Once upon a time, there was a hill…

Loma Sign

Asunción is one of many cities claiming to have been built on seven hills. Thanks to microfinance, one of these hills, Loma San Jerónimo, has now become “the first touristic neighborhood of Asunción,” according to SENATUR (the Paraguayan National Tourism Secretary).

The initiative was born inside SENATUR’s 2008/2018 Tourism Development Plan, which sought funds to rescue the history and traditions of this neighborhood. The implementation would be easy, SENATUR suggested, and the office asked Financiera el Comercio (with which they had collaborated on “the best toilets on the road” campaign previously) if they would be interested in offering microcredits within the neighborhood. SENATUR would provide the promotion, ideas, and capacity-building in the area. The Financiera el Comercio immediately accepted the challenge.

The neighborhood was packed with interesting business ideas, and, as a result, Financiera el Comercio soon supported 27 new customers – 21 of them women. The initiative has been so successful that some of the customers have already begun to ask for a second loan in order to improve their businesses. Plus, the Financiera el Comercio has also organized a fair at Loma San Jerónimo this month to celebrate the Microentrepreneur Day, in which all microfinance customers of Financiera el Comercio of the central region were welcome to participate.

Especially touching were the stories of Ruth Sánchez and Graciela Coronel: Both women are grateful to the Financiera for believing in them and not requiring their husbands’ signatures to obtain a loan. They are also feeling fulfilled because, for the first time in their lives, they do not depend on others and their work has been appreciated. They can now dream of different ways to improve their respective businesses – Ruth owns a coffee shop that serves “cocido” (a kind of Paraguayan tea), sells literature, and organizes cultural events; Graciela owns the tourist information house, where she and her husband work as guides and run a small souvenir shop.

Loma San Jeronimo

Different views from the neighborhood, including Graciela and her husband at their tourist information booth and Ruth serving cocido.

To learn more about this picturesque quarter, I encourage you to read Seth Kugel’s Frugal Traveler post in the New York Times.

Name block - Maria Zotes

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