This post was written by Emmy, Community Engagement intern with De la Gente.
Just when I thought my Guatemalan experience couldn’t get any better, I had the wonderful opportunity to travel to Santa Anita la Unión to visit APCASA, one of the cooperatives that De la Gente works with, to accompany a group of awesome students from Southern Oregon University.
Santa Anita la Unión is in the western highlands of Guatemala about an hour away from Quetzaltenango, and it is a place like no other. In the words of Rigoberto, one of the community leaders, Santa Anita is a community that has gone through a metamorphosis that came out of war to find peace. Santa Anita la Unión was established in 1998 with a loan through the Peace Accords at the end of the 36-year long civil war. Many of the community members are former guerrilla fighters who have since taken up coffee growing. Five languages are spoken in the community: Spanish and four Mayan languages. Everyone I met in Santa Anita was so welcoming and hospitable. My gracious host, Juana, prepared delicious food and the best lemonade I have ever tasted.
With the group, we distributed fertilizers for coffee plants, to help ensure their plants make it for next year’s harvest season, as they have been hit especially hard with the roya fungus (coffee leaf rust). On the slopes, we had breathtaking views and we also enjoyed a hike to a waterfall. What I enjoyed most was getting to know the community. Several of the women have organized a group that advocates for women’s rights and combats violence against women, and they shared with us their current initiatives. The children also organized a cultural performance complete with singing and dancing. The whole group joined in and also partook in a competitive fútbol match in the pouring rain.
Our visit also informed us about the reality that many experience in Guatemala. Rigoberto reminded us that drinking a cup of coffee is easy in the United States, but there’s so much effort and struggles for many people behind that cup. The coffee process involves thousands of people in order to produce and sell coffee all over the world. That’s why I am thrilled to have been able to intern with De la Gente to work towards producing and distributing direct trade coffee. Despite the challenges Santa Anita has faced both during the war and with the roya fungus, they are determined to always look to the future and work to build a stronger community.
De la Gente is supporting the community of Santa Anita not only through their agricultural programs but also through their community tourism program. If you are interested in visiting Santa Anita to volunteer your time, or learn more about coffee growing and the families involved please get in touch with De la Gente who can help you arrange a visit: firstname.lastname@example.org