Juan Raul’s grandfather started growing coffee in 1958 and his father, Baudelio, followed his footsteps 20 years later. Now, Juan Raul and his sibling have joined him to work on the finca Los Tablones. At almost 2000 MASL in San Miguel in the municipality of Mataquescuintla, they grow a varietal named Pache.
Juan Raul and his family are part of the Cafe Colis Resistencia; a group of coffee producing members of the the Indigenous Xinca community around Mataquescuintla who fights for equality on two levels. They fight against a Canadian mining company, Pan American Silver Corp., that is exploiting a mine on the land of the Xinca people and threaten their basic livelihood. They also work to expand the community's selling oportunities beyond Guatemala's coffee market that buys cherries for ridiculous prices.
Escobal silver mine is owned and operated by the Canadian-based Pan-American Silver and is estimated to be the second-largest silver mine in the world, and yet was built without the consultation nor the consent of the local people, in direct contravention of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). Despite the total trampling of the Xinca people’s rights and the heavy ecological impact of the mine’s operations, Pan American Silver Corp. was still granted the license to operate in 2014. At this moment, it sits shuttered, with its license temporarily suspended thanks to the organized actions of the Xinca people, who claim a long and storied history of resistance to colonization and infringement in their territories that dates back to the Conquest of Latin America. But the fight isn't over. Consultations are still in process to reopen the mine.
Within Mataquescuintla and area, nearly 90% of the population identifies as a coffee producer and yet, almost none of these producers have access to a market beyond selling in cherry to local intermediaries or to large farms who process their coffee for a price that can barely support production. Guatemala’s history of coffee production has always erred to the support of major landowners of European or Mestizo descent and relied upon the forced labour of Indigenous people. This violent and painful system leaves its vestigial remains in the monopoly that exists today — in short, a system of production and export in which the government supports major landholders while holding back resources and access to small producers such as those in Mataquescuintla.
In short, no matter the angle this group takes to defend their land and their communities, or to pursue a better life for themselves via increased prices and access to a solid and trustworthy market, they're met with adversity and obfuscation. Buying this coffee also means lending economic solidarity while also raising our voices against the extractive projects of the Escobal silver mine.
Thanks to our partner Semilla and many other coffee companies that have join the movement since 2019, multiple of these growers now have loyal clients and are finally gaining access to the knowledge, support and capital they need to actuate their desires, but there is still a long way to go. Most of these growers who dedicated buyers must sell in cherry to make it through the harvest and many more still haven't been able to invest in their own farms to process their own coffees.
It is for those reasons, and so many others, that we wanted to buy Juan Raul’s coffee and show our support to Café Colis Resistencia’s fight. It is also why this coffee is part of our Back to Origin initiative, for which 0,50$ per bag sold will be given back directly to the producer.
Roxanne had the opportunity to chat with father-son duo Baudelio and Juan Raul Lemus. An amazing conversation that gives insight on the realities of coffee producers. Tune in!