Colombian Social Entrepreneur Liseth Martinez

Photo credit: Liseth Martinez

Colombian Social Entrepreneur Liseth Martinez

Growing up on the pacific coast of Colombia, Liseth knew her father was a part of making the ancestral drink viche, but didn’t truly understand its significance and importance to Afro-Colombian people and their communities until she was an adult.

She has fond memories of going to communities along the river where her grandparents and other family members lived and where her dad would be involved in distilling viche, which was illegal to make at the time.

“Viche, as an alcoholic drink, was seen by the government as illegal. Because this was something seen as illegal, like communities tried to keep it in the communities, in the towns,” she shares on the podcast.  She also says because it was considered illegal, her mom and siblings were scared for their dad, who was taught how to make viche by his father.  “We as a Black community believe we have a strong relationship with our ancestors and then we keep that relationship and we try to like pass it [from] generation to generation.

This beautiful preservation story goes back over 400 to when West Africans were enslaved and brought to Colombia.  Liseth says viche’s primary purpose is medicinal, which has been why it was created and consumed to this day.   

In 2019, when someone tried to erase its history back to Africa and Afro-Colombian descendants keeping the tradition alive today, Liseth shares that communities came together to fight for their ancestral heritage and eventually won.

Today she oversees the marketing and other business functions for the brand Viche Canao, led by her father, which sources sugar cane and molasses from women farmers.

This is truly a conversation about preserving Black culture and history that you must listen to. It is also available in Spanish.

Viche Canao is only available in Colombia right now, but to stay updated on distribution expansion and more, follow Liseth and the brand on Instagram.

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