Coffee became a cash crop in Guatemala around the 1920's. (Just under a century worth of growing coffee!) As news spread of this new crop, farmers began planting coffee literally everywhere which led to the necessity to process coffee on larger scales. Concepts were made to build machinery, and buildings were fitted with everything needed to process the vast amounts of coffee. This took place for a healthy 50 years!
Unfortunately, the 1970's brought a lot of bad news to Guatemala. Coffee prices dropped and subsequently many farmers abandoned the line of work for more profitable careers in woodworking, construction, teaching, etc. The accumulation of these events left this building the way it is for the last 40 years or so. (Pretty cool machinery eh?!) An amazing artifact of a rich history and era in Guatemala.
What about the town?! Much of the land was once previously owned by coffee farmers and has now been donated to schools or for governmental purposes to relocate people who have been affected by previous hurricanes and other natural disasters.
But despite the sad history of this coffee benefico, there are efforts being done to make coffee farming a vibrant career once again. Organizations like the World Coffee Research alongside direct-trade distributors are working with farmers to help them earn a more sustainable profit through many means. Some of their efforts include helping farmers improve their coffees' cupping scores thus making their coffee more valuable to exporters. Little efforts like this can really make a difference.
Additionally, many direct-trade distributors have also been known to donate a portion of their profits back to the communities of the farmers they purchased from. This is a cool way to see the hard work of coffee farmers manifest itself in a blessing to the entire community whether that's through health care, stoves, education, or even new machinery to ensure a prosperous future. My favorite part of direct-trade is when you get a chance to tell a farmer that you and many others have enjoyed their coffee. Their face brightens up and a smile emerges!
Anyways! It was an amazing opportunity to learn about this beneficio. It allowed us to really appreciate this town's past while also learning about how significant coffee can be to communities like this one! With direct-trade, buying coffee really does breath life into towns like this. It's not just about money. It's about valuing the work of farmers that have been undervalued for years to bring honor and joy back into their careers. This is done by the way we appreciate them and their work to provide us with that amazing carmelishish, chocolaty, and nutty cup of Guatemalan coffee that we all enjoy!