Our Story

“Tequila is a complex drink. Interesting. It is a drink that results from. From years of effort, work, sweat. Where many people are involved. Where many people leave or invest for the future. It turns out to be a drink then of time, of work. And well, it’s a spirit of the agave too.”Rene Carranza, Maestro Tequilero, NOM 1599

About Tequila

The Gente Buena Foundation understands that the roots of the beloved spirit, tequila, are deeply intertwined with the land of Tequila, Mexico, and the enduring legacy of indigenous civilizations, including the Aztecs and their predecessors.

For centuries, long before the Spanish conquistadors arrived in the 16th century, the indigenous Tequillan people have cultivated the revered Agave Tequilana, or blue agave plant. These resilient communities have relied on agave for sustenance, textiles, and a cherished fermented drink.

As tequila gained global popularity, it received official recognition in 1974 through the Mexican government’s Designation of Origin (DO), establishing the geographical boundaries and strict production methods that define authentic tequila. However, this fame and acclaim have come at a cost, disproportionately benefiting a select few in the tequila industry. The attempt to meet surging demand by companies has led to the abandonment of the authentic and sustainable production methods dictated through tequila’s DO, resulting in the overharvesting of blue agave, environmentally harmful monoculture farming practices, deforestation, and water scarcity. These activities have also inflicted significant harm on the delicate ecosystems, including the vital bats and hummingbirds crucial for agave pollination.

Unjustly, the people who have dedicated generations to cultivating, harvesting, and distilling this cherished spirit have seen little of the wealth it generates. Today, residents of the tequila-producing regions endure inadequate infrastructure, limited access to education, and often work low-waged and intermittent jobs in unsafe conditions.  

The Gente Buena Foundation is committed to rectifying these injustices by ensuring that the wealth and prosperity created by tequila benefit the very people who have safeguarded and nurtured this heritage. As the originators, stewards, and custodians of a spirit steeped in history, born from generations of care, expertise, and pride, the people of Tequila and its neighboring communities are at the heart of our mission. We value their contributions and are dedicated to fostering a future where the rewards of tequila are shared equitably, and the well-being of these communities is uplifted, as they rightfully deserve.

Seeded by Valor Bebidas, the Gente Buena Foundation is committed to rectifying these injustices by ensuring that the wealth and prosperity created by tequila benefit the very people who have safeguarded and nurtured this heritage. As the originators, stewards, and custodians of a spirit steeped in history, born from generations of care, expertise, and pride, the people of Tequila and its neighboring communities are at the heart of our mission. We value their contributions and are dedicated to fostering a future where the rewards of tequila are shared equitably, and the well-being of these communities is uplifted, as they rightfully deserve.

The Gente Buena Foundation is dedicated to ensuring that both the land and people of Jalisco, Mexico benefit from the prosperity of the tequila industry. We actively foster partnerships and make community-informed investments to champion sustainable growth and shared wealth.

The Gente Buena Foundation is dedicated to serving the individuals, families, communities, and the very land intimately involved in the entire lifecycle of tequila – from the cultivation and harvest to production, distillation, and distribution. Our primary focus extends to the vibrant state of Jalisco, Mexico, where this cherished spirit has deep roots.

Our Impact

Learn More About Our Current Projects

“It is not our role to identify problems or propose solutions. We are in the process of investigating with the people who have the reality of the place, have the reality of the work to then continue hand in hand towards well being”Therel Santos, Head of Social Impact for Valor, Secretary of Gente Buena Foundation

We are deeply committed to collaboration and community-driven impact. Our approach begins by partnering closely with local communities, academic institutions, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to identify our impact priorities. Through ongoing community engagement and active listening sessions, we ensure that our priorities remain dynamic and responsive to the evolving needs of the communities we serve. By fostering this continuous dialogue, we empower the voices of those directly affected by our initiatives, allowing us to tailor our efforts and resources where they are needed most. This collaborative, adaptive approach ensures that our philanthropic endeavors remain rooted in real-world impact and resonate with the communities we aim to support.

