La Hoja is one of the most emblematic brands for mate lovers in Argentina. It was created in 1894 by Julio Ulises Martín, a Swiss immigrant, who directed the enterprise for 40 years and managed to win 25% of the market for the most popular infusion in Argentina. The changes of the rules of the market in the middle of the 80’s left the enterprise in bad shape, its downfall started and the enterprise was at its lowest in 1997. A reorganization proceeding with creditors was put into action.
Before this moment, the enterprise had known almost half a century of glory between the years 1930 and 1970 during which each team of workers produced around 2 million kilos of yerba mate per month. Around this time, the enterprise was part of the Guevara family’s heritage: the mother of the well-known “Che” Guevara owned 8 hectares of crops in Ignacio, Misiones.
Following numerous years of conflict between the worker of the “Yerba mate La Hoja enterprise” and its owners, that wished to lead it to bankruptcy, the court decided that the enterprise will be managed as a cooperative; this was in agreement with the workers desires, who wished to continue working in the enterprises after its emptying.
The legal department of FECOOTRA, Worker cooperative federation of the Argentinian Republic, thanks to the work of Marcela Macellari, together with Esteban Mariño, representative of the Instituto Nacional de Asociativismo y Economía Social (National Institute of activism and social economy), stood alongside the workers during this process.
In September, the new management team announced that it will develop a business plan that will allow the enterprise to commercialize around 400 thousand kilos of yerba mate, under different forms, every month, and 25 kilos of roasted mate and tea, which equals to a total of about 4 to 8 million of kilograms commercialized per year. Currently, the workers of the cooperative are in conflict of interest with other yerba mate enterprises in the country.
Despite the uncountable tries and the years gone by, yerba mate has always refused growing outside Guarani Indian soil. The plant comes from South America and is still to this day very American, but not from any part of the continent. The area of distribution of yerba mate is constricted to the south east of Corrientes, Misiones, Paraguay and south of Brazil. In these zones, the temperature, humidity and the soil are perfect for the growing of the plant. Some have tried to cultivate mate in similar zones in North America, Asia or even Africa, but all failed. Due to this, yerba mate is a treasure beyond measure exclusive to these regions. From the elaboration of the yerba to its consumption, the tradition of mate hasn’t changed for numerous years. For now five centuries yerba mate has been digging its roots in the South American uses and now even extends itself to foreign territories.
In Argentina, mate is the most consumed drink after tap water, without any age or social class distinctions.
International Organisation of Industrial, Artisanal and
Service Producers' Cooperatives
Secretariat: C/O European Cooperative House - avenue Milcamps 105
1030 Brussels, Belgium
Tel: +32 2 543 1033, fax: +32 2 543 1037