We are saddened to hear news of the passing of Lorenzo Servitje, founder of Bimbo Bakeries in Mexico and longtime collaborator with the Inter-American Foundation (IAF).
The very first grant we awarded in Mexico went to support an organization that Servitje founded as Fundación Mexicana para el Desarrollo (Mexican Development Foundation, FMD). The organization formed as part of a trend in corporate social responsibility led by philanthropic businessmen such as Servitje who sought to better the lives of the “have-nots” by providing access to credit and the ability to organize cooperatives among farming communities. Our first published report of IAF activities notes that on “June 2, 1972, the Inter-American Foundation gave a grant of $500,000 to the [FMD]. It would match, dollar for dollar, money raised by the private sector in Mexico.”
This was certainly a sizeable amount at the time, and it demonstrated the commitment that Servitje and other executives felt toward providing hope and agency to less fortunate members of their communities in ways that allowed those members to become the protagonists for their own development.
FMD later became Fundación Mexicana para el Desarrollo Rural (Mexican Foundation for Rural Development), and we again partnered with Servitje to support his organization’s efforts. Below is an excerpt from our 1977 Annual Report with details about that grant:
Fundación Mexicana para el Desarrollo Rural
To assist Tarascan Indian communities to establish a Regional Artisan Center in the Lake Patzcuaro area of the state of Michoacán. The grantee will help improve techniques of production; provide credit for experimentation with new materials, designs and technologies; and assist in the resolution of marketing problems, thereby breaking Indian dependency on intermediaries. The center, which will be managed by the communities themselves, could provide an opportunity for indigenous groups to negotiate with the dominant society on their own terms from a position of greater strength and equality.
Servitje offered his support to the IAF in 2002 when Grupo Bimbo collaborated with our grantee partner Servicios Financieros Comunitarios (Community Financial Services) to help thousands of people in Mexico City. From our 2002 Annual Report:
FinComun, Servicios Financieros Comunitarios, S.A. de C.V., Unión de Crédito (FinComun)
To provide, over three years, in collaboration with BIMBO, a Mexican manufacturer of baked goods, savings services for approximately 20,000 new low-income clients in Mexico City and extend approximately 12,700 new loans to micro-enterprises.
More recently the IAF collaborated with Servitje’s family foundation, Fundación Sertull. In each of the last two years, the IAF partnered with Fundación Sertull to support grassroots projects in rural Mexico.
We are grateful to Servitje for extending his philanthropy and generosity from a lifetime of hard work and success to the people who form the communities where his business first prospered.
Talk about community-led development!