I am the daughter of a Uruguayan mother and a Japanese-American father, raised in the American Northeast. Since making my home in Mexico in 2007, I have worked across creative disciplines as a promoter and producer of music, art, film, food, and drink. I am the co-founder of NETA, a spirits brand commercializing single-batch traditional mezcals produced by farmers in the district of Miahuatlán in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca.
I sometimes have a difficult time starting my day the same way, especially because I travel so often, but I do try to consciously move my body at some point every day whether by practicing yoga, taking a walk, or dancing, and I generally prepare myself a coffee in the morning and then shift to tea in the afternoon. I brew pots on pots of herbal tea throughout the day and usually have some kind of ambient music (shout out NTS radio’s infinite mixtapes) playing in the background if I’m working from home.
I first came to Oaxaca as a college student in 2005 and stayed for
around 4 months to study Mexican history. Oaxaca was my first point of entry into Mexico and after those few months, I felt compelled to keep on coming back and kept on finding reasons to. Inspired by my time here, I wrote my undergraduate thesis about the contemporary art “boom” of the 1990s in Mexico which coincided with the Zapatista uprisings and the signing of the North American Free Trade Agreement. Since moving to Mexico City in 2007, I would come back to Oaxaca at least twice a year until I came to live here full-time in 2018 to focus my energy on NETA.
NETA came about in a slow and organic way over the course of several years. My business partner Max first met mezcal producers Hermogenes and Paula in 2011 and struck up a friendship that eventually led to introductions to every mezcal producer in the small community of Logoche. With the encouragement of the producers, we started to think about creating a brand under which to formally commercialize their mezcals. They already had established a cooperative and built a bottling facility in 2009 yet didn’t have a clear sense of how to get things off the ground. So, we put our heads together, and with the help of our third partner, Yuskei Murayama, were able to gather the initial investment to found NETA.
In Mexico, people use the word Neta colloquially to mean various things depending on the intonation. “Neta?” posed in the form of a question means “For real?” “Seriously?”, said as a statement “Neta” means “the real deal”.
“Neta” can also be used as a verb, so to “netear” means to truth-tell, to speak from the heart, spill your guts. After a few mezcales, what follows is often “la neta”.
Mezcal has different significances to folks depending on where you find yourself in Mexico. Mexico is a country composed of many cultures, and Oaxaca is home to 16 different ethnolinguistic groups and many different cultural groups who have different practices and customs.
In the 100-person farming community of Logoche, where we
work, mezcal is an everyday drink and is consumed at all hours of the day. Some will have a mezcal before heading out to work the land, mezcal at lunch, a mezcal at dinner. Mezcal is central to community gatherings and parties and is made to be shared.
Living in Mexico has had a lot to do with where I am today. Here, I
couldn’t viably apply the life script I was given growing up where I did, so I experimented with new forms. I sought ways to understand my adopted country through different disciplines; art, architecture, design, and eventually through food and drink. Ultimately, I found mezcal to be the portal I was always looking for, bringing me into a broad investigation of history, migration, plant biology, land, and culture.
When thinking about what “community” means to me, I often return to a quote from Wendell Berry where he talks about community as a system of care (for the land and each other) and an “order of memories”.
“For good farming to last it must occur in a good farming community; that is a neighborhood of people who know each other, who understand their mutual dependencies and who place a proper value on good farming. In its cultural aspect, the community is an order of memories preserved consciously in instruction, songs, and stories, and both consciously and unconsciously in “ways”. – Wendell Berry, Schumacher Lecture
Our approach is fairly simple. We source from a single region and almost entirely from a single community. We have decided to work this way because it allows us to have a deeper understanding of and relationship with the place and the people who we collaborate with. Our company is based in Oaxaca and our company values are shaped by those of our main stakeholders: the producers.
I think that when we start acting like how much waste we create and how we nourish our bodies matter, it’s possible to shift consciousness. I believe it is in the “doing” that we can affect change, it requires a willingness to move slower, and to divest from a culture that centers convenience.
Savoring life’s details through the coffee we drink daily.