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Just Coffee's 2005 delegation to GuatemalaPosted by colleen at about 1pm on Wednesday February 21, 2007
September 2-9, 2005
In September of 2005 Just Coffee launched its first ever coffee delegation. Coffee delegations are meant to be an opportunity for Just Coffee’s clients, customers, friends, and family to join together and travel to meet the producers of our fabulous organic, fairly traded coffee. While meeting the producers of our coffee and seeing the what, where, and how of coffee production, travelers are afforded the unique experience of a supportive, critical thinking group in order to be able to ask and explore the answers to pertinent universal questions about issues such as globalization, fair trade, importation, war and struggle, indigenous rights, human rights, poverty, environmental issues, and many more. The trips are designed to spend time with the coffee growing community as well as with other groups and organizations that do supportive work in the area. While visiting a community we may stay in the community itself allowing us the chance to, for a short time, ‘live’ with the people there. The community welcomes our group in and shares their history (usually an intense story of struggle), current situation, time, stories and food. They also show us around their community, fields, schools and clinics.
Our first delegation’s small but eclectic group had the unique opportunity to travel together on an educational trip for one week into the western highlands of Guatemala. While the reality of this incredible experience is difficult to confine to words on paper, there were many highlights worth mentioning.
Our trip began in the capital city of Guatemala City. There we had an opportunity to meet with David Alverado of Madison, Wisconsin who was at that time living in Guatemala City and working with the AFLCIO on union issues. From Guatemala City we took a typical ‘chicken bus,’ a brightly painted old US school bus where passengers’ belongings are strapped to the roof and the seats have been crammed closer together to accommodate more people, through the extremely windy volcanic terrain to the highlands city of Quetzaltenango.
Quetzaltenango, otherwise known as Xela, the shortened version of its Quiche Maya name, Xelaju, is Guatemala’s second largest city and the center of the Quiche Maya people. In Xela, our group stayed at a little posada managed by a kind but feisty Maya woman named Olympia. We met with organizations such as Entre Mundos, and Café Conciencia, or Coffee with a Conscience, a fair trade roasted coffee and ecotourism project dedicated to developing successful small businesses, particularly coffee roasting and ecotourism, that provide alternative sources of income for struggling worker-owned agricultural cooperatives in Guatemala.
Our group also had the unique opportunity of attending a dinner meeting hosted by Just Coffee’s importing cooperative, Cooperative Coffees, where Bishop Ramazzini from the community of San Marcos spoke. Cooperative Coffees’ annual meeting brought together coffee producers from many countries, Mexico, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Colombia to name a few, as well as companies from all over the USA and Canada, of which Just Coffee was one. This wonderful gathering offered our delegates a chance to meet producers not just from Guatemala, but from all over the world, to socialize and discuss topics of coffee production and importation.
The highlight of our trip was not swimming in the natural hot waters of the Aguas Amarga, seeing the amazing Volcan Santo Tomas erupt before our very eyes, or visiting the small pueblos of Zunil and Almolonga where local indigenous peoples sell their handicrafts. The highlight of our trip was spending time in the amazing community of Santa Anita la Union. Santa Anita is an intentional autonomous community formed by ex guerrillas and their families during the peace accords after the long and brutal 36 year civil war that took place in Guatemala. The beautiful people that formed this community are indigenous and have been struggling for equality and land rights for their entire lives. They have now dedicated themselves to their very successful community where they have their own pharmacy, kindergarten, primary and now even secondary school as well as lovely guest house with private kitchen and dining room for their eco-tourism project.
In Santa Anita we toured the breathtakingly beautiful land. We ventured through the jungle on small, steep trails, through the shade covered coffee fields, to two separate look out points where the entire landscape unfolded in front of our eyes. We bathed briefly in the cool and refreshing waterfall. We helped our guide and friend, Wilma, pick a certain kind of leaf that was later peeled and put in our soup, as she gently but powerfully macheted her way through the underbrush. We saw old photos from during the war that have been preserved by our friend Rigo. We visited all of the schools, spoke to the children, answered their questions, sang songs with them, and giggled with them. We toured the places where the coffee is washed, fermented, peeled, dried, composted etc. Really, I could go on and on and on. Santa Anita is a truly amazing place and I look forward to our next visit.
Since returning from Guatemala many delegates have started their own small projects designed to help our coffee growing communities in more specific ways including purchasing picture frames for a community photo project to help preserve the history of Santa Anita. Some previous delegates comments include, “I had a blast!” and “We want more of Santa Anita, Xela……all of it!”
If a coffee delegation sounds like something you would be interested in, please feel free to contact me any time at colleen (at) justcoffee (dot) coop. I am happy to provide you with information about future trips. The possibilities of our customized delegations are limitless!
COMMENTS FROM DELEGATES:
"I had a blast with all of you!" -Denise from Viroqua, Wisconsin, USA "We want more of Santa Anita, Xela, tequila, that night in that disco place, Don Diego hotel breakfast (ja!) and more..... thank you very much for organizing that trip, you are born for that. you did a great job..... I want more." -Natalia from Argentina and Madison, Wisconsin, USA
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!