What makes Padre Azul so special? For one thing, it’s the time that we give our tequila: time to grow, time to develop, time to rest. But what is just as important is the people behind it. Padre Azul wouldn’t be the same without our dedicated team, our Padre family. With their broad knowledge and passion, each one of our team members makes us what we are.
We are particularly proud to count the talented master distiller Erika Sangeado among our team. Women are few and far between in this profession: There are only a handful of female master distillers worldwide. But Erika is not to be intimidated by this, on the contrary. She goes her own way, as she always did. With her knowledge, her dedication and her unmistakable sense of quality, she creates the basis for an extraordinary tequila. And with her tremendous positivity and her incredible strength, she is a real inspiration for us all, even more so because her life has been anything but easy. We proudly present Erika Sangeado, our Master Distiller.
Erika actually had quite different plans…
In fact, our talented Master Distiller has a degree in public accounting. During her studies at the ITESO, the Jesuit University of Guadalajara, she had been working as an accounting assistant and by the time she graduated, she already held a management position. “I was lucky enough to study and live with successful, enthusiastic, positive, creative and talented people. We had so many dreams, plans and projects for the future!”. Life was full of exciting possibilities, and Erika was about to seize them all. Her biggest dreams were to study abroad and to start her own business. But first, she tackled another big project: a Master’s in Business Administration. Then, however, things turned out differently…
A moment that changes everything
She was only a few months into her Master’s degree program when all her dreams were suddenly shattered. “It happened on a Sunday. The Easter vacation had just started and I went out for lunch with friends. On my way home, something terrible happened. In a fraction of a second, my life as I knew it was changed forever. I had a terrible accident. All my successes, my plans, my castles in the sky… Everything was shattered into a million pieces. After several days in a coma, Erika woke up to her new reality: connected to a ventilator, with 17 broken bones, including a comminuted fracture of the hip. All of a sudden, she had to fight for things that, until then, she had taken for granted. “I was fighting for my life. When my father was asked to give consent for the amputation of my leg, he refused. The doctors explained that I might die if they didn’t amputate. But my father never gave up hope. He refused to sign and pleaded with the doctors to do everything possible to save my leg. I was already septic when I was once again transferred to the operating room. The operation was followed by several days in a coma. And what the doctors thought impossible happened: They saved Erika’s leg.
A second chance
In such a situation, it’s only natural to react with resignation or bitterness. But that’s just not Erika’s style. “When I opened my eyes for the first time after this terrible accident, my first thought was: I got a second chance! A chance to live!”. After two and a half months of therapy, Erika could finally go home. But nothing would ever be the same again. “I had to completely reinvent myself. I was full of hope: I had to survive, I had to come to terms with the challenge I was facing and make peace with what life was asking of me. I had to sit down, pause for a moment and learn to walk again. I was reborn, I really was!”. There was one thing she realized in this time full of pain and hard work: “Everything depends on your attitude. The pain won’t go away if I complain about it, quite the contrary. Of course, it hurts. A lot, actually. But let me get one thing straight: The more it hurts, the more we learn. Take a deep breath and keep going. Never give up! Everything will pass, eventually. Even this incredible pain. Things will get better.”
Instead of feeling sorry for herself, Erika was infinitely grateful: “It’s amazing how you suddenly become aware of the importance of your health, of how wonderful it is to have a family, to feel the sun on your skin, to be able to walk and to be surrounded by love. All of a sudden there is this tremendous gratitude for so many things that are often taken for granted.”
A new beginning
After the worst was over, Erika started job hunting, on crutches and still in great pain. And she found what she was looking for. “One thing became very clear to me: Most limitations only exist in my mind. I am not my disability. I am still Erika, a skilled and qualified university graduate, and I am good at what I do!” she says. Later, Erika took the step into self-employment, together with her family. Ten years after her accident, however, her transfemoral prosthesis increasingly caused problems. As a result, she had to give up her position and undergo a number of operations; 25 in total to this day, and there is no end in sight.
The next big challenge
When everything finally seemed to be fine, life presented Erika with the next great challenge: She was diagnosed with cancer. Again it was her positive attitude, her fighting spirit and the support of her family and friends that helped her to survive: “Something magical happened: My family, my friends, people who don’t know me, people from all over the country and the world… so many people encouraged and supported me, and some even offered financial support. There was so much positive energy, I could literally feel it. It was simply wonderful. Somebody told me that I’ve already been through worse. At first, I cried. Then I took a deep breath. And I accepted what came next: surgery, chemotherapy, hair loss, radiotherapy.”
Everything is possible, everything is a question of attitude, a question of faith
At the end of the day, it’s the little things that make the difference, Erika has no doubt of that. And thus she found herself encouraging other patients while being in therapy herself, cheering them up with her smile, even though she was very weak and didn’t have much energy left. Unlike many other patients, she never hid her bald head. When asked about it, she would proudly show off her countless scars and point out that it’s impossible to live with fear and that it’s all about identifying what such an experience should teach you. “Sounds like a tragic life, doesn’t it? But no, it’s not! Was it hard? Yes, it definitely was. But it was also beautiful.”
Erika and Padre Azul
Erika’s fight against cancer lasted for one year. But she emerged as the winner. And after that, a whole new adventure was waiting for her: Together with Padre Azul, she embarked on a journey into the world of tequila. Everybody who has had the pleasure of getting to know Erika will hardly be surprised by the fact that she managed to accumulate an impressive store of knowledge within a short period of time. She started as a tequila enthusiast, made herself a connoisseur and finally became a master distiller. (She simultaneously completed a diploma in logistics, import and export, by the way.)
What does she love most about her work?
With Padre Azul, she is able to share the magic of her home country Mexico with people all around the world. With us, she was also able to fulfill a long-cherished dream: to travel abroad. “My life has not been easy. But I am just so grateful for those 23 additional years that I was given. Life can be fantastic!”. And we are grateful as well: Grateful for Erika and that she decided to become part of our Padre family!