Martha Jiménez Cardoso on How Women in STEM Can Change the World
Sustainable practices are something that not only directly affects the planet but also the people who live on it. From recycling to reusing, small steps can make a big difference in the long run. This philosophy is one that Astral Tequila has taken to heart and put in motion with their Adobe Brick Project which kicked off in 2017.
So, what does the Adobe Brick Project do specifically?
It takes the leftover agave fibers from the tequila-making process and uses them as the basis for adobe bricks that are in turn used to create homes for underserved communities in Mexico—something Astral Tequila's director of sustainability, Martha Jiménez Cardoso, is incredibly proud of.
Jiménez Cardoso tells People Chica, "I have so many favorite things about my work but I have to say the most rewarding thing is using my knowledge to help communities and families in need through the Adobe Brick Project."
The Mexican-born Latina in STEM notes that this project has allowed her to "make positive changes to the community through my work" something that has always been a dream of hers.
For Earth Month, Jiménez Cardoso chats with People Chica about how her Oaxacan heritage has helped inform how she approaches her life and career as well as how Latinas in STEM can make a big difference in the world.
Life can be unpredictable and far from linear. Did you ever think that you would be doing what you're doing today? Was there ever an indication of your interest in this when you were younger?
Honestly, I could have never imagined this is where I'd end up, with that said, I've always wanted to help people and generate positive changes wherever I go, so it has been a dream to be doing this work for my community in Jalisco, Mexico.
When I was younger, though I didn't think I'd become Astral's Director of Sustainability, I did live in Sierra Mixe where most of the houses, like my own, were made of adobe bricks. So, when we started this project, the first thing I thought about was improving the construction conditions of the region which we have been able to do through the Adobe Brick Project.
You're the director of sustainability at Astral Tequila. What is your favorite aspect or element of what you get to do?
I have so many favorite things about my work but I have to say the most rewarding thing is using my knowledge to help communities and families in need through the Adobe Brick Project. Working with Astral Tequila has granted me the opportunity to make positive changes to the community through my work on an even larger scale, which has always been my dream and would not have been possible without them.
Because of Earth Day, April has become known as the month that celebrates sustainability. How do you hope to continue the legacy of incorporating sustainable practices into the corporate culture at Astral Tequila?
Ultimately, I want to continue focusing my team's hard work on the Adobe Brick Project but also spread the word about all the great work we are doing so more people can get involved in giving back. In fact, from Earth Day through Cinco de Mayo, people around the U.S. can make every round of drinks "for the house" by purchasing Astral Tequila on Drizly or ordering Astral at your local bar to help create more bricks to build more homes for those in need. Through my work with Astral, my mission is to create more sustainable projects that will help the planet while also making great-tasting tequila.
You have roots that link you to the small Indigenous village of Santa Maria Tlahuitoltepec in Oaxaca, Mexico. How have the lessons you've learned from your cultural heritage informed how you approach life and your career?
For me, there has always been a constant lesson which is that in life you must fight for what you believe in and strive for greatness in order to achieve change. The way I grew up had a significant impact on me. I was constantly motivated to improve myself and fight for the well-being of others and had the fortune of meeting people, like those who work at Astral, with the same vision of getting resources to support families in need to improve their living conditions. While there are different ways to give back to the planet/community, my goal is to continue down this path as far as my career in the industry will let me.
You've been overseeing the Adobe Brick Project since 2017—a project that builds homes for disenfranchised communities through the use of creating bricks with the leftover agave fibers produced by Astral Tequila. What has been the most rewarding aspect of this experience for you?
The most rewarding aspect has been seeing the houses being built from start to finish with the Adobe bricks that our team of amazing partners make every day. Seeing the smiles and happiness these homes have brought to so many families with whom we have created a strong bond with has not only been gratifying but also magical. It is also great to see how our work has influenced other tequila producers to be more responsible in their production process and support people who need it most.
We don't often see Latinas in high-ranking STEM positions, but that is slowly changing. What is something you'd share with another Latina about pursuing a career in STEM?
I urge more women to study a career in STEM, it will not only open doors for them career-wise but also give them the opportunity to create something new and innovative which can help change people's lives, communities, companies, and the environment as a whole.
While Latinas in STEM may have to work twice as hard to achieve their dreams, my piece of advice would be to stay patient because projects take time to develop, and your hard work will shine through in the end. When things get hard, there will be times when you want to give up, but if you really want to make it, you should never stop fighting for what you deserve, and remember to always believe in yourself and your abilities.
As it pertains to sustainable practices, where do you see the spirits industry going in the future?
This is an ever-evolving industry and I know that as we drive awareness more brands will be able to learn how to become responsible in their production processes to generate a less harmful impact on the environment while distilling their spirits.