Central America, Spring ^10

February 22, 2010

A Week in the Campo

Filed under: Uncategorized — samanthabass @ 1:55 am

Last Saturday and Sunday I visited the coffee cooperative Santa Anita La Union. They are a certified Fair Trade, Organic cooperative. After the peace accords a group of ex-guerrillas formed a cooperative to purchase land from the government. Now over 30 families live in the community and support themselves through exporting coffee and eco-tourism. The director of the eco-tourism project gave us a tour of the farm, showing the two types of shade-grown coffee. Santa Anita is closer to the coast, and has a lower elevation, so the plants were really tropical looking. We walked to a waterfall at the bottom of the mountain. Santa Anita also grows bananas and sells banana bread in the Spanish schools in Xela.

After the tour we spoke with one of the original founders of the cooperative. He explained how the only way to make money and develop is to sell coffee to overseas markets. The cooperative pays a very large fee each year to be certified Fair Trade and Organic. They also need to adopt speficic norms and change their behaviors to meet the demands of American consumer. The Fair Trade market is very competitive, and they need to consistently grow a quality product.

On Sunday we drove to Cantel for our last week of Spanish classes. I stayed with a family for the five nights, a grandma, daughter, and a few little kids. Both their husbands were working in the US. They had two babies and four puppies. I ate a lot of chicken all week, since they had a few chickens in their house. I also took a bucket bath. My host-mom heated up water and put it in a tub for me.

I had spanish class every morning and then an activity in the afternoon. On Monday the mayor’s wife gave my group a cooking lesson. We made tortillas and fried potatoes in vegetables and egg. The food was all natural, but they use a lot of sugar and oil.

On tuesday one of the teachers that grew up in the town talked a bit about immigration. Right now there are around 13 million Guatemalans, and 1.3 million Guatemalans living in the US. 1/3 of the houses in the village have at last one family member working and sending money home. It costs several thousand dollars to pay a coyote to bring you illegally across the border, so usually the family will mortgage their house and land to pay for the trip. The first year of work in the US is to pay for the travel.

Most of the Guatemalans near Cantel choose to work in LA or Washington State because the climate is similar to the Guatemalan highlands. They work in the fields picking strawberries and other plants. Some people in the village also work in NY in restaurants or hotels, doing unskilled-labor.
to be continued…

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