the space. He told me, “Señora Mary, why don’t you take the kitchen since your food brings customers and is delicious?” I told him I’d love to, but I didn’t have money, so he let me pay slowly, and I took the chance. Then the owner told me that to remain on the Plaza, I needed to buy the space I worked at or the rights, as we call it, in Colombia.

I was too committed to the business to let it go. I borrowed the money from a sketchy person and ended up in debt. The interest rate was also very high. My children and I went to bed many nights without eating because all the money went into paying the debt. I also encountered resistance from other business owners of the Plaza, who weren’t happy I got my space and tried to force me out. But I believed so much in myself that they soon realized they couldn’t break me.

I’ve grown in my business and as a person. The Plaza and its community have grown too. All of this has strengthened me, and I clung to God’s hand a lot. It hasn’t been easy, but I’m happy to say I’ve been here for 21 years. In the near future, I plan to expand and open a new location.

Thanks @ipesbogota and all the support you give to the cooks that are part of the @plazasdemercadodistritales