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Kathia Duran, cheese maker
Costa Rica native Kathia Duran moved to New Orleans to study at Loyola University in 1990, fell in love with the city, and never left. She grew up visiting Cartago, her mother’s family’s mountain town, where locals made their own bread and cheese and grew their own vegetables. In 2004, she decided to make cheese herself and traveled back to Costa Rica to learn the traditional method for her fresh, unripe cheeses. Duran sold her cheeses in independent and gourmet stores in the French Quarter, as well as supermarkets and Hispanic markets, before Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005. In the wake of the disaster, stores closed and demand slowed, presenting an uncertain future. Still, Duran remains hopeful: “People from Louisiana tend to support Louisiana-made products,” she says.