Oscar Party to Benefit Low-Income Mexicans
By Fredric Dannen
When the first Academy Awards ceremony was held in May 1929, the presentation took place at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel in the form of a party for about 270 invited guests. This year, when the Oscar statuettes are handed out, a worldwide television audience of between 30 and 40 million is likely to be watching. For those viewers who long for the party atmosphere of the inaugural ceremony, there are, in many cities, gatherings of people at restaurants and hotels on Oscar night. In San Miguel, the most popular and festive of these Oscar parties also benefits a nonprofit organization that helps low-income Mexicans.
This year’s Oscar party will be held at La Chopería, Canal 21, on Sunday, February 22, beginning with the red carpet ceremony at 6pm and continuing until the final award is presented for Best Picture, usually around 11pm—though revelers have been known to linger well past midnight. The 150-peso admission price includes a drink and appetizers. While there is no dress code, partygoers are encouraged to dress up. The party will feature an emcee, door prizes, and activities, including (if you are so inclined) the opportunity to be photographed holding a replica of an Oscar statuette. There will be multiple screens carrying the awards program live.
The nonprofit organization sponsoring the party, Apoyo a Gente Emprendedora, A.C., was founded in 2003 by Ezequiel Mojica to help redress the cycle of poverty in rural Mexico. Apoyo, says board member and project coordinator, Daniela Franco Gage, “is not a charity organization, but rather an educational one. Apoyo helps people get out of debt and become financially independent.” Though Apoyo does offer micro financing (small interest-free loans); the repayment rate is nearly 90 percent. More important is the training and mentoring that Apoyo provides. The organization works in over two dozen rural communities in the state of Guanajuato and low-income neighborhoods in San Miguel, where Apoyo is based.
In little more than a decade, Apoyo has helped to start and sustain literally hundreds of businesses. The organization has three primary programs: the micro lending and training program, a curriculum to prepare high school students to enter the workforce, and a course to teach financial literacy to grade school children. The third program, called Impulso (momentum), was launched two years ago in seven rural schools. Franco, who oversees the program, says that studies show that children imbued with financial intelligence are far more likely to grow into fiscally responsible and solvent adults. The curriculum begins in the first grade with a 12-hour course and is bolstered by refresher courses through the sixth grade. “Whenever we take on a new school,” Franco says, “it’s a six-year commitment.” The current enrollment, about 200 students, is expected to nearly double by next year. The proceeds of the Oscar party will directly fund Impulso, which has attracted the interest of rural communities in which the program is not yet offered. “Our goal is to be in more schools, and reach more children,” Franco says.