Rosa Fuentes, an entrepreneur who in 2010 sold her house and a small chicken diner to pursue her dream, owning 36 stalls at the famous Puente Alto Flea Market (Persa de Puente Alto), in the Metropolitan Region, located at Balmaceda 56, had a successful nine-year run.
Everything was smooth sailing until October 2019 when mass social unrest took the country by storm and drastically changed the commercial landscape and safety in the commune. “We took a lot of damage, we were robbed, a lot of stall owners had to leave. Today I have problems with my roof where all the people coming to rob me climbed up and walked all over” says Rosa describing the past circumstances.
As soon as any progress toward a comeback was in sight, March delivered an even greater blow: the coronavirus pandemic.
Puente Alto is the municipality that has spent the most time in lockdown in the entire country, the singular reason Rosa had to close the doors on all the stalls she rented. “I wasn’t financially prepared. Thank God we are all healthy, we have taken great care in looking after ourselves, but moneywise, we have been hit very hard” recounts Rosa, currently in debt for the warehouse she rents for her business.
Keeping the doors closed for eight months is not easy, but “the stall renters have worked very hard, and it’s thanks to them that we have made it so far”, she confesses. In that vein the greatest expense for the market administration and stall operators has been protective gear and sanitization products.
The reality of Rosa’s and 36 other entrepreneurs working at the market is common to many other throughout the commune and the country. That is why, and continuing with its commitment to the communities we it is located in, CMPC collectively developed “Arriba Todos Juntos” in Puente Alto, an initiative that intends to reactivate the local economy by distributing sanitization kits and signage detailing health and safety protocols, preventing the disease from spreading between clients and employees. The initiative will also train and certify personnel to ensure entrepreneurs comply with pandemic contingency measures.
After an extensive period of drafting information – with the help of representatives from the Regional Council of the Province of Cordillera of Asech – CMPC delivered 21 kits to 50 of the entrepreneurs benefitting from the program on Wednesday the 16th of December.
Over the following weeks the remaining kits will be distributed.
“The stall operators would typically gather to collect money and buy disinfectant, today, thanks to Arriba Todos Juntos, we finally have the kind of support that will help us financially for a while to come”, the market stall owner affirmed.
According to the Public Affairs Deputy Manager of CMPC, Francisco Torrealba, “the company has had a presence in Puente Alto for the last hundred years. We have grown together. That is why we simply couldn’t turn a blind eye to what the commune was going through because of the pandemic, and we wanted to at least help with something as basic as personal protective equipment and hygiene products, which although basic, are the essential items needed to open their doors safely”.
The Arriba Todos Juntos program is also under way in several different communes in the central and southern area of Chile, specifically the regions of Maule, Biobío and Araucanía, benefitting a total of more than 500 entrepreneurs, small and medium business owners and tourist agents, all directly affected by the pandemic.