Meet Liliana Tax! We call her Titi! Liliana is one of many teachers here in Guatemala who enjoy their job and dedicate their lives to the betterment of their community through education and seeking to serve one another.
Liliana's school is full of vibrant kids. (In fact almost literally!) Although there's only 6 classrooms, they fit almost 300 students into these rooms throughout the day while their current school is under construction. But despite the various needs, Liliana tells me, with a smile on her face, that they do what they can with what they have.
Let's talk about Liliana's commute! You think traffic is bad...?! Yikes! Imagine riding on the back of a motorcycle at 4:30 in the morning for an hour riding up and down these rugged roads to get to work each day. (Okay, I'll be honest, that sounds like fun!)
Off to the side of Liliana's school is an old abandoned building. It looks rough and yet one of those old buildings you just have to explore to take pictures of! It turns out this building was a wet/dry coffee mill back in its day. How old is this place? When did it shut down? And why?!
I learned that this community really deteriorated once this beneficio (coffee processing mill) shut down. Prices of coffee dropped and coffee farming was no longer a sustainable career for the majority of this community in that era. Subsequently overtime, farmers left the community to find other jobs elsewhere and much of the surrounding land lost its value and was eventually donated for governmental use where Liliana's school was later built.
It's bitter-sweet to see a school in need on one side of the road and an old abandon coffee mill on the other side as if there was somewhat of a correlation between the two. Back in the day, coffee in Guatemala was a core revenue maker in rural villages like this one and it's sad to see it go due to market shifts in New York (and other variables of course!). At the same time, it's views like this that get us excited. It reminds us of the positive impact coffee can and already does have in countries like Guatemala.
Over the last two weeks, we've come to see how beneficial direct-trade really is. The list is honestly endless and it goes way beyond farmers being paid more. It allows coffee farming to become a sustainable career again bringing jobs back into the fields of local towns and villages in a country known for its rates of extreme poverty. It creates financial incentives for farmers to raise their standards of quality which not only gives them hope for their future but it also breaks them free from the New York Stock Exchange dictating the value of their coffee. (This NYSE rate happens to fluctuate between $1.30-$1.90/lb no matter the quality of coffee.)
Direct-trade relationships help pay farmers a livable wage who also happen to be mothers, fathers, family members, and a part of the community. And lastly, instead of mixed qualities of coffee beans, we get to export only the best quality beans out there because for these farmers, they consider it a joy to offer up their best crop knowing that our goal is to honor them in it both financially and relationally.
In ending, spending the day with Liliana allowed us to see how precious her community is and learning of its past allowed us to appreciate the significance of coffee on communities like this one. In the meantime, we're thankful for Liliana's work and her love for the kids of that community. Although there might be bags under her eyes at times, it's rare to see her without a smile. And for that, we enjoy her very much! Thank you Liliana!
(Thanks for reading our posts! We don't have too many motives behind it besides wanting to share with you all what we love about coffee and what we're learning. We hope that our posts help shape the way you view coffee and stirs up thanksgiving and appreciation for these farmers' work and their communities every morning.)