LIFE STORY: María Pacheco


Curicó, Maule Valley (Chile), March 29th. How does a chartered accountant end up on the board of a wine cooperative in the Maule Valley?

María Pacheco, unknowingly, was weaving a path to that destination.

The energetic and non-conformist Pacheco explains I don’t want to lose my motivation, there’s so much to do, so much to see (…) and I’ve been like this since I was a little girl. At school, she learned to love others without expecting anything in return”.

She comes from a little village near Curico. There were vineyards at home and my grandfather made wine.” That’s how she first came into contact with grapes, even if, back then, she chose to understand and audit numbers instead. As an auditor, she acquired experience, found a tool for justice in those numbers and gained confidence in a world of men. Women have no limits […] in my world, I create my opportunities.”

But her path had already been decided and, all of a sudden, wine came back into her life. At 33 and with her 6-year-old son Agustin, Maria became a widow and inherited her husband’s vineyards. He was more than a husband. He was a friend, companion and the love of her life. During those months of grief, she toured the vineyards and learned the trade with her father-in-law. Those Fairtrade certified vineyards set Maria on the Fairtrade path.

Looking for challenges is Maria’s way of dealing with grief. She kept on working as a chartered accountant and studied Economics at university. While she helped her father-in-law with the vineyards, her interest in Fairtrade kept on growing. It struck me that the final producer was going to be the one selling the final product to the consumer, the whole chain […] of commercial intermediaries is wiped out and all those intermediary profits that don’t reach the producer are left out.” With her numbers, Maria was getting closer and closer to fulfilling her destiny.

Maria caught one of her teachers and her predecessor in the cooperative board’s eye who saw a perfect ally in her. She has the numbers and the energy, she’s a people person and feels that if a woman commits to something I’ll take a risk to see her succeed.”

When Maria joined Caupolicán, it was already Fairtrade certified. She deployed one of her many skills:  numbers. But death would once more cross her path. Paola Parra, the former head of the cooperative board passed away. However, Maria had promised to see the project through. Maria explains that there was so much activity, so much to do, so many things to improve and others to save (…) everything was ready and the people on the team were perfect”. She ultimately fulfilled her destiny, one that had been in the making since childhood due to her energy, her love for others, her keen interest in fairness and people, her relation to wine and her constant desire to improve.

The leader Pacheco – no longer a “little girl”- embraces her faith in Fairtrade and wishes to see the cooperative grow. She lives in the now and is a manager ad honorem[1]of the cooperative and makes a living with her chartered accountant position.

She leads the cooperative. While on the commercial front, she negotiates directly with British buyers who purchase all of the wine, on the management front, she looks for the best ways for cooperative members to produce their grapes and makes sure the numbers always add up.

Nowadays, after seven years on the ground, she goes to the members’ homes whenever she gets a chance. She urges them to stand up for themselves and have bigger dreams. She has found an ally in Patricia, an agronomist who coordinates the eighteen small-scale producers and their vineyards and who is Maria’s eyes and ears in the fields. Her son Agustin, who is also a partner in the cooperative, is looking for the best ways to use the Premium[1]. And today, together, they witnessed the birth of bottled Fairtrade wine from the Caupolicán Cooperative.

[1] Done without any remuneration. 


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