“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
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.
WHO WE SERVE
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.
“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:
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, Labor Safety & Wages, Social Cohesion
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.
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).
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.
* Gente Buena Foundation is not accepting grant proposals.