Las Panas: Tearing the patriarchy down through kneading and baking
Las Panas is a social project that started three years ago - Photo: File Photo/EL UNIVERSAL

Las Panas: Tearing the patriarchy down through kneading and baking

Mexico City
Nayeli Reyes
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The women at Las Panas teach low-income women how to make bread, cake, and pizza

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Sugar, eggs, milk, butter, vanilla, flour, friends, feminism, talks, hugs, and two psychologists; these are some of the ingredients you’ll need to bake a cake with Las Panas, a group of women fighting against gender violence.

In Mexico, it is often said that “all griefs with bread are less” and this saying is taken seriously in this workshop. Here, women learn how to make conchas, ciabatta, cinnamon rolls, pizza, and another 20 recipes, meanwhile, psychologists Rosalía Trujano and Alicia Salgado guide women to acquire sorority, economic empowerment, and self-reconstruction.

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Las Panas is a social project that started three years ago when Rosalía Trujano got together with some friends to make bread in their free time. There, in the kitchen, she realized all the possibilities of a project like this: “we could create more much deep friendship. We shared tips but also sad and happy stories.”

Now, three years later, the workshop has become a reality. There are two types of workshops: free and with a charge. The free baking workshop is aimed at low-income women and is organized in different locations, in order to create a support network in that community. The other workshop is open to all women and the money is used to sponsor the free workshop.

“Making bread is an excuse to reflect on issues such as our position as women in our community, the role that has been assigned to us, how we live through violence, and recognize each other as friends,” Xóchitl Quezada said, one of the first women to take the workshop and a volunteer at Las Panas.

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About a year ago, Alicia Salgado partnered with Rosalía, and although she saw many obstacles for a project like this, especially the lack of support; nevertheless, one of the main problems is sexism because many times, women depend on a male figure, who forbids them from attending the workshop.

However, Las Panas is a safe space in a country like Mexico, where 66.1% of women over 15 years have suffered emotional, economic, physical, and sexual violence, according to a national survey published in 2016.

Rosalía says that at Las Panas, women “share other knowledge: talking about violence, our experiences, and start to create tools, as a group, to keep on living in these contexts,”

Reconciling with the Kitchen

During a baking class, women arrive, put their aprons on, read the recipe, and the instructor shares her secret to bake the fluffiest cake.

While the cake is ready, Alicia asks the women to mention something women are forbidden just for being women. The women mention a few examples: not enjoying sex, being single when you’re over 30, not showing cleavage, not being smarter than your partner, not having fun, not going out at night.

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For many women such as Carla, being in a group of and for women is a healing experience: “I like making bread but also the networks created by friends (…) we get together, bake bread, talk, knead, it’s like therapy.”

But Carla didn’t always feel as comfortable in the kitchen. When she was a little girl, she hid under the table to avoid helping in the kitchen. For Judith, cooking was also an imposition and she avoided it but now, after being part of Las Panas for a year, baking has “allowed me to liberate from some things (...It makes me feel better” and Judith is now “reconciling with the kitchen through bread and that feels really good (…) I still don’t cook, but I do make bread.”

But why bread? Because the main idea is to “re-signify and regain the spaces that we had as women, the spaces granted to us: the kitchen, embroidery, etc. This is where secrets were shared. Mothers and grandmothers shared their knowledge with younger women,” Rosalía explains.

Furthermore, at Las Panas, they promote entrepreneurship. During one of the classes, women meet an accountant who helps them to figure out the prices and the cost of everything they need to make bread. They even offer a place to produce bread and they only need to contribute a small fee to pay for the gas. The workshop at Las Panas becomes their first approach to female empowerment. So far, 90 women have attended the baking workshop.

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You are what you bake

Las Panas plans to continue being a social bakery: “We want to have a space where we can employ women for some time, for them to be ready, to train with us, it’s not only the baking techniques, but also all the tools, be stronger in all sense and for them to start a business like a bakery or whatever they want, but for them to have a safe space,” Rosalía says.

How do Mexican women inhabit such as hostile environment? We are not unscathed. According to a poll released in 2016, at least 46% of women have suffered domestic violence and as a consequence, they suffered psycho-emotional consequences: eating disorders, anxiety, anguish, fear, insomnia, sadness, or depression.

Rosalía adds that “this journey just started. After reflection and seeing the change of paradigms on society as a result of horrible reasons such as gender violence, I don’t think that any of the women who have gone through this process, not precisely at Las Panas but with other women in other resistance spaces, are still the same.”

This baking workshop changes the women and the instructors, as they are helping other women to become self-sufficient and start their own business.


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