Monday was a long day. After another breakfast at TierrAdentro, the group headed back to the hotel to jump into our transportation for the next several hours. Our first stop was at the Maya Vinic central offices on the outskirts of San Cristobal. We had the chance to receive a presentation from members of the Board of Directors and even the president, followed by a question and answer session. I can say with confidence that we all learned everything about coffee that we never knew before – from how it is made to how delicate the amount of time spent in shipping is to the quality of the coffee. From here we had the unique opportunity to visit the area where the coffee is grown, Acteal. Though it took a couple hours and a little bit of motion sickness to get there, the visit was well worth it.
Below is more explanation about Maya Vinic by Spencer Slocum:
“Our second full day in San Cristobal was jam packed, but very informative. We went to the Maya Vinic Coffee Cooperative where they make Fair Trade and Organic certified coffee. In 1997, forty five people were murdered in Acteal while they were praying in their church. The coffee co-op was established in response to the massacre because they needed a completely sustainable lifestyle. Today we had the opportunity to meet with the board of directors of Maya Vinic at their office, where they roast the coffee. The president explained to us the process of making the coffee and also the exportation process. Right now twenty five percent of their coffee is sold throughout Mexico and the other seventy five percent is exported to the United States, Japan, Canada and Switzerland. We also got to learn about their goals as a cooperative, which include exporting roasted coffee beans, instead of “café verde”, and establishing themselves as a brand.
After visiting the office, we travelled two hours to the warehouse, where the five hundred associates drop off the coffee beans they have grown. The coffee beans are weighed and they are then paid based on how much coffee they brought. The coffee is then put in machines, owned by the co-ops and the outer skin is removed. After being de-skinned, the beans are sorted based on whether they are gourmet beans or transitional (not fully organic.) At the warehouse we were able to gain a better understanding of the coffee production process, as well as learn more about the history of the co-op.”
The ride back towards San Cristobal was not as bad as coming in, and it did provide an interesting view of rural Chiapas. It is very mountainous, which I had not expected. We also passed by many women and children who would stare into the car as we drove by – we are not exactly the type they see every day.
Before returning to the hotel we had a meeting with Jolom Mayaetik, a women’s weaving cooperative. Though mostly brain dead at that point, the students had the opportunity to learn yet another intriguing cooperative history that was greatly affected by the height of the conflict in Chiapas. The women of Jolom initially formed a group as a part of another facilitating organization called Kinal in 1991. When they wanted more autonomy, the women decided to break off and form their own organization that eventually became Jolom. Relatively, this is easy in the United States. These are Maya women who did not know one thing about accounting, computers, business management, or even a word of Spanish, and they had to come up with a brand name and cooperative constitution in order to officially register. But what they did know is that they had the rights as women to choose what productive work they wanted to do, on top of caring for their families. Today, their woven products are such high quality that they are sold to museums. Some of the women have even been able to travel to the United States and Canada to sell at anthropology and folk art events.