Gente Buena Foundation has established formal partnerships and collaborates closely with ProNatura, an NGO based in Mexico City, the University of Guadalajara, and the Public Center of the National Council of Humanities, Sciences, and Technologies at Michoacan College. Together, we work towards developing comprehensive, community-centric solutions to address pressing challenges. Our commitment to adaptability is evident in our approach, where our investments evolve in tandem with shifting local needs. Informed by listening sessions conducted in 2022 and 2023, Gente Buena Foundation is currently in the process of formulating initiatives that align with the following impact priorities:

Jornalero & Jimador Prosperity

Ensuring consistent and sustainable income for our agave farmers and harvesters, providing job security, and fostering opportunities for personal and professional growth.

Community Building

Developing and hosting expert-led workshops aimed at nurturing social cohesion among local producers. These workshops empower community members to coordinate effectively and enhance their influence in the global market.

Sustainable Production

Assisting farmers and producers in implementing sustainable production practices. This approach ensures the cultivation of healthy and thriving agave ecosystems while maintaining economic viability.

Water Security

Establishing a clean and dependable water supply, promoting the sustainability and well-being of local communities.

Actually our work is very, very nice. It is a craft that we each make. We just ask that our work be valued, that it be valued and that they know that what we do is not easy, that we run a lot of risk and that we often walk outside our homes to support our families and that we do it with all the love and affection to carry out this work.Juan Manuel, NOM 1599

Our Leadership

Meet Our Board


Christiane Maertens serves as the Chair of the Gente Buena Foundation, leading the Foundation’s vision. As the Founder and CEO of both Valor and DoGoodery, Christiane Maertens has dedicated her life to building enterprises that prioritize sustainability and human-centered values. During her seven-year tenure at the Walt Disney Company, Christiane played a key role in designing the first corporate social responsibility portfolio, mobilizing millions of young people to take positive action around the world. As Deputy Director of the North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE), she led a professional team that managed the world’s largest and most diverse environmental education network, encompassing 60,000 educators and 56 affiliate organizations in over 30 countries. Currently, Christiane also serves as a board member of Outdoor Afro.


Ellah Ronen is the President of the Gente Buena Foundation, ensuring the steadfastness of the Foundation’s mission. With over a decade of experience in the nonprofit sector, Ellah has witnessed the power of public-private partnerships in making meaningful and lasting impacts. She has held roles as a Program Officer and Senior Program Officer at the Annenberg Foundation and California Community Foundation, respectively. In addition, Ellah co-chaired the creation of the unprecedented Los Angeles County Food Equity Round Table, served as a Strategic Liaison to the LA County Center for Strategic Partnerships, and was a Managing Funder of the Nonprofit Sustainability Initiative. She currently serves as the Director of Strategy and Impact at DoGoodery, guiding both corporate and nonprofit agencies in their impact strategies and execution. Ellah also serves as a board member for the Center for Nonprofit Management.

Ashley Dawn

Ashley Cooper brings a wealth of non-profit experience spanning more than fifteen years in higher education. Most recently having served as the Executive Director of Development for the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California (USC), where she was responsible for securing major gifts to advance the school’s mission. A USC graduate, Ashley earned a bachelor’s degree in communication and a master’s in Strategic Public Relations—both from the USC Annenberg school. Currently, Ashley is dedicated to serving her community through a variety of organizations in the South Bay of Los Angeles, where she resides with her husband and children. Passionate about education, Ashley is deeply committed to giving back to her community, embodying a spirit of service in all she does. In her free time, she enjoys playing tennis, hitting the ski slopes, or relaxing at the beach with a good book.


Stephanie Perea, a seasoned production expert with a knack for innovation, excels in orchestrating seamless production processes. With over 16 years of experience across entertainment and tech companies, including Disney and Niantic, she brings invaluable expertise to the table. Stephanie’s collaborative spirit and problem-solving prowess make her a trusted ally in any endeavor, reflecting her commitment to excellence and meaningful engagement.


Kaight Meyers, a retired senior military officer with a penchant for strategic leadership, brings a wealth of experience to the Gente Buena Foundation. Her distinguished military career, coupled with her dedication to community service and historical preservation, underscores her commitment to making a difference. Kaight’s passion for travel and cultural exploration aligns seamlessly with the foundation’s global mission, positioning her as a valuable asset in driving positive change.


