New beginnings – Guatemala
Last week I suggested that the violence hasn’t stopped in many parts of the coffeelands even though the revolution has. Navigating that violence that is an awful thing for coffee farmers and their families . In some cases, violence and shared struggle have forged powerful bonds between coffee farmers and given new life to farmer organizations. There are few better examples of this than Santa Anita de la Union in Guatemala.
Santa Anita’s members are former revolutionaries in Guatemala’s 36-year civil war that ended in 1996. The peace accords that put a formal end to the hostilities made loans available to demobilized combatants, and the families of Santa Anita used one to purchase land in western Guatemala near Quetzaltenango. For them, the transition from guerrillas to organic coffee farmers is part of a sustained and continuous effort to build a better society and give their children better opportunities than they had.
Cooperative leaders told me during a recent visit: “It was a lot of work for us to adopt a new vocabulary. We used to talk about a strategy of war. Now we still talk about strategy, but it is a strategy for bringing coffee to market. A strategy for financing our work. A strategy for local development.”
To learn more about this remarkable community, watch Voice of a Mountain, the award-winning documentary on Santa Anita.