The U.S. Department of State has named Lina Hortensia Martinez Loredo of Honduras, an alumna of the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) and the Central American Peace Scholarship (CAPS), as State Alumni Member of the Month. Throughout October, her leadership and promotion of women’s leadership and community development is being recognized on the State Alumni website (https://alumni.state.gov), the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs’ official site for the more than one million alumni who have participated in a Department-sponsored exchange program. Each month, the Bureau’s Office of Alumni Affairs, which supports alumni as they build on their exchange experiences, confers the award on an outstanding alumnus or alumna.
Martinez had a vision of generating employment and income for Garifuna (Afro-Honduran) women in Honduras. This dream led her to establish seven women’s associations that produce cassava (yucca) bread for local and international consumption. She also created her own business, Wabagari Distribution, which processes the cassava produced by one of the associations.
Martinez advises more than 300 women in cassava commercialization. The cassava that is produced in Garifuna communities and exported through Wabagari Distribution has generated employment for small producers and has benefited 25 families. The cassava exports help these families earn above the average monthly family income of US$120 and improve their living conditions. Wabagari, which in Garifuna means “our life,” is also dedicated to promoting the Garifuna culture, both in Honduras and abroad, through the production and commercialization of cassava. In 2009, Martinez received the Presidential Export Award for successfully exporting to the United States the cassava brand “O’ Big Mama.”
Reflecting on her State Department-sponsored exchange program, Martinez says that she feels motivated to improve the way of life for future generations and to continue developing viable economical alternatives in Garifuna communities.
For more information, visit the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs’ website at http://exchanges.state.gov/alumni/alumnus.html.
Media Contact: Catherine Stearns, StearnsCL@state.gov, phone (202) 632-6437