How María Rebuilt Her Bakery After Surviving Cancer - Mary's Pence

Women's Stories  |  ESPERA

How María Rebuilt Her Bakery After Surviving Cancer

María Transito and her husband run a small business together in a rural area of Tonacatepeque in El Salvador. Their house is divided into two parts: a bedroom and a living room with a big kitchen where they keep their oven, cooking tables and utensils, a fridge, and a small check-out counter. They look very happy, but life wasn’t always so generous with this couple.

In 2016, María Transito faced life-changing news: endometrial cancer. For two years, she had suffered from severe hemorrhaging, so when doctors confirmed they would need to remove her womb, she knew a life-long dream of her and her husband becoming parents was over. At the same time, she experienced a strange sense of relief because it meant she could start treatment and feel better, eventually.

On March 17, 2017, María underwent surgery in the Capital of San Salvador, 2 hours away from home. The procedure left her with an open wound due to some complications because of her weight. She endured three months of frequent travel for chemotherapy and wound care. She says she was lucky she had social security; otherwise, it would have been impossible for her to cover the costs of the surgery and treatment. Nonetheless, they still had to pay food, rent, and fuel for these trips, which strained their finances.

During this challenging period, María’s husband, Carlos, stood by her and became her primary caregiver. This responsibility forced him to leave his job, putting additional financial pressure on the couple. With María unable to run her bakery, their primary source of income vanished. Desperate to continue her treatment, Carlos sold their oven, work table, and all essential bakery tools to pay for medications and travel expenses.

For six long years, María was unable to work. However, three years ago, a door opened. Janeth Guzmán invited her to join the Asociación de Mujeres de Tonacatepeque (ACOMEST). Eager for a fresh start, María participated in various training workshops, which reminded her of her passion for baking. She started making desserts and sweet bread, including quesadillas, puddings, tres leches cakes, donuts, and frozen desserts.

Realizing the potential to revive her bakery, María applied for the ESPERA program financial support. The loan she received allowed her to invest in baking materials such as flour, sugar, and an oven. She resumed her small bakery at home, again with the help and support of her husband Carlos, and this time, she also had the support of the members of ACOMEST and Mary’s Pence staff in Central America.

She noticed there were lots of children living nearby, so she learned how to make ice cream and sorbet using fresh local fruit. After a couple of months and after paying off her first loan, Maria applied for more ESPERA funds to expand her small business. This time, she invested in a fridge and cooler to keep ingredients fresh and offer frozen desserts and ice cream. This strategic move attracted more customers and diversified her product range.


Today, María and Carlos run a growing bakery, which is the result of their commitment to each other and their resilience. They say that this bakery is the child that they wanted badly, and they wish to see it grow and thrive.

María plans to continue participating in the ESPERA program, aiming to strengthen her business and improve her mental health thanks to the accompaniment of the ESPERA Regional Team and ACOMEST members who visit her regularly to check in on her. María’s next goal is to purchase a freezer to expand her ice cream offerings.


Sign up for eNews



Make a donation today to fund women and change lives.