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‘Solar Mamas’ Get Power to Rural Mexicans Utilities Can't Reach

  • Fisherman’s wife installs solar panels and wires to light town
  • Mexico bid for rural electrification seeks more power from sun
Norma Guerra at her home in the town of Cachimbo, on Feb. 14.
Norma Guerra at her home in the town of Cachimbo, on Feb. 14.Photographer: Yael Martinez/Bloomberg

In a remote village on southern Mexico’s Pacific coast, 62-year-old fisherman Jose Barriento relaxed on a rope hammock after dinner in a darkened room with bare cinder-block walls and a corrugated metal roof. The only light was from the flickering screen of a television set -- a luxury that was impossible in this community until his wife, Norma Guerra, became a “Solar Mama.”

Barriento and Guerra are lifelong residents of Cachimbo, a tattered town of about 150 people on a barrier island in Oaxaca state with lots of palm trees, few roads and infrequent rainfall. There also wasn’t any electricity, so everyone used candles or kerosene lamps. Guerra, 52, stopped going to school after fourth grade and spends most days helping her husband prepare and sell fish that, in a good week, can fetch 3,000 pesos ($160).