Michael Cooper is a founding partner of YoffeCooper, a Business Law Firm based in Hermosa Beach, and serves as General Counsel for Genta Buena Foundation. Michael’s role as General Counsel is to ensure Genta Buena Foundation’s continued compliance with its obligations as a recognized tax-exempt organization and review all agreements with its partners. Michael earned his undergraduate degree from the University of Southern California and law degree from Pepperdine University Caruso School of Law, with a focus in Business and Entrepreneurship. “Coop” lives in the South Bay of Los Angeles with his wife and twins. Outside of the office, you can find him on the golf course, on the mountain, tasting wine or tequila and coaching a variety of sports.


Therel Santos is the Secretary of the Gente Buena Foundation, playing a crucial role in advancing the Foundation’s mission. With a strong dedication to community and environmental causes, Therel serves as a community organizer for Para la Naturaleza in Puerto Rico, actively involved in preserving the island’s natural beauty. Additionally, he leads community impact efforts for Valor Tequila, working to foster positive change in the lives of those he serves. Therel’s multifaceted commitment makes him a significant force for positive change, both in Puerto Rico and beyond.


As Head of Social and Environmental Research, Kristen works alongside GBF’s partners, Head of Impact, and Executive Director to lead the strategic direction of GBF’s impact priorities and initiatives using an evidence-based approach. Kristen also serves as the Senior Director of Sustainability Impact Strategies for DoGoodery, leading research, strategic development, and impact evaluation for clients interested in environmental solutions that also benefit people and communities.

Prior to her roles at GBF and DoGoodery, Kristen served as the Research Manager for the North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE), overseeing the organization’s research and evaluation projects and providing strategic direction and programmatic oversight for university and federal partners. At the University of Florida, she co-managed several research projects for PINEMAP, a $25M USDA NIFA coordinated project among 11 universities and 8 research cooperatives focused on working with private forest landowners across the Southeastern US to improve carbon sequestration and ecosystem resilience in a changing climate.

Kristen honed her commitment to strengthening solutions that benefit both people and nature working as a park ranger and Master Naturalist in coastal Florida, where she also conducted research on nesting sea turtles, marine mammals, and oyster reefs, and helped lead community-based shoreline restoration projects.

Kristen has published in several peer-reviewed journals and has co-authored numerous award-winning publications translating research findings into practical applications for environmental and social impact practitioners and program managers. With expertise across impact research, evaluation, and practice, she is passionate about understanding the complexities of social systems and human behavior to shape a more connected, equitable, and sustainable world.


Mariel González is a dynamic force in the world of multi-platform business development and partnership marketing, specializing in sports partnerships and player relations. With over five years of groundbreaking work at the Los Angeles Football Club (LAFC), including roles as Director and Manager of Partnership Marketing, Mariel has mastered the art of forging strategic alliances with major sports entities such as the Los Angeles Rams, LAFC, and Dodgers. Fluent in Spanish and English, Mariel effortlessly bridges cultural gaps, utilizing her language proficiency to propel business growth and cultivate meaningful connections. In her leisure time, Mariel indulges in reading, exploring new destinations, and nurturing her love for baseball.


Lupe Salmeron, a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) with 18 years of diverse accounting experience, offers personalized tax preparation and accounting services. Her commitment to professionalism, integrity, and responsiveness underscores her dedication to meeting the unique needs of her clients. With a Bachelor of Science in Accounting from the University of California, Riverside, Lupe brings a wealth of expertise to her role, ensuring meticulous financial management for the Gente Buena Foundation.

Treasurer, Jon Cohen


Jon Cohen is acting Treasurer for Genta Buena Foundation, a role in which he ensures the foundation is doing proper financial planning and maintaining sound financial records. Professionally, Jon is President and COO of a medium-sized brand strategy consultancy named Innovation Protocol, where he oversees brand development efforts across industries and drives the company’s operating systems (finance, legal, HR, talent acquisition and development, etc.). Prior to that, Jon’s worked in a range of professional capacities in brand strategy and management (Disney, Dole) operations strategy (KPMG), and investment finance (Pimco).

Jonathan Friedland


Jonathan Friedland, founder of Octagonal Hall LLC, advises companies on global brand marketing and communications. His distinguished career includes serving as Chief Communications Officer for Netflix, where he played a pivotal role in its global expansion. Jonathan’s extensive experience spans journalism, corporate communications, and public policy advocacy, underscored by accolades such as the Pulitzer Prize. Committed to environmental causes, he serves on the board of TreePeople, further enriching his impactful journey.


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