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Just Coffee’s 2007 delegation to Chiapas, Mexico
In May 2007 Just Coffee again led a delegation to Chiapas, Mexico where we visited our coffee producer friends, and those in solidarity with them, to learn about the intricacies and difficulties of trading, and trading fairly, coffee, this time through the lens of an indigenous person.
Our group was made up of nine intelligent, open-minded, and kind-hearted students and their professor from the College of Menomonie Nation, in Menomonie, Wisconsin. All of these students, some Native American and some not, are dedicated to their families, school, and community, share a great vision for the future, and were chosen by their College to attend the delegation.
Together our group stayed in San Cristobal de Las Casas and took day trips into the surrounding highland countryside. Our time in San Cris was spent traversing the cobblestone streets, in artisan markets, listening to music and sharing great food and conversation. We walked a lot and had some informative meetings with friends from CIEPAC, the Center for the Economic and Political Investigation for Community Action, and CAPISE, the Center of Political Analysis and Social and Economic Investigations. The representatives that we spoke with from both of these organizations gave extremely interesting and well educated information explaining everything from the history of capitalism and trade to the uprising and continued struggle of the Zapatistas and all indigenous people to the present day and the current situation with both.
Our trips outside of San Cristobal took us to the Zapatista government center, Oventic, where we met with officials there and were fortunate to have the opportunity to visit their school, clinic, and women artisan’s cooperatives. It is always fascinating to see how successful in many ways they have been at utilizing media. When visiting Oventic this can be seen in the many books and other publications, videos, and CD’s that are available. We also visited and met with officials in a Las Abejas community and massacre site, Acteal, to learn of their communities’ history and relationship to coffee. Both of these groups are made up of coffee growers, some of which are members of cooperatives that Just Coffee purchases coffee from such as Maya Vinic.
We visited the large fruit filled market and church in Chimula. Another day we toured Taller Lenateros a Maya-language publishing collective.
This trip was very unique for me. It gave me an opportunity to learn more about where I have grown up. I realized how ignorant I am to the situation of indigenous peoples in my own country, own state, own community. I felt incredibly fortunate to have such a patient and understanding group, all interested in teaching me about their histories and cultures. I remember that they were often surprised at how similar aspects of their tribe and its history were to those of the Zapatistas. I think that they were able to connect really deeply with the struggles that the Zapatistas and Las Abejas had endured and saw many things in the organization of the Zapatistas autonomy that they felt were important to take back and share with their own tribe, the Menomonie Nation.
Since this delegation Dr. VanLopik, the professor that accompanied this delegation, visited Madison for a fundraising event that Just Coffee hosted in June 2007 to raise money to bring a member of La Fem cooperative in Nicaragua up to Madison in 2008. Dr. VanLopik gave an excellent presentation about the College of the Menomonie Nation, the fair-trade coffee cart that they have started on their campus, and the delegation that we took to Chiapas together. To the students at the College of Menomonie Nation having a coffee cart selling fair-trade coffee on their campus links their tribe in solidarity to another native group across the world and at the same time educates others in their community about the importance and responsibility of knowing where your food comes from and what it takes to get it to you.
-Traveled to Oventic Caracol, a Zapatista government center, where we met with Zapatista government officials as well as toured their school, clinic, and women artisan’s cooperatives.
-Visited and met with officials in a Las Abejas community and massacre site, Acteal, to learn of their communities’ history.
-Met with members of coffee growing cooperative, Maya Vinic and toured some of their small coffee plots.
-Met with CIEPAC, the Center for the Economic and Political Investigation for Community Action where a fascinating discussion on global trade and trade agreements ensued.
-Met with CAPISE, the Center of Political Analysis and Social and Economic Investigations, to learn more about the Zapatistas historical and on-going struggle and to learn more about organizations working in solidarity with them and other indigineous groups.
- Toured CIDESI, the Universidad de la Tierra, and were highly impressed by the autonomous services offered by this University such as classes in weaving, shoe making, car repair, electricity, animal husbandry, agriculture, and much much more!
-Visited the Cafe Museu, a museum that explores the history of coffee.
-Visited the Maya Medicine Museum; A museum which consists of several museographic environments depicting the traditional Mayan practices and therapeutic resources of the indigenous physicians of Chiapas and also possesses six exhibit spaces and a demonstrative garden containing many important medicinal plants.
-Toured Taller Lenateros, a Mayan-language publishing collective.
For more information or to sign-up for a delegation, please contact Just Coffee's Delegation Coordinator Colleen Coy at: colleen (at) justcoffee (dot) coop. Thank you for your continued interest and support!